Security funds sought for museum, high school

By Tom Joyce -
Mount Airy Museum of Regional History on North Main Street, where security concerns have emerged, is pictured Wednesday afternoon. -

On the surface, a museum and high school athletic fields don’t appear to be major crime areas, but that hasn’t stopped city funding from being requested for two such locations in Mount Airy to upgrade security.

That includes $26,989 sought for that purpose at Mount Airy Museum of Regional History located downtown, and $7,500 by the city school system which targets Mount Airy High School.

The security requests are included among outside agency funding proposals submitted to the city government this spring as part of its yearly budget-preparation process.

Along with the museum, organizations including the Surry Arts Council, Mount Airy Rescue Squad and Northwestern Regional Library system (which also receive funding from other sources) have submitted requests to the city government to supplement their budgets for years.

The Mount Airy school system most recently was added to the list, based on a move initiated by the commissioners to consider an annual special appropriation for school security.

This occurred after a total of $15,000 in safety grants was appropriated by the commissioners over a two-year period for surveillance cameras and other security needs at Mount Airy High.

Museum seeks sizable hike

The regional library system is requesting a $1,000 increase in city funding for the 2018-2019 fiscal year that begins on July 1, for a total of $104,650 to help support its public library in Mount Airy. The rescue squad is asking for $10,000, compared to $7,500 appropriated for the present fiscal year, and the Surry Arts Council $87,500, the same sum given for 2017-2018.

Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, which was allocated $10,000 this year, is seeking an increase of nearly $52,000 in city funding for 2018-2019, a total of $61,989.

The bulk of that, $26,989, is targeted for a security system upgrade in response to “some recent and ongoing criminal activity in the downtown area,” according to Matt Edwards, executive director of the museum.

This allocation would allow a high-resolution digital video camera and recording system to be installed throughout the building and grounds.

“There have been a number of criminal incidents in the area around the museum, ranging from mischievous vandalism and property damage (including at our facility) to more serious issues at neighboring establishments,” Edwards said in a formal request for the city dollars.

The museum director explained that the facility now is equipped with a basic perimeter/burglar alarm system. But it does not allow for “active monitoring” of the nearly 40,000 square feet of public space in the museum, restricted staff areas or the grounds, Edwards added.

“Securing the (museum) collection and the safety of our patrons and staff is always a challenge.”

The museum is seeking an additional $10,000 in the capital projects category for HVAC replacement costs, as part of an ongoing effort to phase out units that are reaching the end of their service lives.

“Climate control is critically important to our ability to preserve and care for the artifacts,” Edwards’ funding request states.

It also seeks more city aid for museum operational costs, from this year’s $10,000 to $25,000 for 2018-2019.

“The increases in this year’s request reflect our stated belief that there should be an increased level of public support for the existing arts and cultural institutions serving Mount Airy,” Edwards argues in his request.

High school security

Meanwhile, the $7,500 in municipal funding requested by the city schools would enhance safety at Mount Airy High School, according to Jason Dorsett, the district’s chief operations officer.

That allocation is sought to add surveillance equipment to help monitor the football, baseball and softball field areas of the high school.

The camera system would provide security support during events and at unoccupied times on nights and weekends.

Any additional funding needed for the upgrade would come from city school coffers, Dorsett pointed out in his formal request.

Jon Cawley, a member of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners who also is head baseball coach at the high school, said the security upgrades are needed.

“We have had some vandalism in our dugouts,” Cawley said earlier this month regarding a need to secure such areas at times when they are not occupied.

The funding requests from the various outside agencies were presented on May 1 to the city Finance Committee — made up of commissioners Shirley Brinkley and Steve Yokeley.

However, they made no recommendations on any of the allocations sought, delaying that until after another committee meeting next week when agency officials, including the museum director and others, can be on hand to discuss the requests.

Mount Airy Museum of Regional History on North Main Street, where security concerns have emerged, is pictured Wednesday afternoon. Airy Museum of Regional History on North Main Street, where security concerns have emerged, is pictured Wednesday afternoon.

By Tom Joyce

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.