• Museum private/public partnership crawls forward

    Pacific Grove Museum Foundation member Judd Perry told the City Council that he and other volunteers have spent what amounts to thousands of hours working on details of an agreement between the newly-formed foundation and the City of Pacific Grove to form a public/private partnership operating agreement and lease for the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History.

    The Museum Association has spent countless hours on the agreement, and will hold another meeting next Wednesday, June 11.

    The City Attorney, City Manager, and Director of Management and Budget have also spent hours and hours of staff time working on the agreement.

    The City Council itself has heard hours of public discussion and has bantered details back and forth, something they must do in public at City Council meetings because of Brown Act restrictions.

    Despite all that work, there is more yet to do. The City Council voted unanimously to approve the first reading of an ordinance approving the agreement, but various members raised questions – some also posed by members of the public – and asked for answers and revisions before hearing the second reading. And that will require a special meeting. The Council was due for an annual vacation and was not scheduled to hold a meeting on June 17, but they will do so in order to hear the second reading.

    As Mayor Dan Cort said, “The definition of a good deal is when both parties go away a little unhappy.”

    Questions raised included points about the loan of artifacts to other institutions and the borrowing of artifacts. A member of the public asked about the cost for liability insurance for injuries: Will it fall on the Museum Foundation or the City? The City, Attorney Laredo responded, has insurance already so there will be no additional cost. The Foundation will pay for its liability insurance and will indemnify and defend the city. The City, under the agreement, keeps ownership of the building and so will pay for fire insurance.

    But questions arose about who has the liability for repairs and upgrades, especially the very expensive upgrades necessary to meet ADA guidelines.

    Fiscal impact questions around potential hidden costs also came up from Councilmembers and the public. The City’s contribution, according to Director of Management and Budget Jim Becklenberg, will be about $150,000 per year for the next three years, which is the same amount the City had budgeted already. The City’s contribution is based on a ratio formula relative to the city’s budget. If the City’s entire General Fund budget goes up, the percentage increase would be calculated and the City’s contribution to the Museum will increase accordingly. Conversely, if the City’s budget goes down, so does the contribution to the Museum. The City also retains the right to reduce the annual support beyond that formula if the City Council finds an emergency need to do so.

    In addition, the cost of half an employee and materials for janitorial will be borne by the city, but is already included in the public works budget.

    Some of the other issues included a clause in the agreement concerning naming rights. It is common practice to offer naming rights to major donors, and questions arose concerning the length of such naming rights should the agreement fall through at some future date.

    A big issue was made of the rights for the Museum Foundation to use the Museum. Chautauqua Hall, the City Community Center or other City property for private events. Currently, such use will be allowed free of charge unless, within 30 days, a third party is willing to pay for the space on the same date. The Museum Foundation would then have the option of paying the rent or losing the space. Should the foundation charge fees for a Museum-related event, all proceeds would go to the foundation. If they were to hold a non-Museum event, they would agree to split the proceeds with the City. The Foundation would obtain its own licensing for any alcohol served at such events.

    Other questions, such as operation of the Museum Store, donations from the Butterfly Sanctuary, responsibility for a survey of the collections at the Museum, the Lighthouse, and City Hall remain to be hammer out.

    Signatures on the agreement will likely happen, but there are many review deadlines and checks and balances so it may be months before the ink actually dries.

    What’s the rush? The American Association of Museums accreditation visit is set for October, 2009. The biggest obstacle to continued accreditation is the question of financial support by the “parent” organization, the City. The Foundation, the Museum Association, the Museum Manager Lori Mannel and curator Mark Walker are anxious to be able to show the accreditation team that agreements are in place and that proper care is thus being taken of the collections. With that in hand, the Museum can both lend and borrow artifacts and improve exhibits at the Museum.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on June 6, 2009

    Topics: Current Edition, Front PG News, Marge Ann Jameson


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