Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

March 6, 2013

Court donates to Highlands, adds ‘catch-up’ contribution

Carrie Stambaugh
The Independent

CATLETTSBURG — The Boyd County Fiscal Court took action Tuesday to reinstate its support for the Highlands Museum and Discovery Center.

Fiscal court members voted to restart its historical $2,500 annual contribution to the museum in next year’s budget as well as to make an immediate donation of $15,000 for years that it did not fund the museum.

According to Judge-Executive William “Bud” Stevens, the fiscal court last made a donation to the museum in 2007. It stopped making its annual donation due to its budget restraints, he said.

Commissioners voted unanimously in favor of the donations, citing its economic impact on the county as well as its important educational mission.

“What you all do, I really thank you all for doing it and I’d like to help in some manner,” Stevens said.

Commissioners Carl Tolliver and David Salisbury also spoke out in favor of the court supporting the facility.

“I like what you are doing, and I think it’s important,” said Salisbury.

“You can drive down the street and see its use,” added Tolliver, echoing Salisbury’s sentiment. “I’m in a agreement. Let’s pick up where we left off.”

“I’m thrilled,” said Carol Allen, executive director of the Highlands Museum. “We’re a 501c-3, we have no budget support.”

The museum has an annual operating budget of $122,000 to $125,000 and relies solely on donations and fundraising in addition to membership and admission fees to fund it. The operating budget covers staffing, the museum has five part-time employees, as well as upkeep and maintenance.

The court’s donation, she said, will help with operating expenses. “We have a very small budget. There is no room for growth,” Allen said, explaining there are no funds for capital projects needed to grow the museum or even update its current exhibits. “If we could get our operating expenses covered, then we could grow and start bringing in new things and new exhibits. That is what we’re hoping for.”

Allen, a career educator who took the helm of the organization in August 2012, has a greater vision for the museum and its place in educating residents about their history. She dreams of seeing the museum renovating its second floor in order to pull exhibits out of storage and have visiting exhibits come.

“That is where we could add a lot,” she said. “We have the ability to have a large sports exhibit. We’d like to have a Parson’s exhibit. More science and technology,” she said.

“We don’t want to simply exist,” said Allen. “We need a place where children can come and learn something really off the wall every time they come. We need so much more to make that happen.”

To realize that vision, Allen is looking anywhere she can for funding. The museum recently established an advisory board to focus on fundraising. She’s approached every state legislator from the area about line-item funding in next year’s state budget, and plans to ask the governor for help, too.  

 Allen has also tried to attract new visitors and build support by hosting different monthly activities. “I’ve tried to put something in there each month to draw a different group of people with a different interest,” she explained. In March, a quilting event is scheduled and in April there will be a baseball event. In May, a mother-daughter tea is being planned. Later this summer an exhibit marking the 25th anniversary of Summer Motion is on the schedule.

The Discovery Center is especially in need up updating, said Allen, whose developed a list of projects for potential sponsors to pick from.

“I could use $80,000 tomorrow, just to upgrade it. Perk it up and do the things that need to be done,” she said. The Discovery Center is among the museum’s most popular destinations.

The museum already partners with the Boyd County Library System and is partnering with the Healthy Choices Kentucky to establish an interactive exhibit that would teach children about portion control and healthy eating.

CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at cstambaugh@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.