Two council members would give Tallman House back

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October 30, 2008
— Two Janesville City Council members on Wednesday suggested giving the Tallman House back to the Tallmans.

As it was, the council during the 2009 budget study session cut about half of the proposed subsidy to the Janesville landmark.

The administration had recommended that the city once again grant a subsidy of $57,597 plus $4,400 for grounds maintenance.

The council reduced the subsidy in a compromise of sorts between Tom McDonald, who preferred to give the Tallman House nothing, and Bill Truman, who called it a “Janesville jewel.”

Kathy Voskuil also was against such a large cut in the subsidy.

Several different numbers were mentioned in the discussion, and city officials were not sure this morning exactly what level of subsidy the council intended. Comptroller Patty Lynch said she believes the intent was to give the Rock County Historical Society a subsidy of $31,000 plus $4,400 for grounds maintenance.

McDonald said Wednesday night the city couldn’t afford a subsidy when it keeps borrowing and draining its reserves just to keep the city running.

Council member George Brunner said a cut in subsidy might send a message to the Tallman Trust that its money should go to support the Tallman House rather than the historical society. Now, about $15,000 of the trust money goes to the house, said Mike Williams, leisure services director.

The council also faces major maintenance projects at the house.

Steeber first suggested giving the house to the historical society. The city owns the house while the society runs the museum. But Jay Winzenz, acting city manager, said the Tallman family gifted the home to the city to be used as a historical site. It would revert to the Tallman Trust if it no longer is used for that purpose.

“Give it back to the Tallman Trust,” Steeber said.

McDonald said he would have “absolutely no problem” with that.

“Frankly, people in this town just don’t use it anymore,” he said.

About 4,400 people visited the Tallman House last year.

While Steeber spoke out against most other budget cuts suggested by other council members, he agreed with this one.

“It doesn’t impact our emergency services and our core services,” he said. “This is more of a quality-of-life issue. If you’re going to have to cut something out of the budget … this is the one area I feel would be reasonable to cut.”

Council president Amy Loasching recalled that the council had a similar conversation last year. Then, she said, the council had agreed to cut the 2009 subsidy in half.

That was done to give the city and the historical society time to work on the future of the tourist attraction.

Truman asked how council members could eliminate the $57,000 subsidy but turn around and pledge money to build and subsidize a children’s museum, as it did this summer.

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