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Museum Annex Purchase Approved
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Riverbank City Council members have approved buying the downtown property next to the city museum for use as an annex.

The city will purchase the building and property at 3231and 3233 Santa Fe for $65,000 so the Riverbank Historical Society has space to display a 1925 Riverbank fire truck and has room for revolving exhibits and more storage space.

Even if the currently empty and dilapidated building proves too expensive to repair and must be replaced, the land alone is worth the price and a solid financial investment for the city, said City Manager Rich Holmer.

When the idea was first proposed on the consent agenda on Dec. 21, the council delayed a decision in search of more information, Vice Mayor Sandra Benitez made the motion to buy the building, but councilmember Dave White abstained and the three other members asked for more research.

At the Jan. 11 meeting, however, the three members present decided fairly quickly to approve the purchase. Councilmember Dave White had advised staff in advance he would be on vacation in Hawaii and councilman Jesse James White phoned in sick.

Historical Society President Leanne Jones said her group was most anxious for the city to acquire the property, which is right next door to the museum. They cannot expand the existing museum because it was built with federal Carnegie Library funds and is listed on the National Historic Register.

But the Society needs more space to display exhibits such as an early 1900s organ and many donations from the Royal Neighbors of America.

Councilmember Danny Fielder asked a number of questions on when the society meets (once a month), when the museum is open (generally 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Saturdays), and how it is staffed (by society volunteers known as docents).

Holmer suggested that with extra space for display and storage the museum could have "revolving exhibits," quilt displays for instance, or Christmas seasonal displays like those at the McHenry Museum in Modesto.

As to the funding, Finance Director Marisela Hernandez said the city has $135,000 set aside for repair and rehabilitation. So the city is not robbing other funds, Benitez noted.

Community Development Director J.D. Hightower said in a written memorandum that if the current museum wants to improve, it must expand. With expanded exhibits it could draw more interest, stay open longer hours and provide an additional tourist attraction as the whole redevelopment project was intended to do for the downtown area.

Mayor Virginia Madueno, Fielder and others stressed the value of a museum in educating local children and fostering their pride in the town and Hightower noted a thriving cultural scene is more likely to attract educated workers to the new industrial park proposed at the old ammo plant.