Museum Center asks for $150 million in bonds

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Museum Center CEO Douglass McDonald is asking Hamilton County commissioners to put a bond issue on the November ballot. He is asking for 150 million dollars to pay to repair building damage that has accumulated over the decades.

McDonald says the building needs to be disassembled in the places where moisture has come in contact with the building's steel structure.

He says the moisture is causing the steel to rust which is pushing the concrete and brick off the building. Workers will have to get to the steel, clean off the rust, and repair the framing to strengthen the historic building.

If left alone, McDonald says the building could continue to deteriorate in the next four years at a level that rivals what has happened over the last twenty years.

"The public loves this building," McDonald said. "We have had bipartisan support for Union Terminal and what we do in this building since the very beginning of this building. We also know it will cost an additional 75 million dollars if we don't fix this problem inside the next 5 years."

McDonald says right now construction costs are down which makes this a good time to tackle the project.

If voters were to push the measure through, county property taxpayers would pay back the debt.

Some argue, however, that tax payers are already playing their part by supporting the center through the 2009 levy that is used to operate the facility.

To get the 150 million, McDonald needs the Hamilton County Commissioners to bring the issue to the voters.

"Given the current environment, given people's budgets are stretched as it is, I'm thinking this is not the right time to do it," commissioner Chris Monzel said.

"It's important that we reduce the tax burden on property taxes this year and I think that adding a levy like this would make that tough," echoed fellow commissioner Greg Hartmann.

For many of the centers patrons, however, they are ready to dig into their wallets to support the facility.

"There's so many things that can enrich a kids life," Kristin Carter said of the museum center. She says she is more than willing to pay-up to keep the museum shape for her nieces and nephews who she regularly takes to the facility.

"To be able to give them this? Absolutely," she said emphatically.

Carter says regardless of the economy, now is not the time to put off the repairs.

"I think if we need it now we need to start working on it now," Carter said.

"We can keep putting it off, but if they need it we need to get it done," Melissa Stahley echoed.

"They're happy, they're learning, it's incredible," Stahley said.

Stahley says, as a taxpayer, she is willing to toss in the bills if it will keep the museum up to par.

"I'm more than willing to pay 25 dollars a year for this," Carter said. "It's worth it. We put a lot of other money into other things, this is worth it."

"Cutting out things that the kids need is one of the last places the money should come from," Carter argued.

If the museum center generates the money, no more repairs would be needed for nearly 100 years according to Douglass.

McDonald believes the building is safe regardless of the repairs needed.

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