BY ANDREA VARGO
Upwards of 70 people attended the public meeting Thursday at the old Waverly Village Hall.
The first item on the agenda was the request by the Board of the Hubert H. Humphrey Museum for the use of the village hall to house the museum and learning center.
The building was constructed in 1940, and it needs repair. As Humphrey Museum Director Irene Bender stated, "Operating expenses for the building as of October 1997 were $6,985.54 and revenues were $538.75.
"The building is structurally strong, however, a new roof is needed, it would have to meet the American Disability Act, environmental controls, lighting, and exhibit construction projected costs would be $2,931,430," she said.
The main floor would be used as the museum gallery. The lower level would be storage and made available for community events, said Bender.
She said the Minnesota State Department of Finance requires that a public entity own the building, and the bonding request from then is a 50-50 match.
The museum board would lease the building from the city, and would be responsible for the operating costs of the museum and the 50-50 match.
The endowment goal is $3.5 million, and the annual operating budget is projected at $220,000.
The budget would come from interest from the endowment, which would not be touched, she said.
The project would not be started until all of the required project plans and costs are met.
Birdie Jackson, museum board member said the city would be safeguarded from financial liability by the terms of the lease agreement.
If the museum were to fold, she said, the endowment would take care of any monies repayable to the state.
Several board members spoke in favor of the project.
Russ Gilmer said, "I think the museum is the spark plug to increase traffic flow in the downtown area.
"This building hasn't been self-sustaining since the 1940s. This is an opportunity to restore an historic building at no expense to the city and create a better climate for our retail businesses," he said.
Someone asked, "Where does the money come from?"
Bender answered, "Revenue would come from the bonding proposal funds. It is not easy to get. We know we will have to depend on large donations (outside the state)."
She told the crowd that the board couldn't even start on the funding until the city agreed to allow use of the building.
"If we don't get the building, the museum is a dead issue," she said.
Jackson said, "There is a lot of work to do, and we don't know if it will ever become a reality."
Jackson explained the Humphrey museum has the potential to become much greater than the Cokato museum.
"We feel it will not be just a local attraction. The President Carter museum in Georgia attracts 35,000 people a year," she said.
Most negative comments included words like: "I don't want to see the hall change."
Some people were still concerned about the financial liability the city might incur.
Greg Lammers said, "I've probably had more to do with this hall than anyone else. I've got a plan to keep this as a dance hall, and the people could still have a museum here."
As a former member of the Waverly City Council, Adrian Duske spoke for the project.
"The city can end up with a remodeled building and still have use of it," he said.
After an hour, Mayor Charlie Bush called a halt to the discussion and proceeded to the next item, the purchase of the Graham property.
Representing the Graham Investment company, Kevin Graham said, "My father encouraged the city to have an industrial base to help with the city taxes in the late 60s.
"If we don't sell now (to the City of Waverly), we can put it on the market.," he said.
Councilman Dave Fournier said, "My taxes went up eight percent. Did yours? How do we keep this down?
"I look at this property as an investment. The only way we can do that (keep taxes down) in this city is to bring industry to this town," he said.
According to the Wright County Auditor, it takes a $175,000 home to provide taxes that will pay for that home's services, said Fournier.
"I want an industrial tax base to help," he said.
Former councilman Bob Zeller said there are two questions that need to be asked. Does the city want to get into the development business, and can the city afford it?
Bush said the city's financial plan will be available for the next budget meeting, and Zeller said the council members need to look at that plan before making a decision.
"If we can afford it, fine. If the numbers aren't good, don't do it," he said.
Bush said Lakes Area Gas is ready to purchase four acres of the 26 acres in the Graham parcel, as soon as possible.
They want to build a retail store and storage facility in the spring.
There are also several other businesses interested in the property, he said.
Concern seemed to center on whether the city
should be in the development business and how it would be financed.