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updated: 4/18/2014 5:08 PM

Bartlett trustees cut funding for History, Depot museums

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  • Bartlett officials have cut the salary and hours of the head of the History and Depot museums.

       Bartlett officials have cut the salary and hours of the head of the History and Depot museums.
    Mark Black | Staff Photographer September 2010

  • The restored Bartlett Depot, built in 1873, stands in the center of downtown at 100 W. Railroad Ave.

      The restored Bartlett Depot, built in 1873, stands in the center of downtown at 100 W. Railroad Ave.
    Courtesy Bartlett Heritage Days


Bartlett officials have slashed funding to the village's two museums, upsetting loyal patrons who fear the cutbacks will hurt exhibits.

Trustees approved a $57.5 million village budget that cuts the pay and hours of Pam Rohleder, the longtime director of the Bartlett History and Depot museums.

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Volunteers will take over some of her responsibilities. Museum supporters worry the docents lack the professional training needed to deliver tours and coordinate other events.

"I know volunteers are valuable, but I think generally they're used to support paid staff, not replace paid staff," said Sandy Whitmer, a librarian who grew up in Bartlett and now lives in Elgin.

She started a Facebook event called 'Save Bartlett's History Museums' and urged trustees to restore the full funding for the amenities during a village board meeting this week.

Her mom and dad have donated prized family heirlooms over the years to the History Museum, run out of the village hall's first floor.

"I love Bartlett," Whitmer said. "It's a great community, and I just think that museum is really a bright spot."

The History Museum collects and spotlights village memorabilia -- like photos in an exhibit on the Firemen Festival.

The 1870s-era depot -- once shipping out cattle, dairy and later commuters -- closed in 2007. The quaint building reopened only four years ago as the museum after a $480,000 restoration project financed by a state grant and tax increment financing dollars.

Patrons say Rohleder has created engaging displays that draw out-of-town visitors and raise the profile of the downtown.

Starting May 1, she will work fewer hours -- 20 a week. Her salary also was cut in half from $74,400 to $37,200.

"She does a terrific job on it," said Ruth Beckner, who's lived in Bartlett for nearly 60 years. "I know it's a lot of work."

Village officials defended the move. In belt-tightening times, the volunteer plan will help the museum run leaner, Mayor Kevin Wallace said.

"We all believe our history museum is one of the most important ingredients to the charm of Bartlett," Wallace said. "But we also feel that every other department has been cutting back."

In six months, the village will revisit the issue. But officials said they are confident visitors will see no noticeable changes. The village now is recruiting adults to volunteer.

"We're hoping that even with the cutbacks we can still have those same programs," Wallace said.

Rohleder did not immediately return requests for comment.

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