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County OKs one-director option for museum system
Fremont County Museums Board members, from left, Steve Banks, Jon Lane, Erin Shirley and Carol Chidsey spoke with county commissioners Sept. 3 about hiring a central director for the museums system. Photo by Eric Blom

County OKs one-director option for museum system

Sep 12, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

The hiring process for the new position can proceed immediately.

The Fremont County Museums Board has approval to begin hiring a central director for its three museums. County commissioners supported the move unanimously at their Sept. 3 meeting but questioned a proposal to increase the museums budget.

The vote to approve hiring a central director came after more than an hour of discussion on a proposed budget for a museums department staff and a job description for the new position. Commissioners had issues with both documents but supported the change to administrative structure.

"Am I hearing you right that you want us to go forward and start hiring?" museums board chairman Steve Banks asked. "In my estimation that would be the route to go. I want to be certain if we take that action that is going to be the right step to take us to the next level."

Several commissioners said they supported starting the hiring process, and then the commission voted unanimously to approve it.

$48,000 salary

At the meeting, the museums board presented a proposed budget for a one-director structure that includes $44,000 more for personnel than the current budget. The increase came from adding a $48,000 salary of the central director and moving 35-hour-a-week administrative assistant to full time.

Salaries in the proposed budget for the site managers for the Riverton and Pioneer museums would decrease by $5,700 each. Those positions are vacant.

Staffing levels under the proposal are the same as they are now but with the addition of the central director. Personnel would include a full-time overall administrator, a full-time site manager and full-time curator for all three museums.

Central administration

Museums board members thought adding the central administrator would make the system work better.

Banks also asked for help from other county departments in areas such as building maintenance and human resources.

"If we were to relieve the site directors from all (duties related to physical plant), it would free them up to do more community outreach and fundraising," museums board member Carol Chidsey said.

Commissioners were reluctant to increase the budget and thought adding the central director and sharing resources of other county departments should help the museums department lower its budget and allow it to reduce staff in other areas.

"We're putting this (central director) person up here to free up these (site manager) people to do more local stuff," commission chairman Doug Thompson said. "I'm not sure if we can say, 'keep all these people here, pay them the same wage, and bring new people in and pay them the same wage.'"

Commissioner Keja Whiteman took issue with increasing the work hours of an administrative assistant.

"If you're hiring someone to do more administrative work," she said. "I don't know why you'd have someone who also does administrative work increase their hours."

Thompson also suggested waiting until after an overall director is on staff before deciding how the rest of the personnel can be restructured. The museums board could draw on the new administrator's expertise to make those decisions, he suggested.

Other commissioners agreed.

Job description

The museums board also presented a job description for the central director position. The four-page document listed duties, qualifications and background information for the job.

The first responsibility listed was to "assume full management and leadership responsibility for each of the three museums and to maintain and enhance individual autonomy."

Commissioners offered suggestions such as changing the focus from knowledge to skills and emphasizing the qualifications listed are preferred but not absolutely necessary.

Banks asked if other county entities could contribute expertise in human resource issues to help the museums board rework the job description.

Mill levy

The museums board chairman also asked if the county board could raise the mill levy allocated for the historical institutions. The Fremont County Library System is to receive about 2.5 mills this fiscal year, but the museums are to receive less than 1 mill, he said.

"I would like to see if it would be possible to up the county museums mill levy up to 1 mill," Banks said. "This would give us some liberty ... of reorganizing what our staffing really ought to be."

Thompson said the commission does not budget by establishing the number of mills each county entity receives and sticking with that distribution year to year. Rather, during each budget cycle, the county board sees how much money each entity needs and allocates sufficient mills to provide it.

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