Museum receives tourism grant
The Sparta Finance Committee approved a $3,000 grant from the city's tourism account Wednesday for the Deke Slayton Space & Bicycle Museum.
The museum requested the money to help it bring a traveling space exhibit to the city this coming June 15 for its 20th anniversary celebration. The space exhibit will have 20 interactive displays, including a zero-gravity chair, a moon rover and a zero-gravity toilet.
The cost to bring the exhibit to Sparta is $9,000. The museum has already secured a $3,000 contribution from the Sparta Chamber and has tentative confirmation of another $3,000 grant from Monroe County.
Joanne Hagan, museum board president, made the request for city funds. "We're expecting the event to be a huge draw with people traveling from surrounding communities to attend," she said.
Alli Karrels, museum director and a city council member, was in the audience. She said the traveling space exhibit is privately owned by Iver Johnson, a space enthusiast who met Deke Slayton and has worked with NASA.
"Unless you've actually trained as an astronaut, you'd never be able to try any of these things we're bringing to town," she said.
The day-long celebration will be centered around the traveling exhibit, which will be set up in front of the museum and on the courthouse lawn. It will include bike activities, a cookout, music, activities for kids and complimentary sundaes.
Karrels said she is soliciting businesses for sponsorships to help fund some of the other activates.
Finance Committee Chairman Kevin Riley said the event fits the purpose of the tourism fund. Organizations can request money from the tourism fund for purposes that draw visitors to Sparta.
The tourism fund gets its money from a 7% city room tax. The fund currently stands at around $86,000 but a little less than $9,000 is given out in a single year.
In other business, the committee agreed to raise the wages for poll workers, whose pay is among the lowest in the area, according to a survey compiled by Monroe County Clerk Shelley Bohl.
The committee raised the wage of the chief inspector from $8 an hour to $10, and increased poll worker pay from $7.50 an hour to $8.50. Poll workers man the city's polling station only during election day when they typically put in 16 hours, according to City Clerk Julie Hanson.
"That is one of the more important duties of democracy," said Riley. "It seems like we should be paying them a little more than minimum age."