Tallman House gets council support
WCLO's Beth Wheelock reports on the lease approved Monday by the Janesville City Council.
JANESVILLE The majority of Janesville City Council members were impressed by a business plan presented by the Rock County Historical Society to increase revenue at the Tallman House, and council members on Monday rewarded it with a two-year guaranteed subsidy.
The council voted 5-2 to give the group $45,000 each year for two years and another $4,400 for grounds maintenance.
Council members Tom McDonald and Frank Perrotto voted against the proposal, but for different reasons.
Another discussion will come in October, when the council must approve a note issue to borrow a suggested $250,000 for repairs to the Tallman House.
Councilman Yuri Rashkin said the council was right in asking the society for accountability in exchange for the subsidy, and he called the business plan an excellent one. The house is an asset to the city’s economy, he added.
“The hard work is ahead,” Rashkin said, noting the board must now implement its business plan with a goal to increase attendance at the museum.
Council member Kathy Voskuil voiced her support for the Tallman House, noting the society recently received some grants and had a successful art festival. The society netted about $16,000 at the art festival, with about 1,600 people on the grounds and more than 95 artists in attendance.
“We’re on an uphill trend here,” she said. “We have many people working on this project together to make it a better place.”
Councilman Bill Truman has repeatedly called the Tallman House the jewel of Janesville, and he said he hasn’t changed his mind. In fact, Truman said he would have supported a three-year contract.
The assured funding also is helpful in writing grants, he said. Past councils and administrators are guilty of neglecting the Tallman House, he said.
McDonald said most folks know his opinion on the Tallman House, as well.
“I think it’s not worth the money we spend on it,” he said. “Yes, the Tallman House is great, but house museums around the country are routinely shutting down.”
Continued operation of the Tallman House means more city money for the subsidy but also a large repair bill, he said. McDonald also repeated the city should give the house back to the Tallman trust, where it came from in the first place.
Councilman Russ Steeber said giving the house back is a “moot point.”
“We were entrusted as a city to maintain it, and we failed,” he said. Fixing it now is a “step toward fulfilling an obligation we have. When you’re given something, you maintain it. If you’re going to give it back, you’d better give it back in the same condition as (you) received it. I just don’t see us doing that unless we fix it.”
Perrotto said his vote was a protest vote. While he believes in the Tallman House, he didn’t think the group advanced a solid business plan. He said he would have supported a one-year lease.
The Janesville City Council on Monday:
-- Approved hiring a crossing guard for the intersection of East Rotamer Road and North Wright Road, with the cost of $3,240 being paid by the Milton School District. Nearby Harmony Elementary School is in the Milton district.
-- Waived the $553 event fee for the Partners in Prevention Family Fun Fest at Riverside Park. But council members also asked staff to come back with a suggested policy for setting fees because the council has in the past waived fees for some groups and not others. Otherwise, Councilman Frank Perrotto said he would propose to waive all fees for all non-profits. “To try to play Solomon, that’s just not fair,” he said. “This policy is not working.”
-- Delayed to Sept. 13 a discussion to build a new ice arena with one or two sheets of ice or simply renovate the current arena.
-- Delayed to Sept. 13 a vote on a policy allowing users groups to advertise at the Youth Sports Complex to raise money.