Hoover Site facing $79K cut
by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · March 01, 2013

The Hoover Historic Site must reduce part-time interpreters and other seasonal workers in an effort to find more than $79,000 in its budget unless Congress can avert automatic federal budget cuts by Friday.

The park’s current budget amounts to about $1.382 million and, should the sequester come to pass, would drop to about $1.303 million. The cut amounts to about 5.1 percent of its budget.

The “sequester” cuts are actually the first wave of about $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts over 10 years, put in place by Congress during a debt ceiling compromise in 2011. The idea was that the automatic cuts would be so bad that Congress would be prompted to act. The first wave amounts to between $44 billion and $85 billion.

Hoover Site Superintendent Pete Swisher said some 4,000 students and visitors will swarm the site in the spring, and it will be difficult to afford enough interpreters — tour guides — to handle such crowds.

Second, maintenance and ground crews will also feel the impact, he said. That means less mowing outside the park’s historic core — the birthplace cottage and the Hoover gravesite. It also means the prairie trails and backyards of other buildings will receive less care.

Also, there would be no room in the budget for the blacksmith to return.

“We are still able to protect the park,” Swisher said. “That’s our mandate. I don’t anticipate any jeopardy to buildings or safety.”

Cutting seasonal staff makes up about three-quarters of the $79,000, he said.

Swisher said his staff will also have to weigh the value of current contracts and consider dropping them or renegotiating them. For example, the park contracts the City of West Branch to plow its roads for $6,000 each winter to get the Hoover Complex reopened faster after a snow storm.

He said if that must be done in-house, it would take longer to reopen, and tourists who might spend money here on gas and food may turn away.

The park will likely discontinue some of its extra programs, like Beyond Pesticides, which is a turf care program that uses natural products over pesticides.

The impact may seem larger than an annual cut, Swisher said, because the federal budget year began in October, so Hoover Park must make up the cuts with only seven months remaining.

Swisher said he hopes Congress can make a deal so the park can continue “business as ususal.”

He noted that Hoover Park received a 100 percent user satisfaction rating last year.

“I would hate to see us jeopardize that,” he said.

Swisher said the park runs a “strong” volunteer program and would invite anyone willing to volunteer to help out, especially with schoolchildren, if the cuts are necessary.

The Artists In Residence program will run as planned, though, he said. The artists selected are put up in housing on the site and must feed themselves. The park essentially only pays utilities for the visiting artists.

“That’s a low-dollar investment,” he said. “But there is still a lot of value in having them here.”

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