$366,000 needed to revive three museum locations

DENNY KINIMAKA,  installation manager for Western Slope Pro Audio, works on the dilophosaur at Dinosaur Journey Museum, 550 Jurassic Court in Fruita.

The dinosaurs at Dinosaur Journey are in terrible shape.

Repairs to the gears and motors that make the mechanical monsters come to life will cost an estimated $27,000, according to museum officials. But the repairs are just the tip of the iceberg.

The nonprofit Museum of Western Colorado — which operates the Museum of the West and the Whitman Education Center in downtown Grand Junction, Dinosaur Journey in Fruita and the Cross Orchards Living History Farm in Fruitvale — needs an estimated $366,000 to catch up with deferred maintenance and bring the facilities up to snuff, said Mike Perry, the museum’s executive director.

Perry and several members of the museum’s board of directors attended a meeting of the Mesa County Commission last week as part of the county’s ongoing budget planning process.

“We have some real pressing needs,” Perry said.

Those needs include roof and foundation repairs, painting, carpeting and vehicle replacement.

In addition, the museum is experiencing a slowdown in visitors — Dinosaur Journey alone is down 13 percent, Perry said — tours and gift sales.

“People are backing away from a lot of things they were doing before, and of course that affects our revenue,” Perry said. “We are very concerned about next year.”

This year the museum is predicting a shortfall, said Bill Voss, treasurer for the museum.

“We are not going to make our budget because our other revenues are off,” Voss said. “We budgeted at about a $30,000 deficit.

Obviously, we can’t continue to do this.”

For 2009, the museum is spending 100 percent of its budget on personnel, which it never has done before, Perry said.

The museum is asking the county for $800,000 to cover employee costs. The museum also receives $990,334 in earned income, grants, donations and memberships to cover operation costs.

Perry told the commissioners the museum and several partners in the community are attempting to revive a proposal for a cultural district.

If it ends up going to the ballot in November 2009, residents could choose to increase sales taxes for cultural venues within the district.

If the situation does not improve or if the museum fails to receive a boost in funds from the county, the museum could start implementing some drastic belt-tightening measures, including possible staff layoffs and the selling of Riggs Hill on the Redlands, where the fossil remains of the first Bracheasaurus were discovered.

“That’s something I’d hate to do,” Perry said.

The museum operates with a staff of 14 full-time and 13 part-time employees as well as 325 volunteers who donated 27,000 hours last year.


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