Raising the village

RUGBY The Prairie Village Museum in Rugby will be asking Pierce County voters to approve a .36 mill increase in June, said the museum’s executive director, Cathy Jelsing.

Jelsing said the mill increase would generate $7,270 this year and would be spent on museum operations. Based on 2013 figures, the owner of a $150,000 residential house in Rugby could expect to pay an additional $5.06 per year. Other tax increases would vary depending on the taxable valuation of the property.

Voters defeated a similar request in September 2012, with 930 people voting in favor and 1,158 percent against. A 60 percent or greater majority is needed to pass a mill levy increase.

Jelsing said she hopes to provide voters with more information about the needs at the museum.

After the last vote failed, Jelsing was forced to cut $5,000 in paid staff positions held mainly by high school and college students and to rely more on volunteers to run the museum. A mill levy increase would enable her to hire back some staff and also direct more to general operations at the museum.

The pioneer village museum received more than 4,000 visitors last year, said Jelsing, and also hosted a number of community events, including its annual Village Fair in August, a museum camp for children and a rhubarb festival.

The museum has a $75,735 annual budget, with Pierce County funding about 13 percent of its total budget. Last year, the Pierce County Commission also approved a one-time allocation of $2,500 for the museum.

The museum relies largely on grants for its financing. Jelsing said that in 2013, grants brought in more than $32,000 for museum projects and activities, but in most cases grant funds cannot be used for general operations.

In January, the historical society received a $2,000 Otter Tail Power Company Connections grant to help complete the museum’s new exhibit space and make improvements to visitor facilities in Old Main exhibition hall. In October, North Dakota Telephone Co. contributed $800 to paint and repair the Bottineau Telephone Office at the museum. And in August 2013, a $7,190 federal Conservation Assessment Program grant paid for a professional conservator and an architect to review Prairie Village Museum’s collections and buildings and compile detailed reports. The dollars went directly from the granting agency to the assessors, according to Jelsing.

“Support we receive from grants, sponsorships, fundraisers and memberships are the good news,” said Jelsing. “We also have about $73,200 in savings accounts and certificates of deposit, most of which is dedicated to the upkeep of specific buildings. The bad news is that replacing just one roof could wipe out one of these accounts and the lack of general operating support severely limits what we can do as an organization.”

In addition to help sustaining museum operations, historical society president Randy Myers said in a press release that any additional funding received could be used as matching funds for grants that the museum receives. Grants often require that local entites provide matching funds.

Jelsing said one of the longterm recommendations made for the museum is to have a designated storage area with climate control to store historical artifacts.

“That would be a huge investment for us,” she said.

Jelsing said the museum also plans to have a “museum come to life day,” with different people dressed in costume stationed at different buildings to provide historical interpretation.

Jelsing said the historical society board will discuss the upcoming election at its annual meeting in April and will also seek to get out more information about the museum and the proposed mill levy increase.