Jefferson Barracks Museum will reopen Feb. 2 with nearly same hours as now

By SCOTT MILLER

Staff Reporter

The Jefferson Barracks Historical Mu-seum will reopen Feb. 2 with nearly the same hours as 2004, but St. Louis County is not pumping additional cash into the parks department’s budget to do it.

Instead, volunteers, along with some re-sponsibility shifting within the department, will carry the load, according to Lindsey Swanick, director of the county Depart-ment of Parks and Recreation. With fewer people carrying more responsibility and more dependence on volunteers, some questions remain whether the quality of educational programs can be maintained.

The museum will be open from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday — 30 minutes less per day than now — beginning Feb. 2. The museum closes yearly in January.

The County Council last week adopted County Executive Charlie Dooley’s fiscal 2005 budget. Every department faces cuts — most more than 5 percent — except the Police Department, which will see a 4.5 percent increase in funding to maintain the current number of officers on the street.

Most cuts received little attention from the public or councilmen at budget hearings and public hearings conducted during the past month and a half, but veterans and other local historical organizations strongly opposed Dooley’s proposal to lock the museum’s doors because of budget constraints.

So Swanick began soliciting volunteers to operate the museum on the weekends, telling councilmen the county needed roughly $250,000 to restore the museum’s regular operating hours of noon to 4:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.

But when Councilmen John Campisi, R-south county, Kurt Odenwald, R-Shrews-bury, and Chairman Skip Mange, R-Town and Country, tried to redirect $280,000 from Dooley’s office to the parks department for the Jefferson Barracks Museum, Dooley and Swanick said no, the funds aren’t needed.

“An employee of the parks department will be specifically tasked to set up, coordinate and monitor the volunteer program at (the) Jefferson Barracks History Site. As a result of other personnel actions in the parks department, additional funding will not be needed,” Swanick wrote in a letter to the County Council last week.

In other “personnel actions,” Swanick moved Jefferson Barracks Curator Marc Kollbaum to Faust Park in Chesterfield, replacing laid-off workers at the park.

Kollbaum will juggle time between Faust and Jefferson Barracks, overseeing educational programs at each park.

“I know that the promises are being made (to keep the park open), and I don’t want us to mislead the constituents, mislead the people and say: ‘You know, we’re going to maintain the program and have it open,’ but not be providing what they expected,” Odenwald said of Kollbaum’s additional responsibilities and the dependence on volunteers rather than paid employees. “You can only stretch a person so far.”

Campisi told the Call he also had slight concerns, but is confident in the volunteers.

“I have a lot of faith in the volunteers that have stepped forward to do this,” he said. “These people are not just like you and me. These people come from the Historical So-ciety, Friends of Jefferson Barracks and other organizations that are active with the parks. These people have a lot of knowledge and understanding of Jefferson Barracks.”

Responding to Odenwald’s comments, Dooley said, “Any service that we provide at this county is going to be at a high quality or we won’t provide it at all. Anytime you think it’s not meeting those standards, we will cut it. That’s a promise.”