First Bill Of 2015 Proposes Cuts To Two Claremore Museums

Monday, December 29th 2014, 6:49 pm
By: News On 6

The first bill filed for the upcoming legislative session proposes funding cuts to two Claremore museums.

An Oklahoma lawmaker wants to cut funding to the Will Rogers Museums and the JM Davis Arms and Historical Museum, but the directors for the museum said they're prepared to keep the doors open.

Directors at the Will Rogers Museum, said 80 percent of its budget comes from state funding, and if that were to be cut they'd be forced to close the doors,

The lawmaker behind Senate Bill 1 wants to eliminate state funding for four state commissions. Two of those run museums in Claremore - the JM Davis Arms and History Museum and the Will Rogers Museum.

The Will Rogers Museum hosts thousands of visitors from all over the world who pay tribute to Oklahoma's Favorite Son.

Museum Director Tad Jones said he's heard about the proposed cuts and is preparing to fight them.

"It's a difficult process to get any bill through the legislature, and one that deals with Oklahoma's Favorite Son is going to be a challenge to get through the legislature. We're appreciated by the governor and a lot of legislators and I think we're going to be okay, but we're not going to take anything for granted for sure because Will Rogers is something worth fighting for," Jones said.

Down the hill from the Will Rogers Museum, the JM Davis Museum has close to 14,000 firearms in its collection.

Director Wayne McCombs said his museum generates more than $4 million in economic impact and only operates on a $300,000 budget.

"And I see that they're [legislators] are trying to hold down prices and hold down costs for everything, and I understand that, but once you do research and see how much the Will Rogers Memorial and the JM Davis Museum put in the economy you'll see that we're actually profit centers for the state," said McCombs.

Senator Patrick Anderson said he's looking for ways to cut the state budget and he's starting with some of the smaller state agencies.

"I think it's a discussion piece. It may not be the final version. To be honest with you I would hope that we would expand it beyond just the four entities that I named in my bill, but I wanted to get the discussion started. I wanted people to look carefully at what we are doing," Anderson said.

Even though the JM Davis Museum funding is being targeted, McCombs said renovations will go as scheduled starting January 1st, closing the doors for about a month.

The nearly $350,000 project includes repairing the roof, a new entrance way and updating visitor areas.

Museum employees will also finish a large World War I display.

The renovation is part of the State of Oklahoma's Capital Improvement plans in the 2015 budget.

"Our roof is 46 years old, and any building that's 46 years old needs repairs on the roof. And so this will take care and preserve the artifacts for future generations," McCombs said.

It is set to reopen on February 2, the same day the 2015 legislative session begins.