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Have any good ideas to raise money? If so, Sykesville's Economic Development Committee needs you.

The committee needs good ideas to help fund facilities and events in Sykesville thanks to a new mission it received last week from the mayor and Town Council.

The council voted 5-0 at its April 27 meeting to task the committee with finding ways to increase revenue for the Gate House Museum of History, the Historic Colored Schoolhouse, the Old Main Line Visitors Center and Post Office; as well as for parks and events.

That mission stems from meetings where officials discussed making those operations more self-sufficient, according to Town Manager Matt Candland.

The council has introduced a proposed fiscal 2010 budget of $2.7 million, and will hold a public hearing on it at 7 p.m., May 11, at the Town House.

Talks about the Gate House Museum, 7283 Cooper Drive, and the post office, 731 Oklahoma Ave., have taken a contentious tone over the past few years, as some have suggested the Gate House and post office be closed or combined.

Gate House director Kari Greenwalt said that as in most cases, people who are unhappy speak up; while those who are satisfied are usually mum.

"There are many people in the town that do support this museum, the schoolhouse, the post office and the visitors center, and perhaps those people are not being represented in the (budget committee) meeting, as well," she said.

The town is expected to pay about $40,400 in fiscal 2010 to fund the Gate House Museum. When divided by the estimated population of 4,417, that equates to about $9.15 per resident.

As for the post office, manager Jean Maher said it would help people understand the expenses if the town broke out the post office's cost in the budget. The post office's operating costs are shared with the Interlocking Tower, which also has public rest rooms, a water fountain and a rental space tied to its expenses.

The town is expected to subsidize the post office in fiscal 2010 for about $44,000. That's about $9.96 per resident.

Maher pointed out that post offices are rarely profitable -- it's a service that the government provides because private businesses would have a challenge making money.

Councilman Scott Sanzone said one focus for the town is finding ways to rent out the space above the post office more often. The town recently started hosting Saturday art classes at the visitors center.

"You use that to bring in revenue, and at least the whole building would be self-sustaining," he said. "We have a nice visitors' center that sits empty for the most part."

Council members Jeannie Nichols and Frank Robert said they heard from town staff at those centers that there is not enough hours or manpower to devote more time to seeking sponsors and additional funds, so Nichols and Robert believe it's best to find a larger entity to assist them -- hence the mission for the Economic Development Committee.

The Economic Development Committee will meet 7 p.m., May 19, at the Town House, 7547 Main St., Sykesville.


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