County board flipflops on HCHS allocation

Commissioners voted Wednesday to reinstate the annual allocation to the Hubbard County Historical Society (HCHS). The county paid a lump sum of $4,218 to HCHS, and will continue to provide liability insurance on the rent-free building. Former HCH...

Commissioners voted Wednesday to reinstate the annual allocation to the Hubbard County Historical Society (HCHS).

The county paid a lump sum of $4,218 to HCHS, and will continue to provide liability insurance on the rent-free building.

Former HCHS president Henri Verbrugghen presented the request to the board.

In his statement, Verbrugghen outlined the history of funding to HCHS and complications from the funding shift in 2006.

According to Verbrugghen, the county changed its funding structure in 2006 "due to an unfortunate series of events concerning a matter that had nothing, and I emphasize nothing, to do with funding."


The county began financially supporting HCHS in 1961, Verbrugghen said, and "this support continued in variable amounts through 2005, ending with $4,218, after which, for the most part, it ceased.

"As a county function," Verbrugghen argued, "the Hubbard County Museum is managed by HCHS for the benefit of the county residents, permanent and seasonal, and for tourists and travelers."

Last year, the county funded the utilities and insurance on the building, but cut allocations for HCHS salaries, office supplies and advertising Verbrugghen said.

A tuckpointing project in 2006 left HCHS with $30,000 of debt. The organization anticipated receiving funds to cover other expenses when it planned the project, Verbrugghen added.

The new arrangement also creates additional steps for reimbursement to HCHS for building expenses, said Verbrugghen. Now, expenses must be approved by the county's building manager and commissioners before the county treasurer reimburses HCHS.

Commissioner Lyle Robinson asked if the county created the reimbursement procedure or if the state auditor mandated the steps.

The building manager approved the bill as it was in his budget, said county auditor Pam Heeren, but as long as the auditor's office records the bill, other processes are legal.

Chairman Cal Johannsen said he thought the payment process was somewhat overcomplicated. "In reality, we are leasing them the building. It seems like a lot of redundancies to me in what we are doing."


Robinson asked if the county paid the insurance on the building as part of the allocation.

"Actually, I think you pay that on top of it," Heeren said. She added the insurance amounts to about $1,700 or $1,800 a year and is a legal requirement of owning the building.

Commissioner Dick Devine inquired why the board made the decision for last year's budget. "I can't remember why we changed this in the first place," he said.

Johannsen said the change resulted from a disagreement between HCHS and the North Country Museum of Arts (NCMA), but did not recall any specific information about the compromise.

"I remember that, but I don't remember the whole point," Devine responded.

"I think what happened is the cost of operations increased and used up the money for other things," Robinson explained. "And we probably need to have a separate allocation other than the expenses for the building.

"The building looks very nice, we just never kept up with the amount of money they should be receiving," said Robinson.

Verbrugghen said HCHS had traditionally paid the utility expenses, but when costs became prohibitive, the two groups agreed to split the utilities.


Grace Olson, board member of HCHS and former board member of NCMA, said the historical society continued to pay the utilities from the county allocation, but NCMA's share came primarily from dues and fundraisers.

Johannsen asked whether building manager Lee Gwiazdon was managing the funds this year.

Heeren said she budgeted a $4,218 allocation as in 2005, but the board did not authorize its distribution yet.

Commissioner Don Carlson said the art museum's interests should be protected as well.

"I just want to see both parties get along. I do think they should have some input," he reasoned.

"The art museum has never requested money from the county. They have raised funds on their own... fundraisers they do go toward their curator and debts," Vebrugghen said.

"I don't know how I can be asked to vote on something where I don't have all the information," Carlson said.

Robinson indicated he felt the county should maintain responsibility for building maintenance to meet insurance standards.


"Maybe above that, we can give something... I think you are underfunded" he added.

Carlson abstained from the vote.

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