Fort Caspar Museum will remain open year-round.
The city was considering seasonal closures at the regional history museum as part of an ongoing effort to reduce expenditures, but the Casper City Council ultimately nixed the idea at a meeting Tuesday.
“I’m willing to spend $167,000 to keep that museum open,” said Councilman Chris Walsh, adding that he thinks it’s a positive asset to the community.
City staff estimated that closing the facility from Nov. 1 to April 30 would save $167,000 each year and have a minimal impact on residents since most of the museum’s foot traffic occurs outside of this time frame.
But about 50 residents voiced concerns about seasonal closures during a meeting on the issue last month. Many explained that the museum’s staff uses the slower season to create new exhibits, work on grant writing and care for the property and artifacts.
“I believe that my constituents have sent me a very clear message [to keep the museum open],” said Councilman Dallas Laird.
Vice Mayor Charlie Powell and Councilman Bob Hopkins also supported keeping the facility open full-time but said the city must push museum staff to find other sources of funding to reduce its reliance on city subsidies.
Councilwoman and former mayor, Kenyne Humphrey, on the other hand, disagreed with the bulk of Council. While she recognized that the museum was beloved by many community members, she reminded the Council that they had instructed city staff to find ways to reduce spending. Humphrey said seasonal closures were a reasonable option, given that most visitors do not stop by during the winter months.
Con Trumbull, the president of the museum’s association, said after the meeting that he was a “bit surprised” by the Council’s decision.
“We are pretty excited that the City Council listened to all of the [museum’s] supporters,” he remarked.
About 25,000 people visit the museum annually, which features a reconstructed 1865 military post, as well as exhibits on prehistoric people, Plains Indians, ranching, the energy industry and frontier Army life.
City Manager Carter Napier previously told the Star-Tribune that the city is trying to decrease expenditures in order to reduce its reliance on state funding.
Wyoming’s local governments have limited means of raising funds, which leaves them largely dependent on appropriations from the state Legislature. Local leaders are subsequently uncertain about the level of funding they can expect to receive from year to year.