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Committee approves admission fees for RMAC

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The Roswell Museum and Art Center has received initial approval from a City Council committee to charge admission fees for the first time in its history.

Caroline Brooks, executive director of the museum, said that increasing revenues for the city-owned venue has been discussed for several years.

“We have been open for nearly 83 years. We have always been free,” she said at a Wednesday meeting of the General Services Committee. “But I will say that, with our current strategic plan, which was put together in 2017, it was part of the plan to increase our revenues.”

She said that increased revenue generation is also expected to occur through continued efforts to boost paid memberships and gift shop revenues. In fiscal year 2020, the museum earned about $150,000 and had expenses of about $700,000. Admission fees could bring in as much as $50,000 a year, city staff have said at prior meetings.

The Roswell City Council General Services Committee voted 2-1 for the fee plan. Councilor Angela Moore voted in opposition, saying she thought some attractions in Roswell needed to be free for youth and families, especially during economically challenging times. Jeanine Best and Chair Barry Foster voted in favor of the fees.

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The matter is now scheduled to be on the consent agenda for the Sept. 10 Roswell City Council meeting. Items on the consent agenda pass without debate or comment if councilors vote to approve the entire meeting agenda. City councilors also can ask for items on the consent agenda to be placed on the regular agenda for individual consideration.

Some Roswell residents already have spoken against such fees at public meetings, not only admission charges at the museum, but at other facilities the city has called “quality of life” venues, such as the zoo. People opposed to fees have said that admission charges will put those attractions out of the reach of some lower-income people and that the city already raises money through taxes, which should be used to support such activities.

While the museum has not charged admissions fees, it has collected voluntary donations. It also has sold about 362 annual memberships that provide discounts on classes and gift shop purchases as well as other perks. In addition, the museum has charged for classes and other special offerings.

The proposed fees for the museum would be $10 for adults, ages 16 and up, with a $12 adult fee for people visiting both the museum and planetarium. Groups would have discounted fees in some instances.

Monthly free days also are planned for Roswell residents and senior citizens, with standing free admission for youth under 15, school groups, RMAC museum members and members of the North American Reciprocal Museum Association.

Brooks added that some levels of RMAC memberships could offer additional free guest passes to encourage membership, and that the museum would reserve the right to offer free admission to other groups or programs.

The museum has been closed to the public since state public health orders went into effect in March, but Brooks said after the meeting that “preparations are underway to do a partial reopening in mid-September.” Additional information is expected to be announced soon now that state public health orders will allow museums with “static displays” to open at 25% capacity.

General Services Committee members also discussed two non-action items, future development plans for the Old Municipal Airport property and the possibility of creating a southside park in the 2300 block of South Virginia Avenue.

Community Development Manager Bill Morris said that master plans for the former municipal airport property north of Montana Avenue and near West College Boulevard call for dividing the area into four quadrants.

Single-family housing would be in some quadrants; a mixed-use retail, housing and urban plaza in another; and two new cloverleaf tournament-quality baseball fields and an all-inclusive park for people with disabilities in another section, the section that now has the Cielo Grande Recreation Area and the Roswell Aquatic and Recreation Center. The city has received state funding to build the new baseball fields and inclusive park.

The South Virginia Avenue park would be on vacant property that once was the site of Chisum Elementary School. It has been a priority for Barry Foster for some time. He said the city has owned the property for 13 years but done nothing with it, and he thinks that youth in that area need a park, as there isn’t one in the area that kids can access without crossing heavily trafficked roads. As a result, he said, youth who live in the area often play in the street instead.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.