Pratt museum seeks expansion funding

After 45 years in the same space, the Pratt Museum is planning an expansion in the near future.

The museum, which features exhibits from the history and culture of the Kachemak Bay region, was founded in 1968. It has since outgrown its facility, and the plans for the new one include more gallery space, more community education space, on-site object conservation and research, more storage space with environmental control and more trails on the museum’s 9.8-acre campus.

The museum’s administration has estimated that the whole project will cost approximately $9.5 million. The museum’s administration has gathered some funds from private sources but asked the borough for its support in seeking a $1.65 million grant from the state.

The state Legislature has granted $1.4 million in total to the museum so far, according to Michelle Miller, the development director for the Pratt Museum.

“We’ve been asking every year, and we’ve received funds almost every year,” Miller said in her public testimony to the borough assembly Tuesday. “The $1.65 million is the remainder we’ll ask for the state, and once we receive the funding, we won’t ask for anything else.”

However, when the ordinance was introduced to the Legislative Committee at the borough assembly’s meeting in Homer on Sept. 15, committee chair Kelly Wolf voiced an objection to requesting money from the state. The state’s current fiscal trouble will only lead to a rejection of the museum’s request, he said.

Assembly members Kelly Cooper and Mako Haggerty, who introduced the ordinance, fought for the assembly’s approval. Miller said they did not expect to receive the funding but wanted the request on the public record so they could say they “continually asked” for the money. When the state’s fiscal situation improves, the museum will be able to leverage the records to make another request, Miller said.

“We are continuing to apply through CAPSIS because we’ve been instructed to keep it in front of legislators so when there is funding available, they’re well versed in what the project is and that we’ve been waiting for awhile, depending on how long it takes for the revenue to come in to support us,” Miller said.

Wolf said the motion should not go to the Legislature. The museum should instead go to private foundations and nonprofits for funding, he said.

“I’m not trying to take anything away from the support of this resolution,” Wolf said. “At some point in time, we can kick this can over to the Legislature and let them say no, or we can take responsibility locally and say, ‘There’s just not the money.’ This resolution gives them the support they need.”

At the borough assembly’s Tuesday meeting, Wolf moved to amend the ordinance to allow the museum to use the ordinance as support from the assembly wherever the museum’s administration decides to apply in the future.

“There’s a lot of money every single year that goes unrequested in corporate America,” Wolf said. “Nonprofits don’t want to go through the hassle of asking corporate foundations.”

Cooper and Haggerty both voiced support for the ordinance as amended. Cooper said it was a good compromise.

“I understand we don’t have money this year, so I’m willing to compromise and accept the amendment knowing that next year the state of Alaska will put it back in,” Cooper said.

Assembly member Brent Johnson from Clam Gulch said he approved of the amendment because he had a hard time approving the request because the state is cutting back on other essential services. The Alaska Department of Transportation has cut back on road maintenance and ferries, impacting many communities, so requesting $1.65 million when funds are being cut seemed wrong to him, he said.

“In the grand scheme of things, while museums are lovely, the general public doesn’t generally think of them as as important as state troopers, which also took … a budget cut,” Johnson said.

The amendment passed with unanimous approval from the assembly.

Milli Martin, a former assembly president and the vice-president of the Pratt Museum’s board of directors, attended the meeting to voice support for the museum. She said the museum has requested funding from some of the corporate and nonprofit sources that Wolf mentioned but was told it needed 40 percent funding for the project before receiving any additional funds. The Pratt Museum has already secured funding from the Coca-Cola Company, First National Bank Alaska, Petro Marine Services, Totem Ocean Trailer Express, multiple government entities and foundations as well as individuals, according to the museum’s capital project updates.

“We have applied to many of the foundations and organizations for funding. At this time, we have raised over $3 million,” Martin said. “But we need a little bit more in order to go to some of the big businesses that are waiting. So that resolution means a lot to us.”


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