Ellwood House operations now under district’s control

By Lisa Ferro

The Ellwood House Museum will open today, not under the operation of the Ellwood House Association as it has for years, but under the operation of the DeKalb Park District.

For 25 years, the Ellwood House Association has operated and maintained the Ellwood House Museum under a lease agreement with the park district.

But when the contract came up for one of its five-year renewals, park district board members said because of legal reasons they would give the association three options. With two of the options, the park board would have jurisdiction over either the museum director or the museum itself. With the other option, the Ellwood House would be the true vendor of the museum.

The Ellwood House Association opted not to renew the agreement and to find a viable solution with the park board. At the park board’s January meeting, members of the association gathered to find a solution; however, they were told they would have to wait two months for the park board to formulate its strategic plan.

Ellwood House Association Treasurer Steve Faivre said after a few informational meetings between the association and the park board, the board came up with a plan.

However, Faivre said the association was not asked for input into the plan.

Park district Director David Emanuelson said the park district is a governmental unit and does not have to consult with the association.

The strategic plan outlined by the park board explains the park district’s missions, goals and strategy to implement its goals and mission.

The park district also came up with a two-year 13-point proposal which its lawyers currently are looking at.

Under the proposal, the association would be able to “employ whatever staff it deems necessary to operate the museum and all such employees shall be the sole employees of the association.”

The current museum director would work under the association, but if he resigns, the agreement would no longer be in effect

Ellwood House Association President Jerry Meyer said the agreement shows the park district “has a lack of comfort with the organization.

“Any agreement reached with them has to fall within their parameters. Some of those parameters are very disturbing to us,” Meyer said.

Faivre said association members have expressed concern that the “association will get lost in the park district’s name.”

“The important thing here is not what is in the Ellwood House Association’s best interest, but what is in the community’s best interest,” Emanuelson said.