Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009 | 1:44 p.m.
CARSON CITY – Construction on a new state museum in Las Vegas will be completed in April but the facility, described as the “flagship” of the state’s system, probably won’t open until mid-2011.
The $46 million museum is one of many casualties of the state budget crunch.
Without $6.2 million for exhibits, the museum won’t be able to open, lawmakers were told during a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee and the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.
Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, criticized the delay in opening the Las Vegas museum, saying “We can’t have a building sitting empty.”
Michael Fischer, director of the state Department of Cultural Affairs, said he has tried to raise private donations to finance the work but hasn’t been successful.
Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, has said the state may come up with money for exhibits.
But Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said he would have a “tough time” approving money for the museum when there are proposed closures of three or four museums and layoffs of workers. Because of budget cuts all state museums will open only four days a week instead of seven.
Fischer said his department is looking at creative ways to use the new museum, which “has a great special events area.”
The hearing drew a packed crowd of more than 150 people protesting major reductions in the budget.
Among the proposed cuts detailed during the hearing are:
- Museums and history programs would see a $5.2 million, or a 40 percent, cut and a 45 percent reduction in staffs.
- A reduction in hours at the state library. Appointments will be necessary to examine records in the state archives.
- Funding for Nevada Humanities, a nonprofit group that provides humanities activities and educational programs, would be eliminated. The state has provided $100,000 a year for the program.
- A 52 percent cut in state funding for the Nevada Arts Council and 35 percent to the state Library and Archives.
- The budget of the Lost City Museum in Southern Nevada is being reduced from $1 million to $758,400.
Fischer ended on an optimistic note at the end of the hearing. “We still have a skeleton on which to build” when times improve, he said.
Cy Ryan may be reached at (775) 687 5032 or [email protected].