Johnson County museum fundraisers have been hurrying to get together the $2 million it will take to have new exhibits ready for next year’s opening of the Johnson County Arts and Heritage Center. On Thursday they got a little help from the county commission, which agreed to advance the museum $500,000 against the eventual sale of its current home.
The loan was not without a little caution from commissioners, who wanted assurance that the museum operations will be self-sustainable in the future. But they ultimately agreed 5-2 to advance the money, with commissioners Jason Osterhaus and Michael Ashcraft voting no.
“I’ve had some difficulty with the whole fundraising effort,” said Commissioner Steve Klika. “I recognize the group is under a panic to try to get enough money together so the exhibits will be in line,” he said. “My bigger concern is the sustainability of fundraising.”
Ashcraft also was skeptical of the fundraising effort. Museum supporters have been talking about raising money to move from their moisture-plagued current address since the idea of a national “museum of suburbia” was put forth about six years ago, he said. “There was an expectation that the museum foundation would be pursuing those funds regardless of a museum of suburbia,” he said. “That’s some six years ago. To suggest a truncated timeline — I am struggling with that and I am struggling with this kind of additional support.”
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The museum, currently located in Shawnee, will close this fall and the building is set to be sold early next year. Items will then be moved to the new center, at the former King Louie bowling lanes, 8788 Metcalf Ave.
The museum’s fundraising arm has been working against a tight schedule to raise money to get the next exhibits, which include an expanded KidScape, the 1950s All-Electric House and other materials, in shape for a 2017 opening, said Larry Meeker, chairman of the Johnson County Museum Foundation board. Calling it a “panic” may be overstatement, he said, but it’s been a hurry-up job, all the same.
Since the final decision to build the Arts and Heritage Center wasn’t made until spring of 2015 with design details coming later, there hasn’t been much time to get big donations, Meeker said. Donors usually need those kinds of specifics to get excited enough about a project to give money, he added.
The museum has raised $140,000 and has pledges and savings to contribute, Meeker said. Fundraisers continue to seek donations and have received some in-kind services, such as the re-roofing of the All-Electric House. Although the house is enclosed within the museum, its roof needed to be presentable to people looking down from the second floor of the center, he explained. The house also needed a small air-handling system to move air within its walls, he said.
The $500,000 will be repaid after the sale goes through. The loan, which will come out of the general fund reserves, is for $500,000 because that is the current appraisal of the building at 6305 Lackman Road, said Brad Reinhardt, county director of facilities management.
Commissioner John Toplikar asked whether that price was “wishful thinking.”
Assistant County Manager Maury Thompson said the estimate is conservative and that there is interest in the building. If the sale price is lower than $500,000, the museum foundation will have to come up with more money, he said. If it’s higher, the excess will go to the museum.
The museum became part of the county park and recreation district as part of the deal to rehab the King Louie site. Klika said he hoped the partnership will result in more efficient fundraising in the future.
The questions of combining fundraising groups within the park district may be addressed in the future, but for the time being, the museum foundation continues as independent from parks, Meeker said.
Also on Thursday, Johnson County Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker told the commission that his office recently went live with an online resource that allows voters to find their polling places and look at sample ballots for the Aug. 2 primary. That link can be found by going to https://www.jocoelection.org/ and clicking on the “For Voters” tab.
In other news, Commissioner Ron Shaffer has been elected president of the National Association of Regional Councils. He has served on the Mid-America Regional Council for 15 years.