Historical group seeks $50K from county

The Washington County Historical Society possesses hundreds of priceless county historical items.
But what the society can place a price on is the purchase of a new facility on Greeley Street to house exhibit, storage and research space.
WCHS Executive Director Brent Peterson asked the County Board of Commissioners Tuesday for a one-time $50,000 donation toward the purchase and renovation of an empty, 14,000-square-foot building at 1862 South Greeley St.
Peterson said if the county agrees to the society’s request, he hopes it spurs other donations to meet the $750,000 sale price on the building.
Peterson made his request during a workshop that followed a session on the county’s proposed 2013 budget. He told commissioners the historical society has one year to raise funds to buy the building
“We have a purchase agreement for one year. It runs out in June 2013,” he said. “We do have a time limit on this structure. We have a purchase agreement that is below market value because we are the historical society.”
Peterson said the Greeley Street building would cost $790,000 to buy, with another $500,000 for remodeling, and about $200,000 needed for other work.
The organization’s plans for the building call for two large exhibit spaces, one used for traveling exhibits, along with storage, research and office space, Peterson said.
The new center would replace the society’s current office and storage facility in a restored carriage house behind the Warden’s House Museum in downtown Stillwater.
“That would handle our collection for a goodly number of years,” he said about the Greeley Street site.
Peterson told commissioners the historical society is seeking grants to cover acquisition and renovation costs and he believes his group could gain possible donations with a county donation.
“Where are we going to get this money? We have asked several foundations,” he said.
Peterson also reminded commissioners that among state laws regarding historical societies, one allows the groups to serve as archive of county records.
“The $50,000 is to get the heritage center,” he said. “Then we would work with county staff on the archive for records.”
“I’m in strong support of a one-time donation to the historical society,” said District 3 Commissioner Gary Kriesel. “But where do we get the money?”
“Your request is not really outlandish at this time,” added Board Chairman Dennis Hegberg.
Peterson said the historical society plans to use the proposed heritage center as a “revenue stream.”
“We will be charging admission. We will be selling items,” he said. “The structure will be a revenue stream for us.”
If the society can raise the purchase and renovation funds, Peterson hopes to have the center open within two years.
“We really hope this is going to open in 2014,” he said.