City officials are OK with funding a structural repair and the purchase of automated electronic defibrillators (AEDs) for Mount Airy Museum of Regional History – but a security system upgrade apparently will have to wait.
The city council Finance Committee – composed of commissioners Shirley Brinkley and Steve Yokeley – made that recommendation Friday when special-agency requests for municipal funding in the upcoming fiscal year were presented.
Mount Airy Museum of Regional History is among a handful of organizations that – while not operated by the city government – annually seek appropriations from it to partially fund operations and programs that benefit local residents and boost tourism traffic. In addition to the museum, these include the Surry Arts Council, the local public library that is part of a regional system and the Mount Airy Rescue Squad.
This year, a total $45,000 allocation was sought for the museum on North Main Street for the next fiscal year that begins on July 1, up from the $10,000 in operating funds earmarked in the present, 2015-2016 municipal budget.
That included $4,100 more for general museum operations and another $30,900 for three capital projects, relating to building and equipment needs of the facility.
Those include the security system upgrade at an estimated price tag of $20,000; the addition of the AEDs, portable electronic devices that are used by trained laypersons to respond to cardiac emergencies, a $7,280 expense; and a cornice repair to the museum structure, $3,620.
Security system request
Matt Edwards, the museum executive director, made the case for funding those items to the Finance Committee and City Manager Barbara Jones Friday during a meeting at City Hall, especially the security upgrade.
“We have a big building and a small staff,” Edwards said of the need to safeguard priceless exhibits and other property at the multi-story facility that contains almost 60,000 square feet and is staffed most days by only two to four people.
“Fortunately, we have not had a lot of issues,” the museum official said of theft and other security problems, but did recall a shoplifting incident at the facility’s gift shop that led to all of its pewter jewelry items being stolen.
He said a digital video security system seems to be the best option for allowing active monitoring.
Edwards also defended the $4,100 in increased operational funding.
“We feel the programming and value the museum brings to the city more than merits this increased level of support,” he wrote in a formal budget request.
However, the Finance Committee members were reluctant to have the city pick up the tab for that and the security upgrade.
“I’m not in favor of the full amount here,” Commissioner Brinkley said of the $45,000 total requested for the museum.
“It’s a wish list, too,” Commissioner Yokeley commented.
The two settled on a total allocation of about $21,000. The committee is recommending that to the full board of commissioners, with the final decision to come when the 2016-2017 fiscal year budget is approved later this year.
One thing that bothered Brinkley was the fact that in contrast to firm quotes being included for the other projects sought, the $20,000 eyed for the security system addition was listed in Edwards’ formal funding request as a “verbal estimate.”
And during Friday’s meeting, he mentioned that the figure came from an out-of-town entity operated by a cousin of his, Edwards Equipment Co., although the museum official offered to obtain competitive bids.
The AEDs and cornice repair fared much better with the Finance Committee.
Yokeley said he thinks the AEDs should have been installed before now, since those devices are a key lifesaving component of many public facilities nowadays.
Edwards said the four AEDS will be placed on every floor of the museum at the urging of the Mount Airy Fire Department, which conducted CPR and first-aid training of the staff there.
Meanwhile, the committee also considered the cornice repair a legitimate expense in recommending the city funding for that.
“It’s a necessary addition if you’re talking about preserving the structural integrity of the building,” Edwards told city officials. He said it’s also a matter of protecting passersby on the sidewalk underneath.
The money will fund a roof/flashing repair (the flashing being thin pieces of material installed to prevent the passage of water) on the historic decorative cornice located on the building facade. Edwards says replacing the flashing will avoid “irreparable damage” to that key architectural detail.
Brinkley asked if the museum had attempted to obtain a facade-improvement grant through a program offered by the Mount Airy Downtown Inc. (MAD) organization. Edwards responded that such grants are not available to non-profit organizations, only taxpaying entities.
The museum operates on a “razor-thin margin,” which resulted in the facility being revenue positive by only $42 in 2015, according to its executive director.
Edwards added that the museum had received some significant financial gifts in recent years, but these were earmarked by donors for specific projects, such as a firefighting exhibit.
He said Friday that since 2000, the city government has supplied $197,487 in funding for the museum.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.