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Council endorses cuts for York Co. museums

The York County Council on Monday night endorsed a plan set forth by the new leaders of the county's museums to cut several director positions from museum staff.

They thanked the seven new members of the Culture and Heritage Commission, which oversees the museums, for taking on a difficult task while facing adversity.

The plan eliminates director positions created several years ago in anticipation of a new museum along the Catawba River which was never built.

The plan also adds managers who will carry out various museum operations, and two site managers who will oversee the museums' four existing sites -Historic Brattonsville in McConnells, the McCelvey Center in York, and the Museum of York County and Main Street Children's Museum in Rock Hill.

The staffing plan is a starting place, said Jonell Hagner, a member of the commission.

The plan is "fluid" and might change if staff - in transitioning to the new lineup - find they need additional or fewer employees, she said at a County Council meeting Monday night.

Most "employees' responsibilities will remain the same, and some people might have new duties," Hagner said.

Former museum employee and Brattonsville volunteer Elaine Sprinkle said she's glad to see the changes taking place. She's been disappointed with what she says has been a decline in programs and volunteers at Brattonsville over the years.

A site manager to oversee daily activities and "get out and help" on the site will help improve Brattonsville, she said.

Jim McGill, a former commissioner, said he's worried that same level of programming "may suffer" when staff are cut. "But I'm also the guy who's going to continue supporting (the museums)."

McGill served on the 21-member commission county leaders replaced last year with the new panel after accusations of poor oversight. County leaders asked the new commission to evaluate the museums' staff and finances and make changes where necessary.

Council Chairman Britt Blackwell and council member Bruce Henderson expressed disappointment in negative feedback the commission has received.

Commissioner David Plexico said the process hasn't been easy.

"While some employees and directors have been helpful, a number have hindered our progress," he said. "We've been described as incompetent and accused of trying to destroy the museums. I can assure you neither of these allegations are true."

Henderson asked for "civility toward commissioners who have gone out of their way to perform a public service."

The council approved the staffing plan in a 4-2 vote, with Blackwell, Henderson, David Bowman and Curwood Chappell voting for it. Eric Winstead was absent.

Bowman called the whole process including cutting employees "gut-wrenching."

"None of us take the loss of jobs lightly," he said. But Bowman said some trimming was in order, "as much as it hurts me to see people lose jobs," he said.

Council members Chad Williams and Bump Roddey opposed the plan. Roddey said he didn't know enough about museum staff's jobs to endorse the changes. Williams wanted more information about salaries, which weren't included in the plan.

"It is what it is," said Steve Fields, long-time museum naturalist, after the meeting.

Fields said he and the staff have seen the museum through many changes already. He feels confident the museums will make it through the transition.

"The staff has always risen to the occasion when changes came and will do it again."

In other action

A plan to realign the county's seven voting districts received the second of three approvals. The process helps redistribute populations in districts affected by rapid growth over the past decade. The county will hold a public hearing in September.

New county employees who retire from the county will no longer receive retirement health benefits. The county gave final approval to end the benefits program. The decision does not affect benefits for current county workers. No one spoke for or against the plan at a public hearing last month.

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