New cabins offer chance for Conservation Department to increase revenue

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


Budget proposals for the 2018-2019 fiscal year continued during the Board of Supervisors meeting on Thursday, Jan. 18, with the Conservation Department, Midwest Old Threshers and the Henry County Historic Preservation Commission giving their annual reports.

As the Conservation Department prepares to open two new cabins in the next fiscal year, they have amended the budget an additional $3,000 for electric, sewer and water, custodial services and mowing around the cabins. Conservation Director John Pullis said he also increased the hotel and motel tax $500 because the department is not yet sure what they will charge for the cabins.

Last year, the department budgeted $100,000 for land acquisition for the cabins. For the next fiscal budget, they are only budgeting $1,000.

Pullis said the cabins should be open by mid- to late-summer this year. He assumes the department will be charging more for the rental of the new cabins than the old ones because of the additional amenities in the new cabins, including double the square feet and a full kitchen.

Last year, Pullis predicted $77,850 in revenue for the 2017-2018 fiscal year. For the 2018-2019 fiscal year, he wants to be closer to $100,000 in revenue in Conservation, if not over that, he said.

A concern Pullis voiced regarding revenue, specifically from camps and programs, was that an additional $1 processing charge is included when people make online reservations. Although they are adding $1 to some of the camp fees, Pullis said he doesn?t know where each additional dollar for every program sign-up will come from.

?I?m hoping our revenue stays the same, but it could go down a little bit,? he said.

In addition to Pullis presenting the Conservation Budget, Terry McWilliams, Midwest Old Thresher?s CEO, presented his request for county money in the next fiscal year, asking for $19,000 for the nonprofit.

County Auditor Shelly Barber said this is the same amount they requested last year, which was an increase of $2,000 from the year before that.

McWilliams said that 2018 isn?t looking any slower or different from the previous year, with plans for new buildings and new exhibits. Old Threshers is planning a new, ?big building? inside the main M1 gate. He also hopes to have a new building built on the campground entrance.

McWilliams also said they are in the process of building a new doll and antique clothing museum exhibit in Museum A. They plan to move the dolls into the new structure sometime in the spring and bring out the antique clothing collection, which ?nobody knows Midwest Old Threshers has because it?s in storage,? McWilliams said.

They are also doing a project with Midwest Central Railroad and swapping some land and buildings with them to make both their lives and Old Thresher?s lives a little easier, McWilliams said. Regarding Midwest Central Railroad, restorations done to one of the trolley cars, Car 381.

Finally, Midwest Old Threshers will be completing more lighting projects this year to light up the grounds a little better.

The Henry County Preservation Commission also has big plans in the next fiscal year. Chairman Joel Garretson presented a recap of the projects they completed in 2017 and the board?s plans for the future.

This year, the Commission placed five new signs dedicating historic sites around the county. For 2018, they plan on completing site inventory forms for Wayland and Jefferson township historic sites and again installing five new historic signs. The Commission will continue to co-sponsor the African-American historic sites tour with the Mt. Pleasant Historic Preservation Commission and promote historic preservation month in May.

Stepping into the 21st Century, the Commission is working on completing the first phase of their website project. As a Certified Local Government, they will attend state-sponsored training and education classes and meet 11 to 12 times at the courthouse or other off-site locations.

Garretson celebrated the Commission for receiving a certificate from the National Park Service in 2017. The certificate congratulated the commission on being a Certified Local Government and partner in federal preservation since 1994.

In other news, changes to road names no longer have to be presented to the E-911 board before being approved by Supervisors. Zoning Administrator Joe Buffington said that the current Rural Address System Ordinance was outdated. Before electronic maps, road names had to be presented to the E-911 board for approval to ensure the name hadn?t already been assigned to another road. Buffington said that this amendment to the ordinance takes out that unnecessary step.

The E-911 board was agreeable to the amendment, Buffington said. ?It doesn?t come up often. We don?t name a lot of new roads anyway,? he said.

The second amendment to the Rural Address System Ordinance is a clarification. The original ordinance read that private road signs or marker blades should be installed on a red background, but the county has always installed them on blue backgrounds.

?This is just making the ordinance match what is already being done rather than going out and changing all the signs,? Buffington said.

Before adjourning, Supervisors approved the treasurer?s semiannual report.