Town may end IW museum agreement

Published 1:03 pm Wednesday, September 27, 2017

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

The Smithfield Town Council is looking into either ending its agreement with Isle of Wight County to run the Isle of Wight County Museum or get the county to pay the yearly cost of its operation.

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Council member Milton Cook raised the issue Monday at the end of the Town Council’s finance committee meeting.

The agreement was forged in 2014 and was to last three years. It costs about $150,000 a year to run the museum, which includes the salaries of its employees, according to Town Treasurer Ellen Minga. 

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Isle of Wight continues to own the building and pays for its maintenance.

Cook said he was leery of having the county pay the yearly operating expenses, fearing it would be an area that Isle of Wight would try to control.

At last month’s committee meetings, Cook expressed frustration with the county’s involvement with the Joseph W. Luter Jr. sports complex — a $4 million project of which Isle of Wight has pledged to contribute $250,000. Currently the Town Council and Board of Supervisors are negotiating a usage policy that in Cook’s opinion is taking too long.

“We were a good steward and baby sitter for them,” said Cook, adding that it’s time to cut the cord on the museum.

Vice Mayor Andrew Gregory agreed.

“We don’t need any more joint agreements,” Gregory said.

Council member Denise Tynes favored asking the county to foot the entire $150,000 and if it hedged on the amount, then cancel the agreement.

“Tell them to send us the money and we’ll take care of it,” she said.

“If not, they can take it back,” Tynes said.

Council member Randy Pack and Mayor Carter Williams favored Tynes’ approach.

According to Pack, who was reading from the agreement, the town could terminate the deal if it did so by letter by March 1.

Minga said operating the museum was not a financial boon for the town.

“It’s not paying for itself. It’s not even close,” she said.

The town took over operations of the museum as a way to help Isle of Wight close the gap on its budget deficit at the time. Prior to the agreement, the town did not provide any funding for the Museum, which has been in operation since the 1970s.

Town Manager Peter Stephenson said he would bring up the issue the next time he meets with county staff.