HANFORD — At the Hanford City Council meeting Tuesday evening, council heard a report on the Hanford Carnegie Museum, which has come under fire from citizens lately.
As part of its lease with the city, the museum is required to submit an annual activity report and a financial report to the city every year.
Community Development Director Darlene Mata said the activity report is to make sure that building being used as outlined in lease, while the financial report is to make sure that the nonprofit has the funds to maintain the buildings and the grounds.
In June, Mata visited the building with Parks Superintendent Alvin Dias after the city received complaints about the museum, including complaints about noise, interior and exterior maintenance, and that it was not open.
“I would say that the level of complaints has increased over the last four to five months,” Mata said.
After visiting, Mata said museum personnel were told to clean up the grounds because there were piles of dirt and debris.
Again they visited the grounds on Tuesday, and Mata said several sprinklers were broken, plants had died, there was very little grass, and one of the bathroom sinks was broken inside. Additionally, she said the building had some large cracks that may need to be inspected.
Councilman Francisco Ramirez asked Mata how much of the debris had been cleaned up since the initial visit in June. Mata said she estimated about half the debris had been cleaned up.
Ramirez then asked the museum’s board president, Silvia Gonzalez Scherer, how she planned to rectify the issues that were brought up.
Scherer said because the museum depends on volunteers, cleaning and fixing the grounds has been a long process.
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She said sod was put in April, but the grass died due to the heat. She said she will pay to have sod put in once again and they are waiting for a volunteer to fix the sink in the bathroom.
Mayor Sue Sorensen then asked about the Carnegie’s finances, which showed that the museum had expenses totaling $77,947 and an income of only $38,274.
Scherer said they are trying to do their very best with very limited funds. She said they are doing all they can to save money and are in the process of planning new events and benefits.
“It looks scary to me, it really does,” she told council, but added that things are “good right now.”
Scherer said social media is harming the Carnegie’s reputation. Residents have been critical of the museum, its board and its general manager on Facebook.
“When people hear stuff like that, they don’t want to come to the museum, donate or become a member,” Scherer said. “We’re fighting a really big battle here because of the naysayers.”
However, Scherer said many people love and care about the Carnegie Museum and the board really wants to better the situation. She said there are plans to have member applications and donations made available online.
She also encouraged anyone who has concerns about the museum to reach out to her so she can address them with the rest of the board.
Councilman Art Brieno said once these issues are taken care of and improved, he believes the museum will begin to have a more inclusive relationship with the city and community.
Council unanimously accepted the report from the Carnegie and directed staff to send a list of items for the museum to address and repair.