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The Coliseum Museum of Art, Antiques and Americana, an Illinois not-for-profit corporation and federally tax exempt public charity has requested the city lease them the coliseum building for a term of 49 years at $1 per year. A community meeting was held in the Coliseum Wednesday 2/5 and after a presentation by CMAAA board President Tom Mahoney the meeting was opened to questions from the public. Listed below is a recap of the questions and the responses.
What will the museum do?
The primary mission is focused on the organizing, operating, acquiring and displaying items of art, antiques, Americana and history. CMAAA will have both permanent and rotating exhibits, with programs and educational events tied to the displays. An additional role will be to provide a recording studio for community use on the 2nd floor.
Who was involved with the formation of CMAAA?
The concept and formation of the CMAAA foundation has involved the foresight, dedication and work of representatives from the City or Oregon (Ken Williams), Oregon Community Unit School District #220 (Tom Mahoney), Oregon Park District (Erin Folk), Serenity Hospice & Home (Lynn Knodle) , Village of Progress (Brion Brooks), Oregon Public Library (Hilaree Lombardo), Oregon Depot Museum (Dave Head), Ogle County Historical Society Museum (Kris Gilbert), Chana School Museum(Connie Stauffer) and other community leaders.
Why 49 years, it seems like a long time?
While the initial funding for the museum comes from a private foundation it is expected to become self-funding through grants and donations over time. Museum donors will not fund or donate to an operation with a year to year lease.
How does the lease work?
The city will lease the coliseum to CMAAA for $1 per year, just like the arrangement we have on the depot. The term will be for 49 years.
$1 per year seems too low, why not more?
The value to the city is not measured in the $1 rent but rather in what it provides to our citizens, children and visitors. Promotion of the arts also brings in people who spend their money in town generating sales tax. Our city relies more on sales tax than property tax so anything that brings more visitors to town is a plus.
So what happens if after a couple of years the museum does not work out?
It is in the best interest of all parties that the Museum remains viable and continues to provide value to the city and community. Built into the lease is the ability of the city to opt out of the lease if the museum concept is not successful.
How often is the coliseum used now?
Records of the last 3 years lease activity show the coliseum was vacant 95% of the time, and in 2019 the usage was less than 4%. Years ago the coliseum was a center of activity for our community. Times have changed. Families have less time today and look to other types of activities. Children and young adults also do not do the same things that they did 20 or 30 or more years ago.
So the public can’t use the coliseum anymore?
We actually see the enjoyment of the coliseum increase not decrease. Expect to see more entertainment programs and events in the coliseum. The floorplan design allows for ample seating and the stage will remain.
What happens to the groups who were using the coliseum?
Of the 11 active rentals last year we expect most will continue to do so. For example the 4 day pinewood derby event will continue on the main floor as it has for years. Others may choose to use the lower level. There are also 5 other sites within the city that can be used ranging from 2,000 square feet to over 8,000 square feet with one including a stage and two have basketball facilities. Another example is the farm extension Penny Carnival that moved to the Blackhawk center this year.
Don’t we pay taxes for the coliseum?
Yes, part of the property tax paid by Oregon residents goes towards maintenance and upkeep of the coliseum. About 2% of the money you pay on your overall property tax bill goes towards the coliseum. That’s 2 cents on every dollar.
Will my taxes go up?
No, the amount you pay in property taxes for the coliseum will not go up if it becomes a museum.
Don’t we get rent for people using the coliseum?
Yes, that amount is about $3,000 per year not counting the church that no longer uses the coliseum. However our cleaning bill for the inside of the coliseum is $6,000 per year so the city will only be paying for the lower level at a savings of $3000 or more per year.
What is the city’s responsibility?
As the landlord the city will be responsible for maintaining the outside of the building and making sure any mechanicals, like HVAC systems and water heaters work properly. As landlord the city will also pay utilities. The renter will pay for cleaning on the inside and pay for constructing exhibit rooms.
We already have museums in town why add another?
The Historical Society’s Nash Home, Chana School, and the Library gallery have excellent collections, but are not often open or known to the general public and visitors. CMAAA will be able to host programs highlighting these institutions, which will draw greater attention to their resources. They do a fine job with our local history but CMAAA is so much more. It is expected to become a gathering place for our community and a showcase for the rich historic and artistic heritage of our region. This will be a place for school children, and future generations, to learn about our roots in Midwestern values.
Who pays for museum staff?
The executive director will be paid 75% by CMAAA and 25% by the city. Our city has long needed more professional help to attract visitors to our events and tourism sites. The 25% the city pays will come from our economic development fund.
How will the recording studio work?
The second floor will become a recording studio. We believe it can be a cooperative effort through our local schools, a community college and other sponsors. The goal is to have a working audio/video studio. This will provide further educational opportunities for our students as well as provide training videos for area businesses. Our comcast agreement allows us to have a free local channel on tv.
What happens to AOP offices on the second floor?
This year is the 50th anniversary for AOP so they will remain on the second floor until after October of 2020.. At that point the city is committed to working with them to locate a space to meet their needs so they continue to have a rent free location.
When will the council vote on this?
The vote is scheduled for the March 10th council meeting at 5:30.