MARCO ISLAND — Marco’s museum got the financial boost it needs to begin placing exhibits in the new $4.5 million complex— but there are a few strings attached.
President of the Marco Island Historical Society Craig Woodward said he was pleased with the support following City Council’s decision Tuesday night to match the Collier County Commission’s January offer of $250,000 for the Marco Island Historical Museum despite some debate about whether it was a true match.
“Hey, we’ve got $250,000 more than we had when we got here tonight,” Woodward said.
He added that the contingencies and back and forth between city and county offers was just a part of politics that he and the historical society were more than willing to suffer.
In December, Marco offered to match up to $350,000 of whatever Collier County could offer to ensure the newly constructed museum wasn’t just an empty shell without exhibits. By January, the county commission offered $200,000 in county reserves and asked Marco to consider the $100,000 already committed from the Tourist Development Council, as well as $50,000 in a private donation from a county consultant, Cedar Hames of Paradise Advertising, to bring the county contribution up to $350,000.
The offer and counter-offer leaves some ambiguity as to where the museum stands.
Woodward indicated concern about whether Marco’s decision would have the county rethinking their offer or whether it would be perceived as a dollar for dollar match.
One of the primary contingencies of giving the money to the museum was for Marco’s council to be involved in negotiating the details of a contract between the historical society and the county. They sought to protect the interests of the museum’s donors, the historical society and Marco in general.
The historical society has not yet been able to arrange any meeting with the county to workout such a contract in which the county would receive ownership of the museum — not due to unwillingness by either party, but due to time constraints, Woodward said.
Chairman Rob Popoff saw it differently.
“A museum is not a money-making business, it’s a liability,” Popoff said.
“You have to staff a museum ... upkeep the museum,” he added.
That brought another concern among council — that the county may not be fully committed to ensure the museum stays a priority in the county budget, of which $80,000 is currently allocated for annual operation. They sought a commitment that once built and filled with exhibits, the museum would be staffed and maintained by the county.
Woodward, at times, was put in the position of defending the county and was backed by Alan Sandlin of the historical society in doing so.
“The county was first to step up to the bat to say ‘yeah we like the idea and we’ll give you the land,’ ” Sandlin said.
The county also gave seed money, he continued.
“So I don’t think it’s really fair to say they didn’t do things for us ... Are we going to benefit from it probably more than they will?” he asked.
“Probably we will, but we’re all going to benefit from it.
“We’ve worked together incredibly well and we can all be very proud of that,” Sandlin said.
It was less expensive to build a larger museum than initially planned due to the economy, however ad valorem taxes and bed taxes for the TDC were down due to the economy, causing budgetary constraints for the county, Woodward said.
“I think we need to have a seat at the table when the historical society and the county is talking,” said Councilman Ted Forcht.
Bill Perdichizzi of the historical society said he liked the idea of creating a highly definitive plan of how the city, county, donors, museum and historical society would function.
Council considered putting off any decision until a more detailed agreement between the stakeholders was reached.
“Just putting it off shows we’re not supporting Woodward in the current environment,” Trotter said, suggesting a contingency that the city be involved in the process. He asked council to consider contributing $250,000 because the city also contributed $100,000 previously.
Trotter wanted Rose Auditorium, which is among the large buildings in the museum complex on Heathwood Drive, to be used for a city performing arts center.
“We were thinking of adding that (performing arts center) to the Mackle Park plan for millions of dollars. This is an opportunity for us,” he added.
Use of Rose Auditorium for a city performing arts center and by other Island organizations became another contingency, which Woodward said was already in the cards.
Recker asked if Woodward would rather see $200,000 or $250,000 with a “ton of contingencies.”
“No I’d rather see a larger amount,” Woodward said, drawing a laugh from the audience.
Sandlin said that $700,000, with city and county contributions combined, would help secure great exhibits.
“We don’t want to put mom and pop stuff in a world class museum,” he said.
Trotter made a motion to give $250,000 to the historical society for purchasing exhibits under the contingencies that $250,000 is provided by the county, Rose Auditorium could be used by the city and the city could be involved with negotiations going forward.
The motion passed 4-3 with Councilmen Chuck Kiester, Jerry Gibson and Recker voting “no.”
“If you would have come here with an ironclad document, you may have seen a more generous council,” said Recker.