The Molly Brown Birthplace and Museum could be under new management in the not-too-distant year. Its future will be determined through negotiations approved by the Hannibal City Council between the Hannibal Convention & Visitors Bureau and a local entity that is interested in taking on the daily operations of the historic site.
Gail Bryant, director of the HCVB, told the Council Tuesday night that approximately six weeks ago it was approached by Ken and Lisa Marks, representing the “Hannibal History Museum Foundation” and its fiscal agent, the “Marion County Historical Society,” regarding a leasing agreement.
Following a review of the proposal by an HCVB committee, a recommendation has been sent to the Council to enter into an operating agreement provided some modifications to the original proposal be adopted. The modifications include:
• The city would retain responsibility for the parking lot on Denkler’s Alley. Maintenance, landscaping and repairs would be the responsibility of the lessee.
• Modifications and/or improvements to the property would be the responsibility of the lessee once the changes were approved by the city.
• The HCVB would promote and market the site in 2014. Beyond that it would be the responsibility of the lessee.
The committee also recommended the City Council require a $10,000 surety bond from the lessee to “protect the city should the lessee default in performance of their responsibility to maintain and operate the property as outlined” in the agreement.
The Council approved tabling the matter until final details can be worked out through negotiations between the city attorney and the party interested in the site.
Bryant made no secret of the fact that the HVCB would like to cease being responsible for the site, which has lost money every year since 2011 when the city accepted the property. She estimated it lost approximately $2,000 in 2013.
“We want to step out all together,” she said, acknowledging that the museum is an “asset to be cared for.”
Mayor Roy Hark said he would not support “putting another dime” into the museum. He also questioned how those interested in running the site could make a profit.
Councilman Barry Louderman said he wanted to see an agreement that would spell out “who is responsible for what” in terms of upkeep.
Councilman James Hark added the city cannot afford to be held “ransom” for future upkeep at the historic site.
Tabling the matter so that negotiations could continue was approved by a vote of 5-1. Councilman Mike Dobson voted “no.”