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February 13, 2014

BLINDSIDED: Local museums caught off guard by Gov. Fallin’s consolidation plan

CLAREMORE —

Gov. Mary Fallin has proposed Claremore’s J. M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum and Will Rogers Memorial Museum be incorporated into the state’s tourism department.
The reorganization came during Fallin’s State of the State address and was a complete surprise to local museum directors.
“I found out about it by reading an online story about the consolidation. Neither Rep. Marty Quinn or Sen. Sean Burrage were aware of it,” said Wayne McCombs, J. M. Davis Museum executive director.
“Like directors of the other state agencies proposed, I was not consulted in advance of the announcement by the governor in her annual Executive Budget Book. One of our staff members happened to access it online Monday and bring the governor’s words to my attention,” said Steve Gragert, director of the Will Rogers Memorial Museum and Birthplace Ranch. 
Fallin’s plan would incorporate the two Claremore museums, the Oklahoma Arts Council, Oklahoma Historical Society and the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission into the Tourism and Recreation Deaprtment.
Quinn, who is seeking the state Senate seat being vacated by Burrage, is concerned about the lack of input, since the governor will likely want his support for future projects or tax cuts.
The governor purports the consolidation would save the state 15 percent, about $4 million.
The reported savings through consolidation is not much when the state has a much larger hole to fill to bring the budget into balance, Quinn said.
The J. M. Davis Museum receives $304,000 annually in state funding, according to McCombs.
It has four full-time and four part-time employees. The state funds help pay for maintenance, salaries, supplies and utilities.
The Will Rogers Museum receives $740,000 in state funding, Gragert said. The museum has seven full-time and 11 part-time employees. It has only one more employee than it had when the museum opened in 1938, despite doubling its space.

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