Breckenridge Texan

County Commissioners vote to consider funding for museum, continue fire ban

County Commissioners vote to consider funding for museum, continue fire ban
August 14
07:53 2018

On Monday, Stephens County Commissioners approved a motion to consider at a funding request from the Swenson Memorial Museum at their budget workshop scheduled for today, Aug. 14.

Swenson Memorial Museum Board Treasurer Scott Harris told county commissioners that the museum, which started in 1976, had been self-supporting during the early years. He said they had enough mineral rights from enough oil and gas production that it was pretty well self-supporting.

“We didn’t have to do any fund-raising; it pretty well took care of itself,” he said. “Over the years, of course, oil prices went down, production declined, and there went our revenue source.”

He said now they have a revenue shortfall of anywhere from $12,000 to $6,000 a year, depending on what happened in a particular year. He said, looking at year-to-date income and expenses for 2018, they were going to be $5,000 or $6,000 short this year.

He said they have about $25,000 reserves in a money market account they call on to keep the doors open when there’s not enough money. However, he said, once those funds are gone, the doors close.

“We felt like it was prudent to start asking for some help and looking for other funding sources,” he said.

Harris said they’ve done everything they can to lower expenses, including doing away with the paid director position at the museum. He said the board assumed those responsibilities to save money. He also said that they have three part-time employees who are making slightly more than minimum wage at a cost of $13,000 a year for the salaries. Their major expenses, he said, are utilities and insurance.

Also, he said, they recently had to replace an air conditioner that went out. The Economic Development Corporation paid for half of that cost, and the museum board solicited a grant to pay for the other half, which meant they didn’t need to use any of their cash for that transaction. He said, hopefully, the new, more efficient air conditioner will help cut their utility bills.

According to Harris, they still have a little bit of royalty income coming in, and, as oil prices increase, that gets a little bit better. However, he said, the decline in production offsets that and that’s not going to be the answer for a total revenue source.

The group is requesting $500 per month in support from Stephens County for next year.

“I don’t’ think we’re asking for that to be a permanent deal,” he said. “We’re working on grants all the time. We get some grant funding; we just have not found a grant that will be our salvation, I guess you would say. The grants we’ve been able to get have been about $4,000 or $5,000 each, and that’s not enough.”

In requesting the funds from the county, Harris pointed out that the museum gets quite a bit of usage and the majority of the usages are from Stephens County citizens.  He said they had a little more than 100 people per month visit last year. In 2017, he said, there were 1,228 visitors; 922 were from the Breckenridge area, 243 from within Texas, 48 from out of state and nine from outside the United States.

So far in 2018, there have been a total of 775 visitors; 588 from the Breckenridge area, 151 from other parts of Texas, 33 from out of state and three from out of the United States.

Stephens County Judge Gary Fuller told Harris that the county has had to cut its budget back by about $2 million the past three years. He they are able to support the library but are no longer able to support the fine arts center.

“If the oil was to go up, it would be great to be able to help, but whenever we can’t take care of ourselves it’s hard to take care of somebody else,” Fuller said. “I know you don’t like that answer, and I don’t like it myself, because I can’t stand to see the museum suffer myself. It’s not that we don’t want to do stuff like this for the good of the community; there’s just not any money.”

Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Warren said he would like to see if they could find a way to cut something else during the budget workshop and find a way to support the museum.

“I’d love to see if we could do something with the budget, if we could cut something somewhere.” he said.

Harris said if they could get $2,500 from the city and another $2,000 or $3,000 from the county that would just about cover the shortfall they are expecting.

“With your budget stuff, if you find a spot that you can help us, that’s what we’re asking for,” Harris said. “I understand there’s more places to spend the money than there is the money. Anything you can do to help would be appreciated.”

Following the discussion, commissioners passed a resolution to take a look at funding the museum during their budget workshop scheduled for today.

In other business, commissioners approved the Fort Belknap Water Supply Corporation to cut a trench across county Road 303 in Precinct 4 for the installation of a waterline. The trench will be cut a minimum of 36 inches below the lowest point off the bar ditch flow line to install a 2-inch poly casing with a 1-inch service line.

They also approved a CNA Surety Bond for Crystal A. Shook, the Stephens County Attorney’s secretary; approved the Child Welfare Services non-financial agreement; approved a contract with Allison, Bass and Magee, L.L.P., for professional services for all necessary redistricting purposes; and approved a request by the City of Breckenridge to forgo the taxes on the properties of 402 N. Miller, 901 N. Live Oak, 711 S. George, 603 N. Douglas and transfer ownership of the properties to the city to be cleaned up and dispose of the debris.

Additionally, commissioners voted to keep the county-wide burn ban in place.

Story by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan

Cutline, top photo: Swenson Memorial Museum Board Treasurer Scott Harris (center) discusses a funding request for the museum during the Stephens County Commissioners Court meeting on Monday. Also pictured are Precinct 3 Commissioner 3 Will Warren (left) and Precinct 2 Commissioner D.C. Sikes. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)


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