Tiffin City Council may decide in June whether to allocate $51,000 in federal funds to help American Civil War Museum of Ohio open in Tiffin. A public hearing on the issue is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday in City Hall.
Founder Mark Young hopes to move the museum to 217 S. Washington St. in October. The museum opened in Bowling Green in December 2006 and closed in January 2009.
The debate appears to be between allocating the funds to the museum or spending the money on repaving city streets.
There's not much debate among area residents. No one has written a letter complaining about the lack of a museum in Tiffin. A recent online poll found 78 percent of respondents favored repaving streets over helping the museum.
But, while $51,000 wouldn't buy much asphalt, it may make a difference in whether the museum opens.
The museum needs another $50,000 so work can begin. That work must be done by the end of the year, or the project risks losing $220,000 in state funds.
Plus, the sesquicentennial of the beginning of the war is less than a year away.
The $51,000 is from a Community Development Block Grant, funneled from the federal government to localities. In other words, it's taxpayer dollars (or debt), and local officials should husband its use as they would revenue from local sources.
And, as council members are well aware, the cost of acquiring something - whether it's a pool, park, sewerage, a building or equipment - is only part of the financial picture. Operational costs also need to be taken into account.
Before voting, council members might want to inquire about the museum's budget, and how operational and other costs will be borne.
Residents should remember the difficulty in funding park programs and pool operations this year. With city tax revenues rebounding from the recession, local officials might not have to appeal for help in making the pool and park available to youths next summer.
But streets will need maintenance again next year. We don't believe taxpayers should be asked to help pay operating costs at a museum. And, if it opens, we'd like to see the museum remain operating for a long time to come.
Those who want to help the museum directly can do so by visiting the museum's website, www.acwmo.org.