Archive for Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Difference of opinion formed over how to save the Ag Hall of Fame

September 15, 2009

When the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame governing body meets in special session Wednesday night to discuss the future of the floundering museum and educational center, it will have some visitors on its hands.

Members from Save the Ag Hall of Fame, a sort of grassroots movement made up of farmers and Hall of Fame enthusiasts in the area, will be there when the Hall of Fame Board of Directors and Board of Governors arrive to conduct a protest. What Save the Ag Hall is protesting is the eventual closing, selling and liquidation of the entire establishment and the approximately 160 acres of land it sits on, which the group claims is a main objective of the Ag Hall of Fame governing body.

“We just want to make sure there’s nothing that will come about … to do anything that would compromise the Ag Hall of Fame,” said member and Basehor resident Steve Tuttle of why the group was formed and why it will stage a protest. Tuttle is a farmer who says he attends the Ag Hall of Fame on a regular basis. “We just want to get our message across. We want to be there as the board members arrive to their meeting so they can see us, and we will have signs of course.”

But members of the board say permanently discontinuing operations at the Ag Hall of Fame, a federally chartered institution since the mid-1950s, couldn’t be further from the truth of what their intentions are. Something has to be done, they say, or the Hall of Fame’s doors will close on their own simply through lack of financing.

“That’s a misrepresentation of the position of the board,” said chairperson of both the board of governors and board of directors Bob Carlson in reference to the group’s claims. “We’re at a point where we have to consider alternatives. When I hear the word ‘liquidate,’ that simply means sell for cash, and that is not our goal … Our goal is to continue the operation of the National Agricultural Center and Agricultural Hall of Fame.”

The governing body will meet Wednesday evening in special session to appoint an ad hoc committee, comprised of three members from the board of governors and three from the board of directors, to evaluate these other alternatives. Carlson said such alternatives on the table include one proposal from the Unified Government, which would take over the land and operations of the Hall of Fame for a minimum of three years.

“And it would certainly be our hope that it would be longer,” Carlson said.

Tuttle raised his own concerns about the Unified Government proposal, saying that he believed the Hall of Fame governing body was planning to simply get rid of the museum and its artifacts and eventually turn the place into an online museum.

Board of directors member Curt Blades said the governing body was willing to consider any proposal brought to the table, but with one request.

“One of the things we’re asking to be included in all proposals is a provision that allows for operations to continue into the near future,” Blades said.

Carlson said utilizing the Web to enhance already established exhibits was the only online possibility considered at this point.

Save the Ag Hall of Fame will stage its protest, which is expected to be peaceful, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, across from the Agricultural Hall of Fame on the east side of 630 N. 126th St.

More of this story can be found in Thursday's issue of the Chieftain.


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