The Bonney Lake City Council decided last week not to approve an agreement with their local historical society.
After a debate over the scope of the potential agreement that would have provided a part-time paid position to help the Greater Bonney Lake Historical Society grow — both influentially and physically — the council voted down the agreement 5-2.
Council members Jim Rackley and Dan Swatman voted in favor of the agreement, while Council members Randy McKibbon, Justin Evans, Tom Watson, Terry Carter, and Michelle Surdez voted against.
Whether or not the city should sponsor a part-time paid position with the historical society has been a topic of conversation for years, although only recently had it gained any traction.
Last July, the historical society announced eight of its prominent members — President JoAnn Taylor and her husband Glenn, Secretary Fred Jacobsen and his wife Winona, treasurer Monica Taylor, Board Member Scott Anderson and his wife Jacqui, and volunteer Demico Quinn — would be moving out of the Bonney Lake area by the end of the summer.
This would leave Vice President Curt Nicholson, Trustee Dan Swatman, and three prominent volunteers as the remaining work force at the historical society, currently housed in Bonney Lake’s Public Works building off Bonney Lake Boulevard East, unless some aid came their way.
Since July, the historical society and Mayor Neil Johnson worked out a potential agreement, which was presented to the council during the Oct. 16 workshop. The five-year agreement included a $30,000 budget and a list of duties this part-time city employee would perform, including staff the museum during open hours, assist with historical research and grant writing, manage gift shop sales, provide general visitor support, and help facilitate and develop exhibits, tours and special events.
This position would also communicate and organize events with other Bonney Lake community groups, like the Lions Club, Kiwanis, and the Bonney Lake Food Bank.
The only council members to voice concern about the agreement during the workshop were McKibbon and Watson, though Watson said he’d ultimately support it when the council agreed to put it to a vote on Oct. 22.
But more council members made their issues known at the last meeting, taking the historical society and Johnson by surprise.
McKibbon, in an email, said he’s not finished with the city’s FTE (full time employee) chart for the 2019/2020 biennial budget.
“Sometime things are about the timing,” he wrote. “I’m not committing to a new employee now and then trying to explain why I don’t want it on the FTE chart in the budget. It will all get washed out by the end of the year.”
Both Evans and Watson, in separate emails, wrote they believed the historical society shouldn’t be staffed by a position paid for by the city. Evans was absent during the Oct. 16 workshop.
“It wasn’t that we voted no to the historic society, it was us voting no on creating a new position with benefits to staff the historic society,” Evans wrote. “The plan wasn’t detailed enough to justify adjusting the current budget while we’re trying to establish and review the next budget. The historic society is amazing and they do a great job and I believe a necessity to our city, but I don’t believe the city needs to create a special position at this time.”
Surdez, at the council meeting, said she thinks the work the historical society does is important, but how narrow the scope of the proposed part-time position concerned her.
“I think it could have been a better sell had it been more expanded,” she said.
After the vote, Johnson made it clear he was not happy, and told the council that if they don’t like an idea he proposes, they ought to say something early in the process.
“Please, don’t waste my time,” he said. “That’s all I ask.”
As the council moved on to the 2019/2020 budget discussions, members of the historical society left the meeting to talk outside.
“We’ve done everything we think we can do to try and find people to take over,” said Glenn Taylor.
“It is over,” JoAnn added.
In a later phone interview, JoAnn said she still hopes someone from the general public will step up.
“It sounds like there are people out there that are very interested,” she said. “But whether they put their name on it is another [thing].”
The historical society held an emergency meeting Oct. 30, after print deadline, to decide how to move forward.
If the society decides to disband, their by-laws require their artifacts and materials be donated to another non-profit.