State is surrendering control of Fort Meigs PDF Print E-mail
Written by By JENISE FOUTS Sentinel Staff Writer   
Thursday, 10 December 2009 10:44
PERRYSBURG - The third siege of Fort Meigs is about to begin.
With ever-shrinking funding from the State of Ohio, the Ohio Historical Society (OHS) is continuing the process of turning day-to-day management of its 58 historical sites over to local groups. Now it is Fort Meig's turn to go through that process - and the financial help of area residents is needed to keep it open, referred to by one official as "the third siege" of the site.
Throughout 2009, talks have been going on between the historical society and the Fort Meigs Cabinet for a newly-formed local group to manage the fort while the society retains ownership of it. Formed in 2003, the cabinet is a small group of individuals with a passion for the fort who ran a successful capital campaign several years ago. Most recently it formed the Fort Meigs Association which was granted nonprofit status. The cabinet will "morph" into the association and manage the fort instead of the OHS.
Wednesday evening the cabinet and OHS co-hosted a public meeting at the visitor center for concerned residents to learn about the coming change-over and ask questions. About 40 attended. The OHS's governing board is expected to approve the management plan on Dec. 16 to turn operations over to the Fort Meigs Association on Jan. 1.
OHS Acting Executive Director Jim Strider praised Fort Meigs as "really one of the most significant sites we operate as far as an Ohio Historical Society site. ... We're moving toward the bicentennial of the War of 1812. It's a site important to be preserved."
Strider said 43 of the 58 historical sites are currently under a management agreement with a local organization. The move not only reduces OHS's direct expenses, but hopefully leads to more effective operations for the locally-managed sites.
It was reported the fort's budget is $338,000 a year. Under the tentative new agreement the OHS will give a "stipend" of $125,000 a year to the fort. Site Manager Richard Finch said the fort's earned revenue, such as through special events, is $135,000. That leaves a shortfall of about $78,000.
Finch explained the finances will be a combination of cash reserves and a second campaign for funds, adding, "We are in a much better situation because of having cash reserves to draw upon." The reserves are with the OHS and will be transferred to the Toledo Community Foundation.
"Clearly we have to have a fund-raising campaign of some sort," said George Jones, cabinet president. "We do have substantial money from the initial campaign several years ago. We still have enough with the stipend to keep the site open for one year. Beyond that we're going to have to raise serious money."
Referring to letters seeking end-of-the-year donations, cabinet member Dr. Richard Rupert announced, "You'll be hearing from us in two weeks. We're planning the third siege of Fort Meigs. We'll certainly need your help."
He added, "We really are looking forward to getting under way, expanding what it is we do here to make it much more informational and fun here. This really is a great site. We need to take advantage of it and make it stronger."
When a guest asked how to become involved in the Fort Meigs Association, Jones replied, "Come on in! The Fort Meigs Association is still in diapers. We're a name on the papers. We would certainly welcome anyone who wants to join us. Call Rick Finch."
Finch said the FMA would have a governing board and a "friends" group with opportunities for volunteers. "We're going to grow this association once we get the nuts and bolts of this management agreement nailed down."

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