Levy would help Prineville museum preserve Crook County’s history

Tax would keep funding for the museum going for four additional years

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: October 20. 2006 5:00AM PST

The cost of the operating levy for Crook County’s Bowman Museum, its supporters say, is the price of maintaining a connection to the past.

And, they add, the average family pays only about $10 a year to support the museum.

One of the questions on the ballot for Crook County voters in November is whether to continue the museum’s operating levy for another four years. The levy rate, 6 cents for every $1,000 of taxable assessed property value, will not increase over last year’s. The tax rate means that someone whose house is assessed at $200,000 would pay $12 a year for the museum.

The levy supports the day-to-day operations of the museum, salaries for the two part-time employees, special programs, field trips and lecture series.

“All of that is free to the public,” said Jim Carpenter, chairman of Preserve Our Past, the political action committee supporting the levy.

A four-year operating levy has funded the museum since 1998. Since then, voters have twice approved extending the levy for another four years.

Gordon Gillespie, the museum’s director, said the levy paid for about 45 percent of the museum’s total expenses last year. The rest is made up by memberships in the Crook County Historical Society, grants and gift shop sales.

Gillespie said the museum’s annual operating budget is about $150,000, and last year the levy brought in about $68,000.

Between 8,000 and 10,000 people visit the museum each year, including about 800 students.

“We consider ourselves part of the education infrastructure for the community, and because of the levy funds … the collection is professionally maintained,” Gillespie said.

The museum is open seven days a week in the summer and five days a week in the winter. Admission is free.

If the levy is not renewed next month, the money would stop being collected after 2006. That could “force the museum to reduce hours, reduce staff or otherwise reduce its effort to educate the public about the history of Crook County,” according to the text of the measure.

Gillespie and Carpenter said they expect the levy to pass.

“We’ve had such wonderful community support over the years. The community just looks at that museum as a reflection of the past and something we’re quite proud of,” Carpenter said. “It’s such a small amount of money as levies go.”

The Bowman Museum is housed in an old bank building in downtown Prineville that dates from 1911.

It has been open since 1971 after the Bowman family donated the building to the city, Gillespie said.

Inside, visitors can still see the teller windows and marble counters from the original bank. The museum also includes Western artifacts, microfilm archives of the local newspapers and a library with local genealogical information.

Gillespie said the museum plays an important role in the community because it gives Prineville “a sense of place.”

“If you drive through a town and all you see is McDonald’s and Burger King, I call that ‘Anywhere, USA.’ So when people come to the museum, they want to get a sense of how the town got here, how it developed,” Gillespie said.

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