(Shaun Friedrichsen, Publisher)
In the wake of many changes to the leadership of the Jefferson County Historical Society, a group of board members updated the commissioners on the organization’s standing. They also met Tuesday evening at a special meeting to discuss improvements the society can make.
At the commissioners meeting on Tuesday, Phyllis McCown, President of the Historical Society, and Megan Sothan, Vice President, reviewed the changes that have been made in the past few weeks and which projects the society is working on.
“Basically, since the meeting (when the former board resigned), we’ve been working on getting all of our finances in order,” said Sothan. “Making sure that we’re current on all accounts, making contact with all of our service providers to make sure that all of our account information has been changed over, so that way we can pay our monthly expenses, and trying to streamline our accounts as much as possible.”
Sothan noted that there are some places where the society could reduce spending and that the board is working to reduce the operating costs of the society. She believes that is the society’s main focus as it continues to move forward.
“We’re working to kind of streamline things so we’re not expending more funds than we need to, since obviously we don’t have a lot of funds to work with,” said Sothan.
She noted that there have been many improvements to the society since the change, citing an increase in people interested in helping the organization. She has been volunteering her time as Interim Director of Day-to-Day Operations at the society, helping to organize the files and accounts of the society while also providing tours to people interested.
The society will continue to sort out the accounts while also looking for ways to market and promote all that they have to offer. They are looking for ways to keep moving forward as they continue to be open to inquiries.
“We want to be as transparent as possible,” Sothan said. “Any discrepancies, we want to know about so we can rectify the problem.”
Commissioner Gale Pohlmann asked for some clarification on an issue discussed by the former curator Denise Andersen.
“I thought when Denise came to that one meeting (of the county commissioners), she was saying something about $40,000 in savings somewhere,” said Pohlmann. “I think there was something in there that she said was in holding.”
McCown and Sothan both cited an account with Waddell and Reed, stating that the society received notification from the State Auditor that the account was not benefiting the society.
“We’ve been notified by the auditors that the money through Waddell and Reed has been consistently losing money,” Sothan said. “From what I’ve seen of the account, they have some interest in stocks or mutual funds, which could have been a donation. Obviously, it hasn’t been managed as well as it could have been.”
Commissioner Michael Dux stated that resolving that issue should be high on the society’s priority list. Pohlmann agreed with this, stating that if the society wanted to, they could liquidate the account to use the money to begin repairs. Sothan stated that the society’s intent is to begin repair projects as soon as possible, noting that there is likely over $1 million in deferred maintenance projects.
“I would rather have the funds, because we do have a lot of projects that we need to complete,” said Sothan. “We have two roofs that are approaching critical stage at this point. So, in my opinion, it would be advantageous to have those funds, rather than see what they’re going to do in the stock market.”
The two roof projects are the Diller State Bank Museum and the Steele City School. Sothan stated that the society received an estimate for the roof at the Diller Bank last year.
“From talking to Chappell Roofing, it sounds like it (the estimate) may have been done in July 2015, but it was addressed by the society in September and October,” Sothan said. “It’s been sitting that way since the original estimate. From talking with Mr. Dragoo at Chappell, he said it needed a roof then, so it really should not sit another winter without a roof. They said the damage was extensive enough that they would have to completely re-roof it. The challenging part will be coming up with the funds to do it.”
After some more discussion, the commissioners agreed to release the funds withheld from the society, recognizing that the society is being much more accountable. Dux requested that they return to give an update to the commissioners in about a month.
Historical Society Hosts Special Meeting
At their meeting on Tuesday evening, the historical society discussed changing the locks on the doors at the Rock Island Depot and at the freight house, lest people still have keys to the locks. Sothan noted at the meeting that there were a total of six keys made for the locks on the doors at the Depot and that people cannot duplicate the keys because of the design of the lock.
The society received an estimate from Painter Paul to change the locks on three doors, and the total came to $201.63.
“We do have six keys, but, personally, I’m not comfortable not knowing for sure without official records if that’s how many keys are out there,” said Sothan. “We may have the keys, or it may still be keyed for eight. We won’t know for sure unless this company (that installed the locks) is able to come up with the records.”
The other option before the society is to see if the company that originally installed the locks could re-key the locks, though several noted that it would likely be more costly to have the company travel from Lincoln.
After some discussion, the society decided to wait to see how extensive the company’s records are and what the total cost would be.
Also at the meeting, the Historical Society Board approved the future billing of the inspection of the fire alarms, which is mandatory. The total cost is $300 for the inspection alone. The board also voted to approve an audit waiver since there will already be an audit conducted. They will wait to decide if another audit is needed for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
During the meeting, Sothan and McCown recognized the volunteer efforts of people trying to improve the society. Tammy Katz was recognized for spending time working at the depot to improve the landscape as well as donating mulch.
Belva Cassell inquired about the brick wall containing the names of those who donated to the society. She asked how to clean it up, and volunteered her time to do so. Tom Remmenga also volunteered to mow at the Lime Kiln.
McCown is grateful for all of the people who have stepped up to volunteer for the society. If anyone is interested in volunteering, they are encouraged to contact the historical society at 402-729-5131.