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Published: Wednesday, 7/27/2005

Maumee: Historical Society seeks $75,000 for operating expenses


The Maumee Valley Historical Society, which manages the Wolcott House Museum Complex, is asking Maumee for $75,000 this year and next to help with the society's operating expenses.

The historical society is projecting a $73,000 shortfall in this year's budget.

"We need help from someone, or the society is not going to exist as we know it," said Thomas Brell, a member of the group. "We can only cut costs so much. We have a mission to perform."

The Maumee City Council's finance committee last week decided to recommend spending the money, and council is planning to vote on the issue next month.

Mayor Tim Wagener urged council members to support the historical society.

"The Wolcott House is part of the quality of life in Maumee," he said. "It's like our parks and our sports fields."

One cause of the society's budget woes is the increasing cost of utilities. Society officials said utility costs make up about 30 percent of the group's annual operating budget.

"The utility costs are escalating on an almost day-to-day basis," said Jack Hiles, executive director. "They're hard to keep up with."

The historical society has a staff of five paid employees and works with several volunteers to help maintain the museum complex buildings and organize activities highlighting the community's history.

The museum complex, which is owned by the city, contains six 19th century buildings. The main attraction is the Wolcott House, which was built by an early mayor of Maumee named James Wolcott. Classes from more than 60 schools visited the complex last year, Mr. Hiles said.

The city is responsible for major improvements to the buildings, but the historical society handles the daily operations of the complex, including public tours. In each of the past few years, the city contributed $25,000 annually for operating costs, Mr. Hiles said.

"It just wasn't enough to keep things going," he said.

In addition to creating displays from stored historic artifacts, the historical society has been trying to increase its revenue from donations and fund-raising events.

Last year, the society started a membership program for businesses, and its individual memberships have remained popular. The membership program is expected to provide about $7,800 of revenue this year.

"Membership is definitely on the increase," Mr. Hiles said. "Now our new business memberships are starting to come in."

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