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Historical society asks for modest increase

When the annual request for funding from the McLeod County Historical Society appeared on the County Board agenda last week, we braced ourselves for a controversial discussion.
As one may recall, last year’s request drew some heated debate at the board level. Along with an increase for the historical society, the discussion got entangled with a request for funding for a coordinator for the new McLeod County Historic Partnership, a separate and yet connected organization whose goal is to assist community historical groups with projects and preservation.
This year, the funding request was quietly referred to the county’s budget committee. In fact, the amount of the request wasn’t even announced, although it was included in the board’s multi-page packet.
The historical society’s 2018 request is for $83,107, about $4,005 more than its 2017 allocation of $79,102. That request — if approved by the County Board — will fund a little more than half of the historical society’s 2018 anticipated expenditures of $161,040.
A great deal of last year’s debate revolved around the question of whether preservation of history is an “essential service,” such as adequate roads and bridges, services for veterans, social services, solid buildings, law enforcement and an efficient court system.
Newspaper folks, of course, are the chroniclers of history as it happens. We cherish history, and feel that’s accurate portrayal is critical as society makes decisions for the future.
Whether one thinks a historical society is “essential” or not, one has to admire those who back our local historical groups. Residents pour in thousands of volunteer hours and thousands and thousands of dollars into the historical society. The historical society and its executive director are scrupulous in trying to find, and successfully obtaining, grant funding. Just read how many grant dollars have been acquired for the maintenance of its building and funding its preservation projects.
We particularly like that the historical society is trying to increase accessibility to local history. It is creating digital records of photographs of artifacts and scans of historical documents that people will be able to access online. It also is working with local communities to increase financial contributions so that it can open its museum doors to residents at no admission cost.
When it comes to the requested $4,000 increase, one could argue that the society could find some way to trim that increase from its $161,000 budget. It could also be argued that the county could easily find $4,000 in its multi-million dollar budget.
We hope the county finds it way to funding the increase. The historical society has shown that it continues to provide more to the county’s constituents, and that it is trying to make McLeod County’s history accessible to all. Those endeavors are worthy of support.