Management of KC memorial may transfer to private organization

Monday, January 19, 2004

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The management of Liberty Memorial could be transferred to a private group on Feb. 1, just two months before residents vote on a $20 million bond issue for the memorial.

The Liberty Memorial Association, which created the monument and is trying to raise money for a new museum, would take over daily control of the monument from the city if the city council eventually approves a contract with the group.

The Board of Parks and Recreation Commissioners on Tuesday will consider a management contract that foresees an end to annual city subsidies in 10 years.

If voters approve $20 million in city-backed bonds, it would help build the proposed $26 million museum, which would feature high-tech interactive displays and the nation's largest collection of World War I artifacts.

The city would contribute $625,000 a year for overhead costs, which is what the Parks and Recreation Department now spends on the memorial, according to parks Director Mark McHenry. That subsidy would end in 2014, assuming that by then the Liberty Memorial Association would be operating a successful enterprise.

"As a not-for-profit, we are eligible for a number of grants" that the city is not, said Steve Berkheiser, executive director of the Liberty Memorial Association. "And you have a staff whose only focus and only purpose is the Liberty Memorial in terms of promoting, marketing, leveraging ideas and volunteers."

The Liberty Memorial and its grounds in Penn Valley Park would remain public property. The more than 400,000 World War I artifacts in the collection would remain the property of the association.

The Liberty Memorial Association projects a $1.5 million operating budget for 2004, with a staff of 13 full-time employees. That would be funded through the city's contribution, the interest from the endowment and other revenue generated by the association.

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