DuPage County will donate $250,000 to children’s museum
By Susan Frick Carlman email@example.com November 23, 2010 10:26AM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Inquisitive kids, and the grown-ups who encourage them, received a boost Tuesday when the DuPage County Board agreed to give $250,000 to help bring the DuPage Children’s Museum out of its financial stress.
Although Naperville’s representatives supported the contribution, six board members opposed the decision, some arguing that assorted organizations are at least as much in need of the funds.
“Just a few years ago, we were unable to fully fund our own DuPage County Historical Museum,” said board member Grant Eckhoff. “I don’t think we should start opening up the flood gates ... Frankly, I don’t think this county can afford to do this.”
He suggested that more partnerships might help the museum fill its fiscal gaps, similarly to the way the Wheaton Park District helped keep the historical facility open.
According to Chairman Bob Schillerstrom, however, the Naperville-based museum already makes good use of affiliations with local entities, including the city and the Park District. The museum has joined with the Park District for promotional collaborations and the City Council last year gave $400,000 to the museum in Special Events and Cultural Amenities Fund grants.
“Actually, the county of DuPage is the smallest participant,” said Schillerstrom, a Naperville resident.
Weighing in against the funding aid were Eckhoff, Jeff Redick, Paul Fichtner, Rita Gonzalez, JR McBride and Debra Olson. The remaining board members voted for the donation.
Jim Sheehan, the museum’s board president, said the county’s support is crucial to the continued viability of the popular attraction, which has been in its Washington Street home since May 2001 after operating on a traveling and temporary basis at a series of locations throughout the county.
Sheehan told the board that the museum receives more than 300,000 visitors annually and its yearly economic benefits to the community are estimated at more than $12 million.
He said later that it was pleasing to have the county’s backing, and it wasn’t particularly surprising for the outlay to have close scrutiny.
“I think they’re looking at every expenditure they make right now, and they should. We’re just glad it passed,” Sheehan said.
The sum represents the final piece in the museum’s economic recovery. The effort was launched nearly two years ago, after the payment schedule for the $13.3 million loan taken out for the site and building in 2000 was accelerated.
In a deal announced by Naperville several weeks ago, Chase Bank, to which the museum owes $9.4 million in encumbrances, is expected to take $3 million from the city for the museum property and the building. The county’s donation, along with state funds and private donations, will mean another $3.5 million to the deal to ensure the museum’s doors stay open. The museum no longer will receive SECA funds.
In return, the DuPage Children’s Museum will lease the property back from the city, rent-free for the first five years of the 20-year leasing agreement, and about $62,000 plus annual inflationary increases thereafter. Also included in the deal are arrangements for the city to devote 57 spaces to commuter parking for the nearby Metra station, oversight of the museum’s operations by adding two representatives from the city to the museum board and annual review of the museum budget.
“Now we will be operating debt-free from here on out,” Sheehan said Tuesday.