Archive for Thursday, March 29, 2007

Prison museum planners find building funds hard to come by

March 29, 2007

The Kansas Regional Prisons Museum's board of directors is having an easier time finding funding for what's going to go inside the museum, than for the building itself.

On Friday, the board's first meeting since August, Mayor Kenneth Bernard told members federal funding he requested from U.S. Rep. Nancy Boyda during her February visit to Lansing could only support the museum's interior.

After a model of the museum is built, Bernard said the board may have an easier time raising funds.

David McKune, Lansing Correctional Facility warden, said the model was expected to be complete in a month or two. He said inmates constructing it were extremely detailed, as he showed-off a six-inch long wooden-carved replica of the stone entrance, but they are "moving right along."

To date, the museum project is estimated to cost approximately $3 million. The board is searching for funding through grants, state and federal money. The museum received a $5,000 anonymous donation in October to add to the approximately $30,000 already raised for the museum.

The museum would be built behind Lansing Historical Museum on Kansas Avenue. It would house historically significant items from area prisons, including Lansing Correctional Facility, the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth and the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth.

The board's most visible evidence of progress will be the launch of a Web site, www.ksprisons.org, on April 27.

Next month, Project Explore, the Overland Park-based consulting group that conducted a feasibility report on the museum, will present to the City Council and the board its educational feasibility report.

Part of the museum will offer an educational facility that the Board and Project Explore's consultants hope can be tied into the state's school curriculum, which could allow for grant funding.

Shanae Randolph, Lansing's economic development director, said Project Explore met with a focus group of Kansas and Missouri educators and were greeted with an overwhelming positive response.

"They were just very excited because we have a unique opportunity to capture here what no one else has done" Randolph said.

Chris Becicka, Project Explore coordinator, said they discussed obstacles such as time, money and transportation that teachers would face in proposing field trips to the museum.

"We talked about ways around that, namely the curriculum, so students can learn things the state legislature has deemed important so the schools will be able to fund the school trips," she said.

Becicka said a third survey group would be conducted with area teachers.

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