Cripple Creek museums to get new upgrades

OLJM exterior_0Cripple Creek museums to get new upgrades

Rick Langenberg

Cripple Creek’s two main museums have hit the historic preservation jackpot for close to $20,000 this year.

But in the wake of these awards, local officials have issued new fiscal warnings to grant recipients: Please search for alternative funding opportunities.

The new monies, part of the town’s historic preservation funds for public and nonprofit structures as part of the gambling tax revenue, will be used for a much needed new roof for the Outlaws & Law Men Jail Museum and for windows for the Cripple Creek District Museum’s Trading and Transfer building. That is the only facility downtown that survived the 1896 fires.

The council last week followed the recommendations of Historic Preservation Coordinator Renee Mueller that differed slightly from the findings of the historic preservation commission. The commissioners wanted to allocate more money into the CCDM’s facility for the purchase of six windows. The council agreed to only pay $9,146 for the District Museum’s windows and $7,895 for a new roof for the old jailhouse. Originally, the commission voted to foot the bill for $10,774 for the Trading and Transfer building windows.

But Mueller put in a plug for using some of the funds for the jail museum, which has become one of the town’s top attractions. She said originally the city didn’t realize it had as much money for these public building spending purposes for 2015, and so didn’t propose any funds for the jail museum.

However, City Finance Director Paul Harris warned museum buffs and nonprofit organizers that historic preservation funds are experiencing a decline. “These dollars are getting squeezed,” said Harris.

Mayor Pro Tem Steve Zoellner echoed similar sentiments. “Everybody needs to find the funds (from other sources),” said Zoellner. He encouraged the District Museum operators to engage in aggressive grant-writing pursuits, in case these future monies dry up. Richard Tremayne, a representative of the Cripple Creek District Museum, assured the council it had taken this direction and is very active in pursuing grants.

That said, the city heavily endorsed the funding program. “It is money well spent,” said Councilman Chris Hazlett.

As for residential grant programs, the city allocated $12,869 for historic refurbishing for three homes this year. The successful grant recipients are James and Rebecca Henry, Richard and Barbara Heller and Steven and Vicki Young. The awards came out of a residential grant request wish list of $14,129, with the individual matches for residents nearly hitting the $1,300 mark.

Oddly enough, and at the city’s request, historic preservation funding programs by the three gaming communities could become the source of an audit by the state. This is part of an effort by Cripple Creek leaders to clarify how historic funds should be used in the gaming towns. City officials have strongly stood behind their use of historic dollars since the arrival of gaming.

However, they allege that the city of Black Hawk, where the lion’s share of limited stakes gambling occurs, has turned this program into a farce. Cripple Creek and Black Hawk have squared off regarding several key legal issues over the last five years.

It isn’t clear when this audit action will take place.