City seeking input for future of local historical facilities

Hillsboro city officials are asking the public to keep contributing ideas on the future of local historical projects to include the Schaeffler and Peter Loewen houses, Friesen windmill and the Bartel house.

City leaders hosted a town hall meeting Feb. 16 to talk about the issues and receive feedback. Since then, a group of citizens has been developing a proposal to preserve old sites.

?We have been putting in $50,000 to $60,000 for operating and usage (of museums),? City Administrator Larry Paine said at the meeting, ?and we have been getting about $1,000 to $2,000 back in revenue.

?In a business sense, this is not a good return of investment.?

Paine said he, Mayor Delores Dalke and council members want to make it clear the city has no plan to close down the museums.

?Last summer, because of budget concerns, we had to do something so we removed salary portions of what we had in the budget,? Paine said.

Paine also said the budget still contains about $68,000 for ongoing projects involving historic sites. He said there have been discussions about moving the Bartel house, currently dismantled north of Hillsboro, into town and onto the museum grounds.

Ideas and goals

Following the town meeting, participant Peggy Goertzen, who has been involved in historic preservation for many years, said there could be a lot of goals associated with the sites.

?I would think we need to maintain what we have and to promote a vision for what we could have,? she said.

About 35 people attended the Feb. 16 public meeting. Goertzen said she was pleased to see so many people who care about the Hillsboro museums.

?Many of these people have invested considerable time and effort and money in the Hills?boro museums over a span of time,? she said.

Other meeting participants expressed interest in making the sites more ?user friendly.?

One group at the meeting said more social events should be held at the historic sites.

?My dream is for a community room,? one person said. ?All we have are the churches and senior center. I would love to see the Schaeffler House with an adequate kitchen for community events?a place for various committees to meet and accommodate small and large groups.?

Another individual suggested the sites could helped pay for themselves through rental fees.

Adobe Days

Another topic raised at the public meeting was Adobe Days.

Dale Dalke said that event included a fishing derby and a lot of reenactments, which motivated a lot of interaction among the community.

Another individual said he had spent a day in the one-room Kreutiziger School.

?We saw old primer books, and even though I might not have been as interested then, looking back, it was a good experience,? he said.

One person said he wasn?t interested in many historic sites, but something like Adobe Days would be intriguing enough for him to attend.

Other people talked about other previous weekend events that died out because of lack of attendance.

What to do

To wrap up the town hall meeting, Paine said people are going to need to step up and help.

?Things need to happen out there and we know people want to come visit, but we don?t have anyone to give tours (or provide other services),? he said.

The idea of preserving historic sites and adequately explaining Hillsboro?s history is a lot more difficult than some people might think, he said.

?But when we all get together and push in the same direction, those are the things we need from you folks from this very moment on,? Paine said. ?We need to hear what you say continually and when you walk out of here tonight we are not done, but we have made a good start.?

Paine reminded those at the meeting that it takes a lot of money to improve museum sites, and to remember that those sites will never ?make money.?

?It would be more of a service, like the swimming pool and other recreational places in the city that are part of the community.?

Goertzen said she agreed that museums will never be money-makers.

?This should not be about money,? she said. ?The museums are valuable because they are part of us, part of our community, part of who we are.?

Paine said the city council doesn?t want to invest in the past unless there is a future intertwined.

?Unless we have some direction, the council doesn?t want to put money into the past unless we define a future,? he said.

Paine and the city council are asking for community feedback in the weeks to come. To offer suggestions about preserving Hillsboro?s heritage, call 620-947-3162.

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