SOUTHINGTON — The Barnes Museum could have a new employee following Town Council approval of a grant application.
Library Director Kristi Sadowski, who oversees the museum, said the grant would fund a part-time program coordinator, who could generate revenue by scheduling events and help avoid situations where only one employee is at the museum.
The council voted 5 to 3 in favor of applying for the Museums of American grant. If received, it would fund the position for two years.
Councilors want to see the Barnes Museum, a historic house on North Main Street, generate more revenue and suggested improvements that would allow it to host wedding ceremonies and photography shoots.
Sadowski said the hiring of a program coordinator, along with recruitment of volunteers to lead tours would help raise the museum’s profile and bring in more money.
Some councilors questioned why the museum couldn’t prioritize revenue-generating activities and recruiting volunteers without the grant.
Sadowski said there are other tasks, such as cataloging items and giving tours, that are consuming the time of the one full-time and one part-time employee. Democrat Kelley Morrissey said those other tasks could be postponed while income-producing initiatives were established to move the town-owned museum towards financial sustainability.
“We need to free up capacity. Something else has to take a back seat,” she said.
Other councilors in opposition to the grant said they doubted that once hired, the program coordinator would be cut when the grant funding runs out. All councilors had concerns about adding to the number of town employees.
“Are we really going to fire them? I’ve been around government long enough to know that doesn’t happen a lot,” said John Barry, a Democratic councilor.
Republican councilor Michael Riccio said the program coordinator could help develop efforts that make the museum cash flow positive. He believed the grant was worth pursuing.
“I think that’s a step in the right direction,” he said.
Tom Lombardi, a Republican councilor, supported the grant but wanted to ensure that in two years the program coordinator was bringing in more money than the position cost.
“The council, whoever is sitting up here in two years, has to be very strong. We can’t just keep adding people without having some accountability,” he said. “They need to cut these funds or make up the revenue (elsewhere).”
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