Mid-Western Regional Council will hand over ownership of the Kandos Bicentennial Museum to the Kandos community, with a view to re-opening it no later than June 1, 2014.
Council agreed on Wednesday to spend $95,542 to upgrade the building before gifting the building and an adjoining block on Buchanan Street to an incorporated association to be formed by community members.
A report by general manager Warwick Bennett had recommended that the museum be managed by a five-member Trust, but after discussion, councillors opted for an incorporated association.
Council will call for expressions of interest from community members interested in being part of the incorporated association.
Planned work will include a new ramp, car parking, sewer upgrade, waterproofing, fencing, a new floor and wall, painting, electrical work, relocating the kitchen, bathroom renovation and $15,000 for removal and storage of the museum’s collection during the work.
Council will continue to fund the annual rates and insurance costs for the museum and will encourage the association to sell the adjoining block and retain the profits for use at the museum.
Mid-Western Regional Council closed the museum in July, citing safety issues, and disbanded the 355 Committee of Council which had previously managed the museum.
Council rejected a call from Cr Percy Thompson and Cr Esme Martens to defer a decision until the community had considered other options for the museum, including direct management by council or forming another 355 committee under the umbrella of council.
But Cr Peter Shelley said this would only delay the commencement of work on the museum.
“I’m not interested in blame, I’m not interested in what happened before and I’m very disappointed to hear that people think there hasn’t been enough consultation,” he said.
“Everyone knows how important [the museum] is: That is not in debate.”
Cr Shelley said further consultation would be undertaken when council calls for expressions of interest from community members who want to be part of the association.
“There’s been plenty of conversation, I’ve certainly had them,” he said.
“We need to get the work done, get the management sorted and get it open. End of story.”
At the open day before the meeting, former curator Colin Jones called on council to retain ownership of the museum.
Mr Jones said the Kandos museum told the story of Kandos’ role in Australia’s industrial development, as well as housing items relating to the “Lady Bushranger” Jessie Hickman, whose story has attracted interest from movie makers.
He said if the movies went ahead “every man and his dog” would come to Kandos to see who Jessie Hickman was.
Any move to sell the museum or the collection would “go down in history as an attempt to destroy the history of a whole town”, he said.
Museum supporter Annie Finnigan said Kandos Museum also housed an extensive collection of items relating to popular culture in the 20th Century.
Cr Lucy Walker said council had no intention to sell the land or the collection.
“The recommendation includes setting up an incorporated association,” she said. “It certainly hasn’t involved selling assets or trashing the culture and history of Kandos.”
Mr Bennett’s report to council rejected the option of re-establishing a 355 committee.
He said the previous committee was not able to comply with the governance requirements of a 355 committee and individual members were not willing to comply with council requests or requirements, or “respect each other”, and predicted that any new committee would fail if previous members were appointed to it.
Mr Bennett said council did not have the required technical staff or budget to curate and plan for the Kandos museum.
“The Kandos museum is best placed to drive the success of its museum and respond to its community’s needs and wants in a museum,” he said.
”Gulgong and Mudgee are examples of successful community-run museums. Council is not involved in the operation of either.”