Aug 20, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff WriterThe cost of implementing a plan creating a single, central museums director for Fremont County was the main concern among county commissioners during a recent discussion in Lander. The Fremont County Museums Board voted to develop the one-director plan at a July 11 meeting.
"The proposal essentially delineates the changes that would be required," museums board chairman Steve Banks told the Fremont County Commission.
Commissioners had directed the board to examine creating an administrative structure with one director overseeing the Dubois, Riverton and Lander museums and having a site director or curator at each location. Each facility has been operating under its own administrator who only answers to the museums board.
Two museum director positions currently are vacant: The Pioneer Museum's director was fired more than a year ago, and the Riverton museum's director retired at the end of July.
The plan Banks presented called for one overall director, a site director for each location and added a facilities technician responsible for facility maintenance and technology system-wide.
Under the proposal, a 35-hours-a-week administrative assistant position also would become full time.
All three changes would total $88,000 more in salaries plus the cost of benefits for the two new positions, the proposal stated. The plan calls for existing positions to remain at the same salaries.
"I'm not sold that we need to take the giant step in administrative support," said commissioner Stephanie Kessler, referring to increasing the hours of the administrative assistant and creating the maintenance technician job. "I'd prefer to see just adding the one position, and the job descriptions for the museums directors need to be scaled back, and their pay does as well."
Larry Allen and Travis Becker said they agreed.
Concerns with museum
Banks said the current management of museums' facilities and technology is inadequate.
"A board member is the only person (in the museums system) with experience in facilities management," he said.
Banks described board members working to fix facilities problems such as draining fire sprinkler pipes.
He said an elevator in the Lander museum is broken, and his experience in electrical work makes him think a circuit breaker in the elevator's electrical system is the wrong size and could have caused the breakdown. The same elevator broke down twice before, he said, but the electrical problems were never caught.
Another facilities issue is the Riverton museum building, Banks said.
"Riverton's building is old and probably needs to be looked at in the near future," he said.
Facilities are not the only technical issues the museums face, however.
"Our technology in all three museums is as low as it could ever get," Banks said.
The county board recognized the need for assistance in managing facilities and technology, but it did not embrace creating a new position.
"I wanted to just chime in and echo in support in some of the facility and IT needs," Kessler said. "I've seen this board step up and do beyond what we ask our other boards to do."
Commission chairman Doug Thompson suggested having staff across the system share their skills and help the museums run more efficiently without adding more staff.
He thought the museums board could hire site directors with different specialties --such as fundraising, education or assessing materials --to complement each other.
Multitasking could extend down into other positions as well, obviating the need for a dedicated facilities technician.
"You don't just staff for somebody to sit in the gift shop and sell books," he gave as an example. "One of those positions, in the full scheme of things, is your mechanic guy or woman."
Several commissioners also supported hiring a general director and using the director's input for further restructures.
Banks said the museums board would consider the commission's feedback and bring another report to the county board in early September.
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