City Council set to carve out the Kansas City Museum from Union Station control

A trio of Kansas City Council members have sponsored an ordinance introduced on Thursday to have the city assume management of Corinthian Hall and the Kansas City Museum.

The measure bought to the City Council docket by Jan Marcason, Jim Glover and Scott Wagner would have Kansas City determine how to spend between $1.2 million and $1.4 million in museum mill-levy proceeds, rather than have Union Station make those decisions.

The Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department would assume responsibility over Corinthian Hall on May 1, 2014, if Thursday’s ordinance passes the City Council.

If passed, the ordinance would mark a significant overhaul in the messy relationship between Corinthian Hall and Union Station, which has managed the Northeast Kansas City landmark since 2000. 

Union Station has managed the city-owned Corinthian Hall owing to a 2000 contract agreement with the city, which at the time agreed to have the private nonprofit spend the annual tax proceeds dedicated to the museum as it saw fit.

But Corinthian Hall remained in a state of perpetual limbo since that agreement was struck. The stately building at 3218 Gladstone Boulevard has been in dire need of renovations to the tune of $20 million or more to become a fully functioning facility but has made little progress in fundraising toward that goal. Kansas City poured about $10 million into Corinthian Hall, but it’s still short of making the building a proper museum environment. Corinthian Hall hosts some events, but much of the building is not practical in its current state as a museum space. 

Meanwhile, the collection of artifacts representing Kansas City’s history and heritage remains largely obscured from public view in Union Station’s storage space at Pershing Road or in underground caves in the Northland. Union Station has not always managed that collection well, at one point ignoring warnings of mold collecting on artifacts in storage space. When mold eventually covered artifacts, it cost $130,000 to solve the problem.

Furthermore, Northeast residents suspected that Union Station wasn’t spending all the tax proceeds dedicated to the Kansas City Museum on museum-related purposes. Kansas City sought an audit earlier this year, but that audit has since been continually put off.

According to terms of the proposed ordinance, the following changes would take place: 
* Kansas City would retain all museum mill-levy funds, usually worth between $1.2 million and $1.4 million.
* Kansas City would pay Union Station Kansas City Inc. $131,000 a year to lease storage space at Union Station, far less than the more than $1 million Union Station used to get from the mill levy.
* Kansas City takes over leasing of collection storage space off the Union Station property.
* Kansas City can display the historical collection at Corinthian Hall while both the city and Union Station could exhibit other parts of the collection at other sites under the “Kansas City Museum” brand.

The ownership of the collection is still somewhat unclear. Future donors would be able to say whether their contribution should fall under the city’s ownership or Union Station’s ownership.

All Union Station staff dedicated to the museum would be considered for employment with the city.

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