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Past county commissioner not named to museums board

Feb 18, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Fremont County Commissioners passed on an opportunity to appoint a former commissioner to the Fremont County Museums board.

Gary Shoemaker, who last sat on the commission in 1992, applied for a seat on the museums board and interviewed with the current commissioners. Commissioner Travis Becker moved on Feb. 11 to appoint Shoemaker, but no one seconded his motion. Commissioner Larry Allen was not present.

"The stated reason was, I believe, Commissioner (Stephanie) Kessler wanted to look at more candidates than having one to choose from," commission chairman Doug Thompson said.

The museums board has seen turmoil in the last year during which one chairman

stepped down, three members voted to oust the subsequent chairman in November, who then resigned from the board completely, and the two top staffers at the Dubois Museum quit in December.

Fremont County Commissioners criticized the museums board's handling of several issues at a Feb. 5 meeting, and Dubois Mayor Twila Blakeman voiced concerns about the museums board on several occasions in January.

Reading about the board's issues in newspapers made Shoemaker want to wade in.

"(It would be) maybe a sort of a payback to the town and the county," he said. "I've had a good life and though maybe I'd give it a whirl."

During his interview, Shoemaker expressed a difference of opinion from the museums board's direction on moving to a central director structure, and on the budget for a new Dubois Museum.

Upon a recommendation from commissioners, the board decided to restructure its administration so one director oversees all three museums and started advertising for the position in October. The facilities had been run independently.

Shoemaker does not think a central director is necessary.

"I question the need, really," he said.

The museums board also has pursued building a new museum in Dubois since 2012 but last year requested a new design that would cost about $2.5 million to build. Original plans would have cost $5 million to construct.

Shoemaker thought even the $2.5 million was even too high.

"As soon as contractors seem to find taxpayers are paying for it, the price tag goes up," he said. "The budget for the Dubois museum, that seems terribly high to me."

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