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Dahlgren Museum requests $90,000

King George received an 11th hour budget request this week for $90,000 wanted in the upcoming fiscal year by the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation, which is expecting to open a Dahlgren Museum in the coming year.   

But that’s not all. The Dahlgren Heritage Foundation’s goal is to do much more than merely create a museum. The group, which incorporated as a 501(c)(3) foundation 18 months ago, plans to offer visitors and county residents opportunities for education, recreation, and community forums, in addition to providing the county with its first big leap into attracting some

actual tourism dollars.

King George is considered a county with a lot of history. But it has little to draw tourists because there are few actual destinations that depict its past on display and available to the public.  

The Foundation’s efforts may very well launch King George as a tourist destination - and not only for its own planned Dahlgren Museum. It has also launched an initiative to work with other likeminded groups in the county, including the King George Historical Society and the Ralph Bunche Alumni Association.

$90,000 REQUEST TO GO TO SUPERVISORS

According to county administrator Travis Quesenberry, the funding request was contained in a letter he received on Monday from Robert Gates, a member of the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation’s Board of Directors and chairman of its fundraising committee.

Gates is a retired Technical Director NSWC – Indian Head, and continues to be active in the King George community as a member of the Smoot Library Board of Trustees and appointee to the college board of Rappahannock Community College.

The Foundation’s other members are likewise serious heavy-hitters who know the county, the base and the area. The officers are President Ed Jones and Treasurer Tim Carsola (Scientist NSWC-Dahlgren). Its board of directors are Charles Armstrong, John B. Ashton, James Colvard, David L. Deputy, Ruth L. Herrink, Elizabeth Lee, Joseph McGettigan, Capt. USN -Retired, John Mitchell, Stan Palivoda, Lisa A. Rossbacher, Ed Watson, and its newest member is Ruby Brabo, King George Board of Supervisors.

Brabo was appointed by the county board on Feb. 7 with a nomination by Supervisor Joe Grzeika, who had held the position up to that point.

The funding request explains the goals of the group and gives a synopsis of its brief history, from which details are provided below. Quesenberry said he would provide the funding request letter to Supervisors at Tuesday’s meeting on March 6 (following our press time).

It’s not known how the Board of Supervisors will view the funding request, as they had directed to not increase the budget lines for outside agencies nor add any new requests to next year’s proposed budget.

They also directed that a budget be developed for 2012-13 with every effort made to keep the rest of the budget areas below or level with the current year, where possible, and with a strong rationale to be provided for any increases.

It’s possible that the Foundation may request an opportunity to present and discuss its plans at an upcoming meeting.

The Foundation’s request is compelling and provides a very strong rationale that might sway a majority of supervisors to provide funding in the coming year.

But there may be funding available.

TRANSIENT OCCUPANCY TAX

At a budget work session meeting on Feb. 15, Supervisor Brabo had introduced the possibility of the county funding the Dahlgren Museum and/or other items on a list she provided during a discussion of the use of the proceeds from a transient occupancy tax collected on motels in King George.

The county collects a 5-percent tax, with the state’s requirement that 3 percent of the transient occupancy tax must be “spent solely for tourism and travel, marketing of tourism or initiatives that…attract travelers to the locality, increase occupancy at lodging properties, and generate tourism revenues in the county.”

The annual amount of those tourism dollars is currently estimated at about $75K.

Those funds have traditionally been budgeted under Parks & Recreation, because that was the department that administered the $88K+ operation of the Potomac Gateway Welcome Center that was closed down in 2006.

$7,500 of the proceeds is to now go annually to the Northern Neck Tourism Commission for the recent county’s membership. But the rest of those dollars is now getting more scrutiny for the coming year, with Harper saying at last week’s budget work session on Feb. 27 that much of it is proposed to go toward marketing costs for economic development.

TOURISM

Tourism can certainly contribute to the county’s economic development. But is marketing the county’s industrial park considered as a legitimate use of tourism dollars?

The use of those tax proceeds may yet need to be legally clarified.

It was noted at last week’s meeting that in the upcoming budget, the proceeds could go toward such things as the provision of security at Caledon and costs for traffic enforcement when 5K and 10K running races are held on the county’s roadways, similarly for some Fall Festival costs.

At the Feb. 15 meeting, Brabo suggested that the county instead use the tourism dollars to give grants to businesses and other entities that apply for it to help draw tourists to the county. At last week’s budget meeting on Feb. 27, she likewise noted that many localities completely fund their local museums.

It’s yet to be formally decided that a museum will be part of the ultimate plan for use of a portion of the former Ralph Bunche school building, now owned by the county. The county is currently having work performed to stabilize the building with roof repairs, window and door fixes and other work to save it from deterioration.

Also, the King George Historical Society’s tiny museum is provided space in the King George Courthouse. It’s a great location, but it could use more space to properly display its artifacts and accommodate visitors, along with resources to enable extending its very limited opening times.

PLANNED DAHLGREN MUSEUM

The Dahlgren Museum is to be housed in the former state Gateway Welcome Center building located on the west side of US 301, just south of the Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge that leads over the Potomac River from Southern Maryland.

The Virginia Tourism Corporation, which owns the property has agreed to allow use of the building at a nominal cost and has pledged up to $16,000 a year in in-kind contributions to cover some operating expenses for the building.  

The museum and grounds are expected to display exhibits and artifacts about the Dahlgren Naval base, and feature a high-tech tourism kiosk provided by the state, along with promotional material on other attractions in King George, the state and the region.

MORE THAN A MUSEUM

Part of the mission of the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation is to continue to build on the scientific, technological and cultural legacy of the Navy’s presence in King George.

The museum plans to be an outlet to provide educational outreach, along with information on community forums to be held at various county locations. The Foundation’s proposed program of community forums promises to attract visitors from outside the county.

The forums would be on an array of topics, from moral questions of war and peace to science education for youngsters. The Foundation is currently reaching out to local schools for a project to help send King George students to the world’s largest science festival in Washington, D.C., this spring.

Strong support from the county in the coming fiscal year is thought to be a key indicator to potential national donors that the effort is fully backed by the community it serves.

ACHIEVEMENTS SO FAR

The letter states that in the 18 months since our incorporation as a 501(c)(3) foundation, the Foundation has made the following impressive progress:

~ Gained the strong endorsement of the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington, which refers to it as a model for future Navy museums, as well as the support of key commands at Naval Support Facility Dahlgren.

~ Assembled an outstanding 15-member Board of Directors as noted above.

~ Received state support (Virginia Tourism Corporation, House Speaker William Howell, Delegate Margaret Ransone, state Sen. Richard Stuart) and national support (Rep. Rob Wittman, U.S. Department of the Interior).

~ Raised more than $100,000 from individual and corporate donors, including over 200 Charter Members, Walmart, Lockheed Martin, NSWC Federal Credit Union and many more.

~ Received a $10,000 grant from the Community Foundation of the Rappahannock River Region for a collection management system, and is now being considered for a $15,000 grant from CFRRR for developing an historic walking trail on the grounds of the museum.

~ Launched an initiative to collaborate with like-minded groups in the county, including the King George Historical Society and the Ralph Bunche Alumni Association. All three groups are looking at community forums as a possible collaborative project.

~ Established a collaborative relationship with the University of Mary Washington Dahlgren Campus, where we will soon install a display about the history of Dahlgren and where we will offer our community forums.

~ Contracted with a full-time executive director, Karen Farley, with expertise in Navy history projects at Dahlgren and non-profit organizations.

USE OF FUNDING

The overall funding request is for $90,000 in the coming fiscal year, 2012-13. The $90,000 donation from the county would represent 6 percent of the estimated project cost of opening the museum to the public during the coming year, and a solid foundation to allow it to put into place an ongoing, revenue-producing business model.

The bulk of the county’s funding, $80,000, would go directly to the museum to allow it to hold a series of soft openings in the second half of 2012, with special exhibits and visiting attractions to attract visitors to the museum building and onto the grounds.

$15,000 would go for modification of the existing building, including the repositioning of two interior walls; $20,000 for the transportation of artifacts and exhibits, including large naval guns for the grounds of the museum; $35,000 for assembling and creating exhibits, including the services of a professional consultant to ensure high-quality museum displays; and $15,000 for administrative costs; the remaining $10,000 would support the program of Community Forums, with $4,000 toward the costs of bringing in speakers, $4,000 for marketing the forums in the region, and $2,000 for administration.

Additional funds would be raised to pay for a museum director, curatorial work, the continuing services of the Foundation executive director, additional exhibit planning and preparation, and marketing and promotion.

The Dahlgren Heritage Foundation is working with the Bowling, Franklin and Company accounting firm in Fredericksburg on its administrative and financial procedures and record-keeping.

 

Phyllis Cook

 

 

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