Broward Politics

BROWARD BUDGET AXE

County Historical Commission
office eliminated


By Brittany Wallman
October 22, 2010

A victim of this year's budget slashing, the county's small staff charged with gathering, protecting, displaying and evangelizing Broward's history had its entire $275,000 budget deleted last week, as county commissioners avoided a large property tax rate increase and approved a new budget.

The historical commission staff had enjoyed the opening of a new office in February, in the freshly renovated historic West Side School in Fort Lauderdale's Sailboat Bend neighborhood. By the cruel timing of fate, the "Broward County Historical Commission" sign finally went up on the building last week, the morning after the office's budget was eliminated.

History buffs, only now catching word of the cut, are galvanizing, asking county commissioners to reconsider.

"The action is both short-sighted and will actually cost the county more money," historic preservationist Charles Jordan told Broward commissioners in an e-mail this week.

Three full-time staff will lose their jobs, their duties taken over by the county's libraries division.
Jordan argued that the county would have to pay consultants to do the work of the lost employees, because those at the libraries division don't have it.

County Administrator Bertha Henry said there has been no decision or recommendation to close the freshly renovated former school. Jordan said the county spent more than $2.4 million renovating it.

It's possible the three employees will be hired into other county jobs. Henry said the county will "do our best to save as many as possible" from outright layoffs. "No guarantees," she added.

Dave Baber, the soon-to-be former Broward historic preservation officer, said he's "disappointed" the job he's "passionate" about will disappear.

"This is more than just a job to me,'' he said.

The Historical Commission has had staff since the 1970s. After a 90-day transition period, the county will be left with just an archaeologist working under contract, whose presence is required under the county code.

Historical Commission board member Steve Glassman called Baber's office "the keeper of our history."

Among other things, the staff collects and maintains artifacts and archives, holds monthly education brown-bag lunch sessions — 60 people attended Thursday's session, Glassman said -- and organizes the annual Pioneer Day, coming up Saturday to mark the county's 95th anniversary.

Glassman said libraries staff doesn't have the expertise needed.

"It's like if Bertha Henry called you up tomorrow and said you need to take over for Dr. Perper. Can you be the medical examiner?" he said.

But libraries Director Bob Cannon said he is comfortable his division can assume the duties without loss to the public — though he's still evaluating how to assume the preservation work that Baber did in Broward.

"It's a change, and it's upsetting to people," Cannon said, "but we're in severe economic times. ... It's going to be a challenge, but we're up to it."

Cannon said public access to the preserved materials will remain open, and he will attempt to keep the educational programs going, perhaps even adding to them.

"Nothing will be lost," he said.

 

First Historical Commission Page