Modesto is considering charging admission to the McHenry Museum and the McHenry Mansion, though the two nonprofits that help operate the two community treasures have concerns about the proposal.
The city could charge $5 to $7, according to Community and Economic Development Director Cindy Birdsill. But she said this proposal is in its early stages and needs to be fully developed. Some of the questions the city needs to answer include whether to charge a flat fee per bus when schoolchildren visit and under what other circumstances the city would offer discounts.
Birdsill said she expects the proposal could come to a City Council committee by the end of the summer for review. The full council would have to approve the admission fee. She said Modesto has done research that shows other jurisdictions charge for similar facilities and it has not hurt attendance.
She said Modesto is considering requiring visitors to use debit or credit cards or purchase passes online. She said the city wants to avoid taking cash because of the administrative oversight and other costs associated with cash.
Birdsill said she expects the proposal could come to a City Council committee by the end of the summer for review. The full council would have to approve the fee. She said Modesto has done research that shows other jurisdictions charge for similar facilities and it has not hurt attendance.
The admission fee came up during Monday’s hearing on the city’s upcoming 2017-18 budget during a discussion about Mayor Ted Brandvold’s 100-day budget review committee. The committee was charged with finding savings and revenue for the city and issued a series of recommendations, including making the museum and mansion financially self-sufficient.
The committee’s report issued last year said Modesto expected to lose $187,000 operating the museum and mansion in its 2016-17 budget. A presentation at Monday’s budget hearing showed Modesto raising $60,000 through the admission fees. The buildings are overseen by two city employees with the help of volunteers from the McHenry Museum & Historical Society and the McHenry Mansion Foundation.
McHenry Mansion Foundation President George Halpin said his preference is for the city not to charge admission and ask for donations instead, but he said he understands the city’s need to reduce expenses.
McHenry Museum & Historical Society President Greg Rhodes issued this statement: “For years, the members of the McHenry Museum and Historical Society have subsidized the museum, providing docents, volunteers and monies that have been used to purchase artifacts, displays, materials, maintain and improve the building, and to provide the curator with a fund for his incidental expenses; this continued even during our recent recession.
“We did this to provide access to the community to view the history of Stanislaus County. While we have always advocated free admission for all, we welcome the opportunity to continue discussions with the city, museum staff and the Historical Society to determine what would constitute a reasonable admission fee for adults. We would like to see minors, and Historical Society members enjoy the museum at no charge.”
Modesto acquired the mansion through the E.&J. Gallo Winery family. Aileen and Julio Gallo purchased the mansion in the 1970s and turned it over to the city for the community’s benefit. Birdsill said she spoke with their son, Bob Gallo, and said he supports Modesto’s efforts to make the mansion more financially self-sustaining.
Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316