MAHS seeks agreement with city on museum repairs

Milaca Area Historical Society volunteer Jere Day leads a group of middle schoolers on a tour of the museum in May.
Milaca Area Historical Society volunteer Jere Day leads a group of middle schoolers on a tour of the museum in May.

The Milaca Area Historical Society would like to move forward on several repairs around the museum, a building it shares with the city. Volunteers with the organization have found this process difficult because this shared responsibility and the added red tape involved with the museum being a designated historical building with the Minnesota Historical Society.

To clear up some of the confusion, Milaca Area Historical Society President Tom Sauer asked the Milaca City Council if it would be willing to sign an agreement with the group. The proposed contract would detail each entity’s financial responsibility to the upkeep and maintenance to the building.

“To my knowledge, very little has been done to (the museum) in the last 10 years, and in some places it’s in need of it,” Sauer told the council.

Some of the repairs include closing some structural gaps, installing a new exterior door and replacing the skylight.

Sauer said the historical society has invested nearly $25,000 in materials and labor for upkeep on the building during the past six years the group has occupied the space. He said that commitment will continue, but Sauer and other members of the society would like to know how much the city is willing to invest as well.

One of the biggest items on Sauer’s to-do list is finishing the project of replacing the wheelchair ramp toward the south of the museum.

Historical society board member Ardy Becklin told the board the lack of a ramp has impaired the group’s ability to assist some residents in their research and it has prevented some volunteers from being able to staff the museum during the hours it is open to the public.

“The Elim Home would like to do field trips with some of their residents,” Becklin said. “But they can’t because we don’t have a ramp. We have the money. So, I say, ‘What’s the problem?’ Let’s do it.”

Councilmember Dave Dillan agreed that the ramp was long overdue for replacement.

“That ramp was removed with the assumption that it would be replaced right away,” City Manager Greg Lerud said. “But that contractor never responded and just fell by the wayside.”

The museum is still waiting for the official authorization from the Minnesota Historical Society to move forward with some of its repair requests. In the meantime, the local chapter of the society is asking the city to help pay for some of the costs, as it still owns the building.

“It just seemed to us, that after six years, we should have something on paper,” Sauer said.

Mayor Pete Pedersen thanked the members of the Milaca Area Historical Society for taking care of the iconic museum and told them they have done a wonderful job.

“There’s nothing on our part that says we can’t enter an agreement with you,” Councilmember Wayne Bekius said. “I think you should come back with a proposal and we’ll take a look at it.”