Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Testimony on Mining & Mineral Museum bill

I took notes at yesterday's Senate committee hearing on HB2251 to transfer the mining and mineral museum to be the Centennial Museum [right, artists conception].  These are sketchy and paraphrased but I tried to capture the key points of each speaker. 

The bill passed 4-3 to keep the legislation alive but at least 3 senators said they want the different sides to work things out before it goes further.   The hearing was web cast and recorded. The video is available for viewing at the Arizona Legislature web site.  The debate over HB2251 lasted about 2 hours.

Comments FOR the bill

Sydney Hay – Arizona Mining Association:  This is the best opportunity for ADMMR and the mineral museum to survive.  This will preserve the mineral collection and education program.

AZ Centennial Commission:  All expenses will run through the non-profit foundation.

Madan Singh, Director, ADMMR: We don’t have the funds to maintain everything.  This bill will result in more students coming through the museum.   The mineral collection occupies 6,000 – 8,000 of current space. The revamped museum will have 15,000 sq ft.  Museum designer assures him that all the current minerals will be displayed in new museum.

Lynn White, Freeport McMoRan and ADMMR Board member: The hope is that museum will pay for itself eventually.

Anne Woosley, Executive Director, Arizona Historical Society:  AHS is in the business of running museums – 4 major ones around the state, plus they manage other sites, and certify 70+ historical sites.

History museums must look to the future otherwise they are not doing their jobs.  At the heart of their program is education; not about what education was done in the Territorial days, but we must look at where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are going in the future.

Copper is about developing resources for our technical society.  Museum will do that kind of teaching.

“Centennial Museum” is a tentative name. It may not continue.

Education may not be written in striker bill explicitly. You can’t put everything in legislation but the education mission as core value will continue in the new museum.    Personal stories of the industry will be embraced.

The cost estimate was not pulled out of the air.  They engaged international and local architects – they are working gratis to come up with initial conceptual designs.  This is so early in the process they cannot take further action without the Legislatures blessing. They cannot raise funds until they go to the next step.  Trust is needed on both sides. |They do not propose to take something good apart and replace with it with something bad.  They are absolutely committed to keeping together the world class mineral collection.    They want to use collections for teaching.

AHS already maintains mineral collections very well.  But change is scary.   The new museum will offer more opportunities.

Comments AGAINST the bill

Robert Holmes, Vice Chair, ADMMR Board of Governors: At the March 29 Board meeting, they took the position that no statutory change is needed now. Legislation should wait until funding and planning in place.   The bill takes away the Boards authority over the ADMMR Director.  They want to leave the mineral collection in the Board’s control.

Raymond Grant, Chair, AMMM Foundation: They are concerned about the mineral collection – it contains over 1,000 22,500 specimens.  The Centennial Museum plans do not show role for mineral exhibits. There is no provision for the museum curator to be knowledgeable in minerals. There is no guaranty that collection won’t be put in storage.[update 4-7-10 1:33 pm:   Nyal Niemuth passed along the correct number of specimens in the collection.  I must have misheard Ray's testimony]

Bill Hawes, Mining Foundation of the Southwest: They believe an interagency agreement would suffice rather than doing this by statute.    Maintaining education outreach is a big concern.    The ADMMR budget has been squeezed so there is only token staff left, yet Legislature will give AHS the funds that could go to ADMMR to pay the rent.

Charles Connell (long time museum volunteer – 17 years):   They need to plan before making this decision – it is only a conceptual idea so far.  Where are funds coming from?  Museum supporters can’t find out where cuts or changes will be made.  They can’t get information from anyone.   So, with no plan and no money, it is a mistake to go forward.  They want assurances that changes won’t destroy the museum.   They submitted an amendment to Sen. Allen.

Gene Myron, retired Intel: He has contributed over $2 million of minerals to various museums (UA, Smithsonian, ADMMR, and others).  He is concern about the museum being put under the auspices of AHS which has other interests besides mining and minerals.  A mineral museum needs a critical size of professional organization or the collections suffer.    This is shown by the Philadelphia Academy of Sciences which lost its collection when it changed its mission.  It resulted in an incalculable loss. 

Marty Zimmerman, volunteer educational advisor to AMMM:    She is concerned about education of children.  It is not included in any planning.  The volunteers fear being excluded and replaced in the new museum.  The mineral cases are only one piece of the experience at AMMM.   There is a big educational infrastructure behind them.  She presented a petition from high school kids to preserve the museum as it is.

Richard Zimmerman, volunteer:  The Governor said no state monies will be involved, but she then said AHS will get enough budget to cover rent and other costs. The cost of the Centennial Museum is growing.   ADMMR will need new space.  Altogether there will be added costs of $1 million per year, to be paid by the state.  AMMM made the top 10 list nationwide.    They have a 6:1 volunteer ratio; can AHS can a better rate?  There are no cost savings in this bill.   There were no bids or estimates to come up with the Centennial Museum cost of $9 million.  The number was invented.

James Warren Jr (Jim) individual – rancher/miner:  He is concerned about the whole concept of the Centennial Museum. It is not the thing to do.

Committee Comments

Sen. Landrum-Taylor said the stakeholders needed to work out their differences before bringing the bill to committee and voted No.  Sen. Nelson (committee chair) voted Yes to keep the proposal alive, but said he won’t support the bill on the floor unless the issues among the parties are worked out.

1 comment:

  1. You left out the neutral comment by Tom Parks. In her grab for the building, the Governor violated ARS 27-110. She illegally appointed a lobbyist with a conflict of interest to the ADMMR board. That lobbyist was instrumental in separating the ADMMR from the scientific mineral collection it needs to do its work properly. A complaint has been filed with the Attorney General, and the FBI is watching the situation to assure that the Governor does not try to interfere.