Clark County Historical Society seeks new tax to support museum

Oct 24, 2017

The Clark County Historical Society will ask voters to approve a new property tax on Nov. 7 that the group says will preserve and showcase local artifacts for residents and visitors.

The society has placed a new 0.3-mill, five-year levy on the ballot that would pay for maintenance and improvements to its Heritage Center at 117 S. Fountain Ave. in downtown Springfield. The bulk of money raised would cover the cost of repairs and maintenance for the building, which is more than a century old, CEO Roger Sherrock said.

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The levy, if approved, would cost $10.50 per year for the owner of a $100,000 home and generate about $700,000 a year. While more than 85 percent of the money generated would cover maintenance costs, the remainder would cover costs to refurbish exhibits and allow more items to be displayed.

The Heritage Center opened as a historical museum in 2001. It originally served as City Hall and then was a marketplace for several years after that.

“This building, we feel, is iconic for the community and the total maintenance of it is just beyond the capability of the historical society at this point,” Sherrock said. “We want to stay here and continue so we’re asking for help to get these items done.”

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The building is a local landmark, listed on the National Register of Historic sites. But it needs repairs to several key components, Sherrock said, including its towers, elevators, and heating and air conditioning systems.

The site regularly hosts educational events, and includes permanent and rotating exhibits that trace the region’s history from its archaeology to displays about local veterans who have served the country.

The Clark County Historical Society sought a levy in 2015, which narrowly failed, Sherrock said. The organization has never operated on a levy, he said, and has instead relied on an endowment and donations to move forward.

The organization’s board of directors would have to consider what steps to take if the levy goes down, Sherrock said, but it’s not clear the historical society could continue in its current form without some assistance.

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“I have a board of directors I report to and if this doesn’t pass we’re going to get together and say we’ve tried,” Sherrock said. “If we can’t get support for this building what are our options? The board will make those decisions.”