Museum gains a little, loses a little in budget

The Museum of Western Colorado will get something it’s never had before, money for repairs and improvements from Mesa County, under a tentative budget proposal.

The county, however, would cut by 13 percent its contribution to the museum’s operational budget.

Commissioners agreed to provide $100,000 to the museum for needed work on the museum’s Dinosaur Journey and other capital needs. Meanwhile, the commissioners want to cut the operational contribution from $575,000 a year to $500,000.

“So we are taking a step back, quite a step back from where we were,” said Mike Perry, executive director of the Museum of Western Colorado, which operates Dinosaur Journey in Fruita, the Museum of the West in downtown Grand Junction and Cross Orchards Living History Farm in Fruitvale.

Commissioners said the museum, like any other operation, will have to tighten its belt.

“Cultural amenities such as the museum are very difficult when you are talking about needs versus wants,” Commissioner Craig Meis said Friday. “I am not going to support any amenity if it can’t stand on its own and the community doesn’t support it.”

The community does support the museum, Perry said.

“We raise close to a million (dollars) a year, and for anyone to minimize that is really disappointing because we have worked really, really hard to operate these facilities,” Perry said. “I don’t think it is fair to say or think that we haven’t been entrepreneurial enough or hungry enough in what we do.”

Perry also points to the 1974 vote in which voters by a 4-to-1 margin approved funding the museum up to one mill annually.

The museum was part of the county and enjoyed full funding until the mid-1990s when, along with the county’s health and human services departments, it was split off to survive for the most part on its own. Health and human services have since been brought back under the county’s wing, unlike the museum.

Perry said he will have to sit down with the county and have some “serious discussions” about the future.

“The $100,000, that will help us a lot,” Perry said of the one-time capital investment. “It is not the long-term solution, but maybe working with the county we can come up with the long-term answer for dealing with these kinds of issues.”

The museum had asked for $600,000 in operational expenses for 2009, an amount Perry said would cover the museum’s personnel costs.


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