By Lynda Jensen
DASSEL, MN When Jason Benzing started to serve on the Dassel City Council last fall, he was skeptical about how much money the city was spending on the Dassel History Center and Ergot Building, he said.
“My big question was ‘What is the city getting out of it?’” Benzing said.
The return is a good one with money coming in from outside sources and a museum that is increasingly becoming more and more self-sufficient, he reported to the council.
“I’m pretty satisfied with the numbers,” he said.
The City of Dassel has spent $537,330 on the history center (see graph). “That includes everything I could think of,” he said, including interest and other types of expenses.
At the same time, fundraising by the Dassel Area Historical Society amounts to $764,626, he said.
The city pays for staffing, utilities, and maintenance. The city is responsible for the addition of the Community Room when the annex was built.
DAHS pays for exhibits, programming, events, and advertising. In addition, DAHS paid $522,804 toward the annex construction and upgrades to the Universal Lab building.
Benzing searched out figures and backtracked financial documents going back 10 years, analyzing where the money has gone and how it was spent.
Sources of revenue include memberships, which have generated $223,474 to date, state bond funded grants that amount to $177,689 and county or township donations to the tune of $120,800. A capital campaign raised $74,023.
The research was no small task, and Benzing said that some connections to the money are murky, but clear enough to figure out.
This was not easy, especially before Myles McGrath became administrator and started to document where money was going, Benzing said.
A fair amount of money for updating and adding the annex to the Universal Lab has been spent locally, at local businesses, Benzing noted.
In closing, Benzing said that the outlook is very good. “With the direction they’re going it will get even better,” he said.
The city owns the building, and maintains it, but DAHS is becoming more self-sufficient.
The history center impacts the whole area with positive activities that continue to pay dividends, he said. For example, it is used as a polling location for Dassel Township, which has contributed funds toward it. This, in turn, helps with successful grant applications for the building, Benzing said.
Council Member Bob Lalone questioned Benzing on why he did this research in the first place. He pointed out that the museum director has already reported these types of findings, and that the council should just take these reports at face value.
Benzing said it was one of the reasons he was interested in taking office in the first place, to make sure the city was being a good steward of money.
“Nobody has ever been able to show me the numbers,” Benzing told Lalone, saying that even with his extensive research, the numbers still aren’t clearly connected to each other, but very likely so.