Historical society studies results after tax issue fails

Levy would have paid operating and maintenance expenses.

Clark County Historical Society officials plan to meet with board members later this month to discuss their next steps after voters rejected a 0.3-mill property tax levy for operating and maintenance expenses.

The five-year levy would have cost the owner of a $100,000 home $10.50 per year and generated about $680,000 annually, if it had been approved.

“We obviously are disappointed,” said Jeff Johnson, co-chair of the historical society levy committee. “As a group we went over it recently … As we looked at it for a first effort, we thought we fared quite well even in the face of defeat. But we’ve got some areas were we need to extend a little more effort on in disseminating information … particularly out in the county.”

Board members will meet Nov. 19 to discuss multiple options, including placing the levy back on the ballot.

CEO Roger Sherrock he and the levy committee were encouraged by the number of people who voted in favor of the tax. It failed 54 percent to 46 percent.

“We’re going to take our time, really dig into the results to see what kind of support is there, and then we’ll make a decision as we go forward,” Sherrock. “Right now, immediately, there are no plans for that (placing the levy back on the ballot), then again I don’t think we have all the information we need to make those decisions.”

The levy was to pay for major repairs or upgrades such as elevators, the heating and air conditioning system and the roof of the Heritage Center, where the organization has been based for about 15 years.

The Heritage Center is in the Old City Building downtown that was designed by architect Charles Cregar and completed in 1890. It opened as a museum and home to the historical society in 2001 after an extensive renovation.

The historical society has an annual budget of about $690,000 and an endowment that sits at about $5 million.

The endowment provides 5 percent of the historical society’s operating income of about $250,000 a year. But the utilities, insurance, maintenance for the elevators and other costs take up all of that $250,000, Sherrock said earlier this year.

“All of renovations that were done here, starting in ‘98 — we opened in 2001 — all of those things are going to be 20-some years old now. Between the plumbing, the HVAC system in particular and then several of the other items, the fire alarms, the security, we’ll have higher maintenance costs if we keep them or we need to start looking at replacing them,” Sherrock said.

Sherrock said the historical society’s biggest concern is the elevators in its building, which he said are 1950s technology and are difficult to find parts for.

“These are going to need to be completely renovated, and that will be a significant item. We could be spending $300,000 on elevators. Is that an immediate need? No. But we know over the next five years this is going to come. We were trying to look to the future to see what these costs were going to be and try to see what kind of support we could get as they come up and not be in a crisis mode,” Sherrock said.

Sherrock said officials cannot continue to put building maintenance off because officials would eventually face a crisis situation.

Johnson said area residents may need more education about the historical society’s needs and the programs it offers.

“I think that’s where our focus is going to be is spreading that word a little bit farther. Shining our light a little brighter out in the county areas,” Johnson said.

Bill Swaim, co-chair of the levy committee, said historical society officials want to analyze the election results before making a decision on next steps.

“We’re just in the process of study to see what would be the best thing for the institution,” Swaim said.

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