Hanford Community Development Director Darlene Mata and Hanford City Attorney Ty Mizote arrived 10am sharp on September 3 for a final inspection of the Hanford Carnegie Museum to determine if the private nonprofit would lose its lease to the city-owned building.
Museum volunteers waited anxiously as Mata and Mizote took pictures while inspecting the buildings and grounds. About 15 minutes after they returned to the city offices, Mata called the Museum Board President Sylvia Gonzales Scherer and told her that they were impressed with all they work they had done and that the city would not be issuing an eviction notice.
At issue during the last few months leading up to the final inspection was the fact that the 115 year-old former Carnegie Library was not being properly maintained by Hanford Carnegie Museum, Inc. as required by its lease. The museum received a letter August 23 outlining 18 repairs that needed to be completed by September 3 if it wanted to remain in the building.
As of last Friday the last major repair to be completed was the wrought iron fence. Concerning cracks in the building’s facade, it was Scherer’s understanding that the city and museum would be requesting a formal structural inspection of the building and that the cracks were off the table for now.
Emily Burnias, member of the local AMVETs, said that the wrought iron fence was sanded and repainted over the Labor Day weekend.
“When it comes to female veterans we don’t fool around. We get it done,” she said.
She added that the task facing the museum volunteers was nearly impossible but that the city managed to “bring together former enemies to work together to keep the museum open and that is what community is all about.”
Towards the end of the inspection, Steve Alfieris, an attorney with Dias Law Firm representing the museum, told a crowd anxious for news that nothing definitive had been decided during the walk through but that he was optimistic.
Alfieris confirmed that work on the fence had been completed on time but that the city still had an issue with an apple tree in the courtyard. He said that Mata informed him that it was not on the city’s list of approved trees.
He said that at this point we need to start asking not what the city wants but why. “Why has the city been leaning on the museum recently?”
He said that the repairs took a herculean effort to complete and that it was unreasonable to expect a nonprofit to accomplish what the city was asking them to do.
“We need to get back as to why. The more that the nonprofit has to spend on emergency repairs and attorney fees the more it weakens the museum.”
A follow-up meeting on the inspection is scheduled for Thursday September 5 at 9am. The meeting will likely closed to the public because it involves a lease but people are invited to wait in the lobby for updates. The meeting will be at the city’s staff office at 317 N. Douty St.
“As far as we are concerned we are not in breach of the lease,” said Alfieris.
Though relieved by the good news,
Scherer still thought it was unjust and a little cruel to expect volunteers to work in over 100-degree heat to get the repairs done on time. But that didn’t stop people from showing up.
On Friday a plumber from WCCC Plumbing in Hanford drove up to the museum, got out of his truck, and asked to see the broken sink. Scherer said he had the sink replaced within hours. Many supporters of the museum who haven’t been heard before wanted to come out and help, said Scherer.
Scherer said that since the museum got the repair letter that it has received donations from as far away as New York and Washington DC.
Scherer called an emergency board meeting when she first received the daunting list of repairs. “I saw a grown man cry,” she said. But another board member said let’s work together to get this done. “If the ship sinks we will go down together, but we will go down fighting.”