What began as a simple request for $5,000 to help replace a failed HVAC unit at Mount Airy Museum of Regional History has led to a call for county funding support of the museum.
“This is a regional museum,” Shirley Brinkley of the city board of commissioners said during a meeting of the board Thursday afternoon.
Although the museum is located on North Main Street in the heart of downtown Mount Airy, Brinkley said its reach goes beyond the city limits and benefits Surry County as a whole, which she believes merits county government support.
“Many people can benefit from this and because we all pay county taxes, I’d like to see the county more involved in this,” she said of the museum.
Those comments were triggered by the city board’s consideration of a one-time request of $5,000 in municipal funding as part of the total $20,558 replacement cost of the HVAC unit that recently failed.
“It was a catastrophic failure,” museum Executive Director Matt Edwards told city officials at Thursday afternoon’s meeting regarding the unit servicing its main floor. The replacement already has occurred.
The board subsequently approved that request unanimously, which is in addition to a $10,000 annual appropriation to the museum from the city.
However, this gave rise to a larger issue involving the museum’s infrastructure, which Edwards said can be viewed in terms of both short-term and long-range needs.
“This is is the second (HVAC) unit we’ve had to replace in the last 12 months,” the museum official said of an $11,000 expense required in July.
The facility is now facing other infrastructure needs, Edwards said, citing the fact that equipment installed there in 1993-94 when the museum was established is reaching the end of its lifespan. The facility occupies an older downtown building once used for retail purposes.
A new roof is needed as well, said Edwards, who is trying to assemble a long-range facilities plan addressing such items.
Given the museum’s role in this area as a tourism and cultural resource, Thursday’s discussion indicated that the county government should be playing more of a financial role with the facility.
“We haven’t received any direct funding from the county since 2009,” Edwards told Mount Airy officials.
However, he has been in contact recently with County Manager Chris Knopf about this issue and said there seems to be an interest in possibly allocating money for facility needs rather than operating funds.
County Might Help
In discussing the prospects for Surry funding support for the museum, Knopf said Friday that this will depend on the county’s financial situation as an upcoming budget season approaches.
“The last couple of years have been really slim as far as what we’ve had available for the outside agencies,” the county manager said of entities such as the museum.
The county’s Tourism Development Authority, which uses revenues from an occupancy tax levied at lodging establishments, has aided the museum in the past, Knopf said, citing a music program it offered that was deemed beneficial to Surry as a whole.
And he believes the county commissioners are willing to consider future funding requests from agencies such as the museum which have received county money in the past.
Knopf said there is a possibility the Tourism Development Authority could assist the museum with programming and the county government itself with facilities.
This has been reflected concerning the museum’s most-recent need.
“That request for HVAC replacement actually came to the city and county,” Knopf said, which was delayed by the latter until the city acted on the matter.
Now that it has, “my intention is to bring it back to the (county) finance committee at their next meeting and see what their pleasure is,” he added.
Mount Airy Museum of Regional History gets little financial support from governmental sources, according to a breakdown supplied Friday by Edwards.
It shows that:
• Twenty-one percent of the museum’s budget comes from fundraising and events;
• Museum memberships account for about 20 percent;
• Grants and donations, 18 percent;
• General contributions, 15 percent;
• Admission fees, about 12 percent;
• Program revenues, around 5 percent;
• Retail sales from a museum gift shop, slightly more than 4 percent;
• Government support, 3 percent;
Sponsorships essentially make up the rest, Edwards said.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.