The Defiance County Historical Society’s request for a proposed ballot issue to fund AuGlaize Village has been sent to county commissioners.
The organization sent the letter following its Nov. 14 board meeting, when incoming president Trish Speiser mentioned the possibility of a 0.25-mill, dedicated property tax levy for maintenance and operation of AuGlaize Village.
Located on Krouse Road west of Defiance, the grounds of AuGlaize Village — which provides artifacts and information about life in the 1800s and early 1900s — are owned by county commissioners and maintained/operated by the historical society.
The letter sent recently to commissioners was signed by the historical society’s executive board.
It stated that at the Nov. 14 meeting, “those present were in unanimous agreement that we cannot sign the proposed lease you have given us. Therefore, we are writing to reiterate that we are not willing to become tenants with 100% responsibility for repairs and maintenance of Defiance County’s AuGlaize Village. We remain willing to negotiate an updated management agreement.
“We are also requesting clarification on our millage request,” the letter added. “Can we be placed on the ballot for a quarter mill in dedicated support from the Defiance County citizens? We feel this comes down to the community and what they want to see done with the village. We asked you that question at a few of our meetings, and again Thursday before the monthly meeting. The Crescent-News reported our proposed request and we emailed your office on Monday. We will ask the question again … Can you place this issue on the ballot?”
“We realize this is a lot to think about and formally request a one-year extension on our current management agreement,” the letter concluded. “We wait with anticipation for a response.”
Commissioner Gary Plotts said Thursday the request has been turned over to the county prosecutor’s office for a legal opinion.
“If we can put it on, that would be something we’d consider,” he said. “We’re waiting for a legal opinion.”
However, he is opposed to placing a levy on the ballot for that purpose.
“I don’t feel right putting on a levy for AuGlaize Village,” he said. “That’s my position.”
The organization has expressed frustration with how commissioners provide for AuGlaize Village expenses. The commissioners have provided funds year-by-year, including $14,000 in 2019, along with $4,000 toward a part-time education coordinator from May through October.
But the historical society would like a more predictable annual amount for planning purposes. That caused Speiser to propose at the Nov. 14 meeting a dedicated tax issue to deal with the funding matter as well.
The ballot issue request comes amidst a dispute between the organization and commissioners about a lease for the facility.
Commissioners proposed a new lease some time ago, noting that the operating agreement is under terms of an outdated contract reached in 1975. They want a new lease in which commissioners would discuss village funding annually, while the historical society would be responsible for its maintenance.
Both sides are at an impasse over the lease proposal.
Plotts, for example, noted that commissioners already tried to negotiate with the historical society, but to no avail.
“We already tried to work with them,” he said. “They don’t want to sign the lease. We want to work this out. We don’t want AuGlaize Village to go away. Hopefully, over time things can calm down and level heads can prevail. It’s beneficial for both parties for them to be out there and serving the public.”
But he added that “we have to have an updated contract. Times have changed.”
During their Nov. 14 meeting, board members expressed no interest in a lease, however. They prefer a management agreement with regular funding assured.
Speiser took exception to the characterization of an agreement as a lease in the past, saying at the Nov. 14 meeting that “we do not currently, nor have we ever, had a lease with them for AuGlaize Village.”