The Washington County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to give $50,000 to The Washington County Historical Society for the society’s purchase of a South Greeley Street building as a new historical center.
The money comes from the county’s Contingency fund, and was given to the WCHS
after they met all critera set by the board last September to receive the county pledge.
The criteria included written letters of support from the other historical societies in the county, pledges from other donors of not less than $795,000, and entering into a purchase agreement for the building no later than June 30.
The WCHS met the criteria and is close to buying a vacant office at 1862 Greeley St. South for a future new historical center. Before that happens, the society would be a landlord with a deal to rent the South Greeley Street site to the state Department of Transportation as the St. Croix River Crossing Bridge project office for four years.
“They’ve gained a task, they’ve fulfilled it and we need to act and move on,” said District 2 Commissioner Ted Bearth.
District 4 Commissioner Autumn Lehrke was the lone dissenter.
“I voted against this because I believe this is not a core function of government and I don’t think it’s the county’s role to participate in this funding,” she said “And I’ll continue to vote no to do this. I’ve worked with staff for the past week to figure out if we could find a way to make it a core function but I didn’t find it and that’s why I’ll be voting no again today.”
In response to Lehrke, District 3 Commissioner Gary Kriesel, said that the historical society has added goodwill to the county, to which Lehrke responded that although it might add goodwill, other agencies do so as well and she feels this would open the doors to other agencies asking for funds.
“There are things beyond the core and essential government needs that we fund,” Kriesel said. “Like 4-H. We didn’t fully fund it, but it allowed them to grow to become self-sufficient and this is about helping agencies become self-sufficient.”
Lehrke asked if there was a way that the county and WCHS could mutually benefit each other, possibly with records storing. District 1 Commissioner Fran Miron agreed with Lehrke, saying he believes there is a willingness to collaborate on something like that.