Archive for Thursday, September 24, 2009

Battle to save Ag Hall of Fame heats up with meeting, protest

Protesters with Save the Ag Hall of Fame rally in support of the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame. The rally was staged in September prior to a board of governor's meeting.

Protesters with Save the Ag Hall of Fame rally in support of the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame. The rally was staged in September prior to a board of governor's meeting.

September 24, 2009

With signs that read, “Save the Ag Hall,” and chants of, “Ag Hall for today, save it for tomorrow,” there was no doubt as to why Wednesday’s protest at the National Agricultural Center and Agricultural Hall of Fame was organized.

Supporters of the agriculture center showed up at the facility early Wednesday evening to protest the possible selling of the museum and educational center. The protest coincided with a special meeting by Hall of Fame governing body to form an ad hoc committee to consider proposals regarding the site’s future.

Protest in progress

The group of protesters, collectively known as Save the Ag Hall of Fame, were there when the board members arrived.

“We’re here to let the board know that everybody wants to save the Ag Hall,” said Linda Haverfield. She is from Lynn County, and had driven an hour-and-a-half to be at the protest. “We’re farmers, we’re agricultural producers. (Farming) is our life, this is the history of America basically. We need to educate people who live in cities in urban areas where their food comes from.”

William McKinstry, one of the protesters, is a train operator and engineer at the Ag Hall of Fame.

“I work here, and I’ve been coming here since I was real little, and I think it’s a shame what’s going on,” he said.

Some from the group offered suggestions and alternatives to the one, and only at this point, proposal offered to the Hall of Fame governing body. The proposal is from the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan., and is one the Save the Ag Hall group is particularly against.

Included in the proposal is the provision that the Unified Government would take over the land and all of its assets, and would run operations for a minimum of three years. Members from Save the Ag Hall of Fame said they didn’t like the idea of the site being sold, and especially didn’t like the unknown factor of what may come of the place after three years.

Former Kansas City, Kan., mayor Joe Steineger echoed the collective viewpoint of the Save the Ag Hall of Fame group when he suggested the Hall of Fame partner with the Wyandotte County Fair Association, which would provide financial support for the Hall of Fame and also a location for the currently homeless Wyandotte County Fair.

“I think people feel like this is a part of Wyandotte County, of a bigger thing,” Steineger said. “I think these people feel like it’s too good to give up.”

A common goal

The governing board and protesters weren’t on opposite sides of the fence the whole evening, however.

As members showed up for the meeting, some of them stopped to chat with members from Save the Ag Hall of Fame and hear them out. Member Curt Blades was one who spent much time outside the Hall of Fame prior to the meeting, talking with the protesters and answering their questions.

“I feel your passion, I absolutely feel your passion,” he said. “That’s why I’m thrilled you’re out here. If I can communicate one thing to you … there are not two sides (to saving the Hall of Fame). There may be different viewpoints of getting from A to B … I’d love to carry that same sign.”

Two days before the scheduled meeting, the governing body received a request from the Wyandotte County Fair Association asking it for 60 days to prepare a proposal to submit. During the meeting, the governing body appointed a committee that would consider the proposal from the Unified Government and would also consider a proposal from the Wyandotte County Fair Association when, and if, submitted within 60 days.

Governing body chairman Bob Carlson said he was happy with the delay in coming to a final decision.

“I feel very good about it because it’ll give us more than one alternative to evaluate and consider,” Carlson said following the meeting. “I’m pleased with the direction we’re going at the moment. I think the entire board of governors wants to have the best possible outcome for the center, and we’re going to have at least two proposals to consider for the future direction of the center.”

Steve Tuttle, Save the Ag Hall of Fame member, was also pleased with the outcome of the meeting. He called a partnership with the Wyandotte County Fair Association a “win-win” for all concerned, and said an agreement with the Unified Government would be tantamount to losing the Hall of Fame altogether.

“I would be against that definitely,” Tuttle said. “The Unified Government would just end up selling it and be done with it, wash their hands of it. They can’t even run their own county. How can they run the Ag Hall?”

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