Aug 272012


LITCHFIELD — The Litchfield City Council earlier this month discussed allowing the city’s tourism coordinator to work out of the new Litchfield Museum & Route 66 Welcome Center, but postponed a vote on the issue until organizers present a detailed business plan.

Organizers of the museum, which is under construction on the former site of the Vic Suhling gas station on Historic Route 66, still are putting together a plan that will include a request for funding from the city.

City administrator Andy Ritchie said the council wants to be sure tourism coordinator Carol Burke won’t end up running the museum if volunteer staff members don’t show up as scheduled.

“We’re just making sure the tax money for the city tourism coordinator is being used for city tourism,” Ritchie said.

The history

In addition to wanting the tourism coordinator to work out of the new museum, organizers asked the city for hotel-motel tax money to help pay for furnishings and displays in the Art Deco-inspired building.

Organizers initially requested $100,000. After whittling that down to $20,000, the city council in July said it needed more detail on how the money would be spent .

Delaying the decisions is not a sign of “malice” or “a negative thought process” about the museum, Ritchie said.

City officials support the project, but also need to make sure they’re being good stewards of taxpayers’ money, he said.

In fact, Ritchie took a 2,402-mile bike trip along Route 66 this summer to raise money for the museum. He started from Santa Monica Pier in California and, after 30 days of riding, arrived in Chicago on June 10.

The trip has raised about $15,000 so far, and Ritchie said he’s still collecting on some pledges.

What’s next?

Martha Jackson, president of the nonprofit Litchfield Museum & Route 66 Welcome Center Association, said the group hopes to present its business plan and funding proposal to the city council at its October meeting.

The museum, which Jackson dreamed up as a way to share local artifacts her husband, the late Dave Jackson, gathered while working at the Litchfield News-Herald newspaper, is expected to open this fall.

An exact date has not been set, Jackson said.

By Dan Petrella -The State Journal-Register

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