Lawton museum funded for FY’21

  • Museum of the Great Plains: The Frisco Railroad steam locomotive #1526 is a prominent exhibit at the Museum of the Great Plains in Lawton. The engine could haul freight but mostly pulled passenger cars. During World War II it transported military troops and served as a hospital train. In addition, Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman rode the 1526 across the nation during their election campaigns. The locomotive was manufactured in 1926 and was retired in 1952

LAWTON – The City Council recently earmarked half a million dollars for continued operation of the 59-year-old Museum of the Great Plains. That sum includes $475,000 from the city’s regular budget and $25,000 from the hotel/motel tax. 

The museum’s projected budget for Fiscal Year 2021 (July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021) is $840,190, Director Bart McClenny said. The $340,190 balance is expected to come from the top four additional revenue streams, he said: admission fees, memberships, the gift store, and museum use fees.

Expenses include salaries, payroll and unemployment taxes, workers’ compensation insurance, group life and health insurance, liability and fire insurance, pension payments, supplies, repairs and maintenance, contractual services, exhibits/materials, special events, printing, promotions and advertising, postage, utility and telephone bills, dues and subscriptions, summer program, bank charges and depreciation.

The city’s financial support comes at a critical time.

Visitation to the museum from July 1 (the start of the state/local fiscal year) through August 24 totaled 5,376 in 2018; in 2019 it numbered 5,384; but this year visitation during that 55-day period slumped to 2,233.

“You can see we’re experiencing less than half our usual visitation,” McClenny said. “This same trend is playing out in membership sales, store sales, and facility rentals.”

The museum has seven full-time employees and four part-timers. “We’re leaving the deputy director’s position vacant this year (among other non-employee measures) in order to balance the budget,” he said.

“We’re obligated through our agreement with the city to maintain a seven-days-a week, 362-days-a-year, operating schedule. Fortunately we haven’t had to lay off any employees or reduce wages.”

The museum’s board of directors ultimately plans to commemorate Lawton’s birthday each year with free admission, “but not this year due to COVID-19,” McClenny said. Lawton was founded on August 6, 1901.