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Archives Museum to relocate

Possible move to City Hall would be temporary, city officials say
By: Carol Feineman Lincoln News Messenger Editor
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The Lincoln Area Archives Museum at 472 E St. must soon find a temporary home. That’s for safety reasons so volunteers and the public will not be exposed to asbestos when the material is being removed from the city-owned building, according to Lincoln’s public services director Mark Miller. Asbestos removal will begin by fall or winter, Miller said. Miller also said the Civic Auditorium will be updated through construction during the next year and a half to two years, according to Miller. Those construction plans are not final at this point. By September, city staff will bring to City Council construction ideas that include ADA compliance improvements and first-floor offices, Miller said. However, Milled called the ideas "at the preliminary stage as options are being looked at." “The first responsibility of the city is to abate the asbestos,” said Archives Museum volunteer executive director Shirley Russell. Asbestos is located throughout the Civic Auditorium, Russell said. Grant funds will pay for the Archives Museum’s relocation, according to Miller. The funds are from a grant originally written by the city a few years ago to move the Archives, Lincoln Arts and the Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce to the Civic Auditorium, according to Russell. The city of Lincoln is now considering "alternatives to temporarily relocate" the nonprofit Archives Museum, according to Miller. Those alternatives include the Carnegie Library, the former police headquarters/old City Hall at Beermann's Plaza and the third floor of City Hall on 6th and F streets, Miller said. Those three locations are within easy walking distance from the Archives Museum’s present location at the backside of the Civic Auditorium on 5th and E streets. On Friday, Miller led nine Archives Museum board members and volunteers on their first glimpse of the third-floor space. Lincoln Mayor Paul Joiner joined the tour. “All we’ll be doing today is looking at options,” Miller told the group. “I don’t have the authority to approve; it’s for the council to approve.” The vacant space seen Friday has signs designating it Community Development rooms. “From an economic outlook, this space may have the least financial impact for everyone from my initial look at potential alternatives,” Miller said. The Old City Hall “has more potential users, including the private sector,” Miller added. On Tuesday, The News Messenger asked Lincoln City Manager Jim Estep if the city is selling its vacant property. “There has been no formal discussion about selling any of the city’s real properties (both buildings or land),” Estep said. “However, it is listed in the budget as one of the possibilities we are looking into. In past discussions with the City Council, the old City Hall building was not discussed as a property for possible sale but rather as a possible resource for use by various nonprofit organizations. This was not fully discussed and the costs associated with using the building in such a manner hasn’t been fully analyzed yet.” Later this year, Estep said, staff will give council a list of all the city’s real assets for direction and look for direction on “any surplus property that the City Council feels would not be needed for city use in the future.” Just a temporary home The Civic Auditorium’s grant construction project should take between 1 ½ years to two years to finish, Miller said. Then the Archives Museum would move back there, he added. “If council agrees on moving the Archives (to City Hall),” Joiner agreed, “it’s only temporary.” Archives Museum board president George Patterson, however, advocated for the Archives Museum to stay at the City Hall third floor for a longer period of time. Patterson was speaking as an individual and not for other board members. “We have enough material to put in this space,” Patterson told Miller. “The Archives is a draw to Lincoln. We have no storage now. Our Indian artifacts are perishable. We can’t wheel them back and forth.” Miller encouraged the Archives representatives to start looking for a permanent home with more space, “to find a benefactor.” When development and the economy picks up, Miller pointed out, City Hall’s third floor "will likely go back" to community development uses. After Friday’s City Hall tour, Patterson told The News Messenger that a City Hall move could work but “is marginal.” “Without a commitment of two, three or five years, we’re like a yo-yo,” Patterson explained. “This would be nice here but we can’t get a commitment. Moving out in a year and a half is not acceptable.” The proposed moves' pros and cons “If I could find some other place, I’d go,” said the Archive Museum’s volunteer executive director Russell. “We’re going to be tucked away at City Hall and people won’t know we are there. It’s not worked out if we can be open weekends and evenings.” Plus it’s unclear, Russell said, on how secure the Archives Museum would be during City Hall business hours. It’s also not decided how the various departments at City Hal would be monitored when the Archives Museum is open during non-business hours. Miller stressed that “the advantages and disadvantages of the sites" are beginning to be discussed now. On the pro side, the City Hall space would be approximately two-thirds larger. Miller estimated the City Hall space at 15,000 square feet and Russell estimated the Civic Auditorium space at less than 5,000 square feet. “I can envision a California room, city records in another room, and a larger space for resource books including our seven boxes of California history. We’d have a dedicated office space for printing our own books. Jerry Logan has 12 to 13 books and all need to be reprinted.” Russell said. The Carnegie Library, according to Russell, is not a viable option. Reasons Russell cited were because of the Carnegie’s existing building configuration, the need to buy a $25,000 ADA-required lift to transport visitors to the second floor and the hardships involved in turning the venue back into a library. A possible better space “We’ve known for months we have to move,” Russell said. “We’d rather have the former police headquarters at Beermann’s Plaza but the city wants to rent it or sell it.” “We would have room for one of our buggies inside,” Russell said. “When there are different activities downtown, we could be part of them. Plus the former police headquarters is more visible and more accessible.” Archives volunteer Kathy Freeman agrees. “We’re grateful yet we prefer we were on the main plaza or main drag,” Freeman said. What the Archives Museum does The all-volunteer Archives Museum has 14 active volunteers and attracts up to 20 visitors a week, according to Russell. “Visitors are from France, different people in Lincoln, quite a number from Lincoln Hills who wants to know Lincoln’s history,” Russell said. The Archives Museum includes city records dating back to the 1800s; history books of the area and state; Gladding, McBean employee records and display; Nisenan Maidu Indian artifacts and Jan Tofft’s pictures of old Lincoln. Run entirely by volunteers, the Archives Museum is open from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays through Fridays with extended hours from 1 to 4 p.m. Thursdays. The organization’s annual budget is under $10,000, according to Russell. Income is from membership dues, small donations and the Lincoln’s Got Talent benefit. Currently, the Archives Museum, as well as Lincoln Arts and Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce, rent their respective city buildings for $1 a year. Besides working on a shoestring budget, another challenge the Archives Museum struggles with is that “not enough community members” are aware of the organization, according to Russell. Last Thursday, Dan Clark stopped by for his first time there. Clark is the city of Lincoln’s development services’ senior engineer. “I never knew it was here,” Clark said. “I think it’s a treasure.” What’s next Miller said multiple city departments will work on a staff report about the move to give City Council by late July or early August. The Archives Museum board has to vote on whether to accept the move, Russell said.