Cumberland Times-News

November 17, 2013

Museum officials seek $2.75 million for renovations

Greg Larry
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — Officials with the Allegany Museum have sent a letter to Gov. Martin O’Malley dated Oct. 21, asking for $2.75 million in funding for the completion of proposed renovations to the museum’s Pershing Street facility.

“We hope it can become a reality,” said Gary Bartik, Allegany Museum president and author of the letter to O’Malley.

The letter said the funding request is to “complete the restoration work and make the museum a national heritage attraction.”

“I was not aware of the letter until three weeks later,” said Kevin Kelly, delegate with the District 1 legislative delegation.

Officials with the Allegany Museum had given a copy of the letter to Sen. George Edwards, the chair of the delegation, about the same time the letter was mailed to the governor, according to Bartik.

Bartik recently requested a meeting with the delegation, which has been scheduled for Dec. 4, to discuss the funding plan.

“We hope it is OK with the delegation that we move forward with this,” said Bartik.

Officials with the museum want to make sure the county and the city, as well as the delegation are all aware of the museum’s plans.

“We want from the governor on down to know about our plans,” said Bartik.

Kelly said the request is coming at a difficult time.

“Right now we are fighting for the new Allegany High School,” said Kelly.

A new Allegany High, with a price tag of $40 million, is being planned on Haystack Mountain, with demolition of the former Sacred Heart Hospital complex to begin soon. Officials hope the school will open in the fall of 2017.

 However, Bartik feels that the time is now to try for funding.

“We started 13 years ago. We’ve come a long way, but we want to finish the job,” said Bartik.

If they are approved for state funding, officials with the museum plan to use the $2.75 million as follows:

• Construction of a new entrance — $1.5M

• Installation of a freight elevator — $500,000

• Restoration of the first floor — $250,000

• Renovation of the basement to create a children’s learning center — $250,000

• Replace the existing roof with an environmental green roof — $250,000

Kelly said the funding request has gotten off to a rocky start.

“The first thing you want to do is seek the input of the delegation before you make a request,” said Kelly.

Lag time in being able to circulate Bartik’s proposal to all members of the delegation can cause a plan to lack cohesion and creates delays as well, according to Kelly.

“You need to send a funding request of this nature through the delegation,” said Kelly.

Bartik said that he has decided to seek funding from the governor when the county told him that he should not seek bond funding through the county during these difficult economic times.

“That way (going to the governor) our funding request will not affect the county and it gives other entities a chance (for county funding),” said Bartik.

Officials with the museum, which is assisted primarily by volunteers, hopes the museum can continue to help the local economy while protecting the history and heritage for future generations.

Museum officials said that the renovation project should generate about 47 new jobs in the area.

“Our visitation has increased 40 percent over the past two years. We had about 22,000 total visitors from every state and 47 foreign countries,” Bartik wrote in his letter to O’Malley.

 Bartik said the museum is currently getting about 55 percent of its attendance from outside the region and 45 percent from the tri-state area.

 Future goals for the museum officials are to become a Smithsonian affiliate and to be awarded a traveling Smithsonian exhibit for 2015 from the Maryland Humanities Council.

Bartik said that so many people have helped to get the museum to where it is today that he couldn’t begin to try to thank them all.

“Where would you start and where would you end,” said Bartik.

“Getting the funding would not be great for me; it would be great for Allegany County,” said Bartik.

Greg Larry can be contacted at glarry@times-news.com.