City grants could be in Naperville museum's future

  • Sarah Orleans, president and CEO of the DuPage Children's Museum, asks the Naperville City Council to amend the museum's lease so it can apply for grants from the Special Events and Cultural Amenities fund. The city council gave preliminary approval to a lease amendment Tuesday and could officially OK the change Oct. 21.

      Sarah Orleans, president and CEO of the DuPage Children's Museum, asks the Naperville City Council to amend the museum's lease so it can apply for grants from the Special Events and Cultural Amenities fund. The city council gave preliminary approval to a lease amendment Tuesday and could officially OK the change Oct. 21. Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted10/8/2014 5:30 AM

The DuPage Children's Museum could regain the ability to apply for grants from the city of Naperville in the near future.

Grant applications for money from the city's Special Events and Cultural Amenities fund have been prohibited since the city bought the museum's building and property in 2010 and began leasing it back to the organization in 2011.

 

City council members Tuesday night indicated they are willing to remove the clause that prohibits the museum from seeking money from the fund, commonly referred to as SECA.

The council did not take official action to amend the lease Tuesday night but preliminarily voted 7-2 in favor of allowing the museum to ask for SECA grants, which are supported by food and beverage tax revenue.

"As a matter of principle, I have no problem with your applying for it at all," council member Judith Brodhead told Sarah Orleans, president and CEO of the DuPage Children's Museum. "I think it would be just fine."

Other council members who voted in favor of adjusting the lease at the council's next meeting Oct. 21 said the change wouldn't be an automatic gift of more money to the museum.

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"If we don't feel like it fits, then we can deny it," council member Steve Chirico said about future grant applications from the museum. "This is really just the authority to allow them to enter the race -- get to the starting line -- not to the finish line."

The city already uses $150,000 from the SECA fund each year to pay itself back for the $3 million it spent in 2010 to buy the museum building and property at 801 N. Washington St. Council member Doug Krause, who voted against changing the lease along with council member Grant Wehrli, said that gives the museum an unfair advantage over other nonprofit organizations that apply for the events and culture funding.

"They're actually getting $150,000 out of SECA, which deprives other organizations from having those funds available," Krause said. "They don't even have to apply for that."

The museum has been paying $1 rent since its lease began in 2011, but starting in 2016, it will owe $62,056 a year.

Orleans said the museum is operating in the black and is looking to add two new exhibits next year: AWEsome Air next spring and AWEsome Water next fall.

The museum could ask for $150,000 toward those exhibits if it's allowed to seek SECA funding, she said.

"We are incredibly grateful to be growing and offering new exhibits and programs to our community, and to continue to be a leader and partner in early childhood education both here and nationally," Orleans said.

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