Museum staffers’ access remains limited

Walter Elwood Museum’s three staff members are still allowed to enter the shut-down museum building

Walter Elwood Museum’s three staff members are still allowed to enter the shut-down museum building only with an escort from the Greater Amsterdam School District.

The Board of Education stood by its position Wednesday during a special meeting.

“We felt that nothing had changed since our last decision and we were still concerned about various health and safety issues,” Gina DeRossi, president of the Board of Education, said Thursday.

Ann Peconie, director of the museum, said she wanted the staff to regain free access to the building to continue work associated with state and federal grants the museum has already received.

The school board authorized Superintendent Thomas Perillo to prepare bid specifications for appraisal firms to determine the fair market value of the building at 300 Guy Park Ave.

“We want to know the value of the building for the future, if we ever went down the path of selling it,” DeRossi said.

Meanwhile, the school board was informed that the state Department of Education deems it illegal for districts to subsidize a nonprofit organization with taxpayer money.

The Walter Elwood Museum leases the building for $1, which is much lower than the market value for renting the space, so that could be seen as the district subsidizing the museum, a nonprofit organization. The museum has been in the former school building for four decades.

DeRossi said the Board of Education wants a written statement from the Department of Education on that issue by the board’s next meeting, Wednesday, Sept. 24.

“What we’re arguing about could be moot, if that is the case,” DeRossi said of the state’s position.

Peconie sent a letter to the Board of Education last month asking for immediate action on the problem of bats in the building.

One of the museum’s staff members, who was cataloging various museum artifacts from the attic, became ill as a result of the bat feces.

The Board of Education acted immediately and voted to close the building.

“We understand the hardship [of the museum] and it’s unfortunate the way it’s going,” DeRossi said. “Hopefully we can get this stuff straightened out sooner rather than later.”

Peconie was unavailable for comment Thursday.

Categories: Schenectady County

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