Carnegie Museum

Since May 31, Hanford Carnegie Museum director Rob Van Wagoner and board president Jim MacLellan have resigned. Museum volunteer Patricia Dickerson has been named the organization's interim acting director.

HANFORD – When a Hanford Carnegie Museum volunteer submitted a proposal to the Hanford City Council last month for the museum to buy or lease the Bastille from the city and renovate it, the museum's board of directors hadn't authorized her to do so, according to a museum official.

Patricia Dickerson is the museum volunteer in question. She submitted the written proposal at the March 21 council meeting.

The proposal said the Carnegie would hold fundraiser events in the Bastille for a five-year period and raise $1 million for the building's renovation.

That is roughly the amount of money city officials say is needed for upgrades, including seismic retrofitting and a new roof.

However, according to city officials, the upgrades have to happen before anybody can legally inhabit the building.

Speaking at the March 21 council meeting, Dickerson told council members that the proposal she submitted was "from the Hanford Carnegie Museum."

However, according to museum board president Jim MacLellan, the board never voted to authorize the proposal.

"[Dickerson] is a great volunteer, has a lot of talents and skills," MacLellan said. "I'm sorry to say this, but [her] stepping out of bounds kind of disturbs me."

Dickerson, in a phone interview admitted that she didn't have board approval.

However, Dickerson said she got authorization from MacLellan.

"I have never done anything without permission, nor would I do anything to hurt this museum," Dickerson said.

MacLellan said he didn't authorize Dickerson to submit the proposal.

"That's something I would definitely go to the board for," he said. "That's too much of an obligation to stick your neck out like that."

MacLellan said the Carnegie isn't in a financial position to take on the Bastille renovation.

He said the Carnegie Museum's roof needs to be replaced. He estimated the cost at $80,000 to $160,000.

He said the museum has about $7,000 in a roof replacement fund.

The city owns the museum building and leases it to the Hanford Carnegie Museum, which is a nonprofit organization. Under the lease, the museum, not the city, is responsible for the building's upkeep.

"We have a roof that needs restoration," MacLellan said. "We have a building that has foundation problems that we need to address. As the board president, that is my focus, to restore the roof before we venture out on any kind of endeavor like [the Bastille]."

"We looked at the cost to repair [the Bastille], and it's way beyond what we can do," said Rob Van Wagoner, the museum's director.

Documents filed with the state Registry of Charitable Trusts indicate that as of Dec. 31, 2015, the Carnegie had $20,051 in total assets.

However, MacLellan said the organization's cash flow is significantly less than that amount.

"In liquid cash, we don't have anything like that," he said.

MacLellan said the museum sometimes struggles to pay the utility bill and keep the lights on.

"Some months are tough," he said.

MacLellan said the museum is looking for a volunteer grant writer to secure a grant to pay for a new roof.

Councilman Justin Mendes, after hearing Dickerson's pitch on March 21, had suggested in an interview that it might be a good idea to sell the Bastille to the Carnegie.

However, after hearing that Dickerson's proposal may have been unauthorized, Mendes said Friday that his view has changed.

"It's back to the drawing board," he said.

At previous City Council meetings, Mendes has pitched the idea of selling other city assets such as the vacant land next to Hidden Valley Park and the Rabobank building (the former Hanford post office) to pay for the Bastille's renovation, but he couldn't get at least two other council members to agree with him.

The Rabobank building, which has long been rented by the bank of the same name, is in good condition, unlike the Bastille.

"We have assets that can yield a profit," Mendes said. "If you truly want to fix these historical buildings, you have to let go some of these other things, and you can pay for some of the things you want to save." 

The reporter can be reached at snidever@hanfordsentinel.com or 583-2432. 

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