Board members still emptying Roy Historic Museum

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 12:19 PM

Rachel J. Trotter

ROY — The Roy Historical Museum officially closed its doors in May, but the board is still clearing stuff out so it can turn the building over to the Roy Water Conservancy by June 30.

Museum Director Jan Piepgrass said she, along with many others, is sad about the closing. The museum was opened about 14 years ago by longtime Roy resident Emma Russell and the Field family — one of the first families in Roy. Faye Field has still been involved with the museum, but because of her age couldn’t devote as much time as she would have liked to.

Piepgrass spent a recent day sifting through items in the museum, which is actually in the city of Riverdale, just north of the Hill Air Force Aerospace Museum.

Piepgrass said the museum wasn’t making enough money to stay open and pay for expenses. There is also an ongoing legal battle involving longtime board members Shirley and Richard Dickinson, Piepgrass and the museum board. Richard Dickinson served as the museum’s treasurer for many years.

Piepgrass came on the scene in 2012 when her sister, who was president, became ill. At that time, Piepgrass said she found a number of discrepancies with the books and started questioning Richard Dickinson.

Dickinson’s wife, Shirley, said Piepgrass started making what she says are false accusations against her and her husband about money spent at a local big box store. The two have taken the dispute to the Riverdale city justice court, where the claims are still being worked out.

At any rate, both parties say they are sad to see the museum close and they concur that money was at the heart of the issue.

“We just had no way to keep money coming in,” Shirley Dickinson said.

For the last few years the museum has struggled to keep its doors open, often coming to the city of Roy to ask for help.

“They kept telling us they wouldn’t let us close, but did nothing to help us stay open,” Piepgrass said of the city.

Mayor Joe Ritchie said he too iss sad to see the museum close, but said the city was not in any place to help fund the museum. The city always helped with the art show in the summer, but beyond that, the city couldn’t help with other budgeting issues, he said.

“It’s a shame when something like that closes down,” Ritchie said, adding that it was something the city couldn’t control.

“It wasn’t even in the city anymore,” he said.

At one time the museum was in the Roy, but it was moved to Riverdale when a bigger facility was found.

Piepgrass said she and other committee members were disappointed that the city didn’t help out more, but Ritchie said it was nothing personal.

“Personalities did not enter in. We were dealing with taxpayers’ dollars,” Ritchie said.

The museum has always operated as a nonprofit group and thrived on private donations and grants for many years, but those started to run dry along with visitors. Piepgrass said the museum counted on visitors from the Aerospace Museum, but when that museum’s funding was cut as well, the historical museum could no longer count on visitors having access through the Aerospace Museum parking lot.

Joyce Trujillo, who worked for the museum for about a year through special funding from the county and who then volunteered for a few more years, said the fighting between Piepgrass and the Dickinsons got to be too much for her, and she resigned her volunteer time. She said she loved being at the museum for a number of years and is sad that the museum shut its doors. Since she left, she said, she hasn’t really looked back, because the arguing made things so difficult.

“I left a vacuum there, but decided it wasn’t worth my time to go back for it,” she said.

As Piepgrass sat in the virtually empty museum, she said getting rid of most of the items wasn’t too difficult. Some items were returned to the families’ that donated them, and many things were donated to other museums, some as far away as Montana. Some of the items were sold, and that money will go to pay some remaining bills.

Piepgrass said closing the museum has been a lot of work for the small committee. She doesn’t know what will happen with the log cabin-type building, but said Roy Water Conservancy will make those decisions. Suggestions of a reception center or recreation hall have been brought up.

Piepgrass said, “It’s not ours to decide anymore.”

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