County Finance Committee hears Historical Society’s request for millage.

April 7, 2017
Proposed new visitor center concept drawing.

Proposed new visitor center concept drawing.

County Finance Committee hears Historical Society’s request for millage.

#MasonCountyNews

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

LUDINGTON — The Mason County Board of Commissioners Finance Committee heard a request by the Mason County Historical Society today asking for a millage request to go on the August ballot. See MCP’s March 31 story here.

MCHS board President Jim Jensen and Executive Director Rick Plummer discussed the request with committee members Chuck Lange and Wally Taranko, along with County Administrator Fabian Knizacky. Committee member Tom Posma was absent.

The MCHS is asking for a .29 annual millage for five years. The revenue is expected to generate $2.5 million, which will meet capital expenditure needs, according to Plummer and Jensen.

At this time, no other ballot request has been made for the August election, which County Clerk Cheryl Kelly estimates will cost between $45,000 to $50,000. Plummer and Jensen said the historical society is reimburse the county for the cost of the election.

The Mason County Historical Society was incorporated in 1937. In 1965, it purchased 13 acres of land on Buttersville Peninsula in Pere Marquette Township. The land housed the county’s first courthouse, which was built in 1849 and in 1976 Pioneer Village opened. The name was eventually changed to Historic White Pine Village. In addition to historical buildings from Mason County, along with replicas, the village also houses the historical society’s research library.

For several years, the historical society operated with the aid of a millage, which ended in the early 1990s.

In June of this year, the historical society will open the Port of Ludington Maritime Museum, located in the former US Coast Guard station.

Plummer and Jensen said the millage will only be for five years and the historical society has no plans to ask for additional funds from taxpayers. One of the major concerns is the state of disrepair of the research library facility. Plummer said the historical society’s newspaper collection, which includes newspapers dating back to 1867, is currently being covered up. He said historical artifacts need to be in an environmentally sound building.

If passed by the voters, the millage will pay for:

• New research library and welcome center, $900,000

• Expanded parking at White Pine Village, $200,000

• New entrance from South Lakeshore Drive to the village, $150,000

• ADA compliant restroom facilities, walkways, and building accessibility improvements throughout the village, $150,000

• Enhanced security and noice suppression fencing at the village, $150,000

• New exhibits at the village, including themes of Native American village, steam locomotive and train station, military compound with quonset hut, and public ground transportation to and from the village, $250,000.

• The completion of several maritime museum exhibits including 1940 Armistice Day Storm, U.S. Coast Guard duty station, maritime heritage trail exhibits, $600,000.

Lange asked Plummer and Jensen how the buildings at White Pine Village had gotten to such a state of disrepair. Plummer and Jensen said that many of the buildings are maintained through donations. Several regular donors have shifted their giving towards the creation of the maritime museum.

The finance committee agreed to continue the discussion about the request at its April 18 meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. at the Mason County Courthouse. If the finance committee agrees to approve the request, it will go to the Board of Commissioners, will need to make a decision to place it on the ballot no later than its May 9 meeting.

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