Wheaton rejects funding for history center again

As it preserves the city’s past, the Wheaton Center for History now has become concerned about its own future.

For the third straight year, the city council will push forward a budget that does not set aside money for the center.

The center’s director, Alberta Adamson, said the move puts the facility’s existence in jeopardy.

“It’s absolutely in trouble,” said Adamson, who is one of five candidates for two at-large city council seats in the April 5 election. “I’m disappointed, but it’s not just me, it’s the whole organization.”

Adamson will face off against Jeanne Ives, Evelyn Pacino Sanguinetti, Derek Bromstead and Bob Molenhouse.

After three budget hearings in February and early March, the city council is expected to introduce the 2011-12 budget during Monday’s city council meeting. The budget increased about 3 percent to $81 million.

During the most recent budget hearing, Adamson asked the council to reinstate a previous agreement that paid the center roughly $225,000 a year to maintain the more than 40,000 artifacts at 315 W. Front St.

The council rejected the request, but John Prendiville proposed adding a line item that would have given the center $100,000.

Councilman Todd Scalzo said he would support an allocation of $85,000 to help the center at least cover the rent for its two facilities. Mayor Mike Gresk also supported the plan and said he hoped whatever happens that the collection remains intact.

Previous ideas that have been investigated include working out a deal with Wheaton Park District to house the museum’s golf collection at Arrowhead Golf Club.

Prendiville’s proposal failed to attain a majority as Liz Corry, Tom Mouhelis and Phil Suess voted against it. Prendiville, who will challenge Gresk in the mayoral election, said he wished the results had been different, and he agreed with Gresk that the collection must remain intact.

“I’m just disappointed because I support their mission and I’m concerned with what might happen with the collection,” he said.

Corry and Suess said they wanted to see a long-term plan for the center before they committed any money.

“In the absence of a long-term plan that ensures the viability of the facility, I think it’s just putting money into a black hole,” Corry said. “I would not be in favor of putting any money forward.”

“If we have a plan or a structure that will result in this being viable going forward, and we need to put some money to help facilitate that, that’s something I would be willing to consider,” Suess said. “But in the absence of that I’m not in favor of adding additional money to the budget for this.”

Adamson said a long-term plan has been presented to the council in the past. Suess said at the hearing that he wanted to see a future plan that worked with either the park district or DuPage County Museum before he would consider additional funding.

“We have no problem with a partnership; we’re looking at all avenues,” Adamson said. “When people talk outside of the organization without knowing the facts, they are missing the components of what the needs are.”

Adamson said the city allocation made up about 50 percent of the center’s overall budget in its last year, with additional revenue coming from donations and programming as well as admission fees.

With no city money coming in, Adamson said she plans to hold fundraisers to at least partially make up the difference.

“We are hoping the larger community appreciates the value of what we have done and thinks about what would happen to the community if we go away,” she said. “History is their life; it’s their being.”

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