Tuesday, June 21, 2016

AZGS challenges

The transfer of  the mineral museum to the AZGS is very welcome and was  long overdue, but other legislation involving the AZGS is problematic. The Arizona  Geological Society drew attention to some of the issues in a recent editorial: http://www.azcentral.com/story/opinion/op-ed/2016/06/15/my-turn-arizona-geological-survey-life-support-and-needs-publics-help/85848418/

 A condensed version of the following guest post was also published as a letter to the editor in the June 17th paper copy of the Arizona Republic. In the newespaper, the title of the letter was "Arizona Geological Survey saddled with impossible tasks." 

The so-called agency consolidation of the Arizona Geological Survey (AZGS) is a SHAM. 

The move was a calculated, deliberate act for the sole purpose of severely restricting the survey’s ability to serve the public.  Why? You may ask.

Some Background
Last year, there was a bill (SB1200) passed overwhelmingly by the Senate and House to transfer the responsibility of the closed mining and mineral museum from the Historical Society (AHS) to AZGS, but the governor vetoed it saying “there was no plan”.  This year, out of the blue, the governor proposes in his budget that the AZGS be moved to the University of Arizona (UA), but he had no (public) plan (meaning he did not consult either the UA or AZGS before announcing it).  Again, why?

Well, let’s look closely at that agency consolidation bill, SB1530 signed by the governor.  In it, the Geological Survey is moved under the University of Arizona (UA) with no funding and it is also given the responsibility to open the Mining Mineral and Natural Resource Educational Museum with no funding for that either.  Moreover, the AZGS is expected to raise the funds to rehabilitate the old mining and mineral museum building, (upwards of $700,000, this amount for rehab even before occupancy can occur and only a start of the total monies needed, per an ADOA preliminary report), now five years neglected by both the Historical Society (AHS) and the AZ Dept of Administration (ADOA).  And, not only does the AZGS have to raise funds to rehab the building, but also has to open the new museum, all by July 1, 2018.

On top of that, the Senate Amended Fact Sheet for SB1530 specifically states:  the legislature’s intent that the AZGS maintain the current level of service and approximately fifteen full time employees”.
(Well, where is “Superman” when you need him?)

Let’s recap:
·        AZGS is defunded (the UA has graciously provided one year of funding at last year’s state funding level of approximately $941,300.) 
·        AZGS has to raise $700,000+ for the rehabilitation of the old museum building all before rehab can even begin
·        AZGS has to maintain its current level of service with only 15 employees
·        AZGS has to move into a space that is a fourth the size of its current space in Tucson.  (Because of this move, the AZGS had to close its AZ Experience Store1.  (My question is, will this single act be construed by the legislature as not providing the AZGS’s current level of service?) Hmmm!
·        AZGS must obtain its own funding for the move of both their Tucson and Phoenix offices. (The state (ADOA) will not provide funding for AZGS’s move, although it is providing funding for the move of the Dept. of Water Resources which the AZGS has subleased space from for their Phoenix office for the last several years.) Hmmm!

·        AZGS has to gather all the inventory of the old mining and mineral museum, including the mineral collection, which has been either scattered all over the state to different historical museums or has been disposed of. (Granted, the AHS is to provide a list of the inventory and assist with its transfer.)

Yes, the AZGS gets a transfer of $428,300 and one FTE (Will this be considered to be included as one of the 15 employees?), from the AHS in FY 2017 to fund the operation of the museum. (But most of these funds go for the rent on the museum building.  Which, ADOA does not use for maintenance on the building as we have seen by its neglect over the past five years.  What happens in FY 2018?  Will the AZGS get this state appropriation for the rent and the one employee?)

Yes, the AZGS gets the Centennial License plate monies retroactive to May 1, 2016, plus what the AHS has not spent (ha, ha) over the last few years, but these monies come nowhere near enough to rehab the building and then there is the question as to whether or not these monies can be used for this purpose.

What happens when the AZGS does not have the Mining Mineral and Natural Resources Educational Museum open by July 1, 2018?  The Final Amended Fact Sheet for SB1530 states:  Stipulates that the Arizona Historical Society regains authority of the Mining Museum if the Museum is unopened by July 1, 2018.  What? Well, isn’t that an interesting development? Hmmm!  What conclusions have you come to?

The governor takes a well run, productive agency like the AZ Geological Survey and suddenly removes its funding (less than $1 million) and moves it under the UA, but, on the other hand, he rewards funding ($3 million+) to the poorly run, do nothing agency AHS. AHS pays no rent for the many state owned buildings they occupy – the mineral museum pays rent – AHS does not. The AHS was tasked by state statute five years ago with opening the AZ Experience Museum1, (aka AZ Centennial Museum) but has not done so.  Why is that?  Why is AHS so privileged?

1The Arizona Experience Store was run by the AZGS because AHS could not.  The Arizona Experience (virtual) Museum, a website, was set up originally by the AZGS because AHS could not. Hmmm!

Shirley Cote

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