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Colfax village board supports Colfax Railroad Museum’s mission

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX  —  The Colfax Village Board has approved a resolution showing full support for the mission of the Colfax Railroad Museum.

The village board approved the resolution at the August 24 meeting.

A resolution of support for the museum was one of the actions identified in the Power of 10 workshop to identify ways to encourage tourism in the village.

Herb Sakalaucks, owner and curator of the museum, has been asking Dunn County for tourism support for more than ten years.

Sakalaucks specifically has been asking the county to return the property taxes he pays for the land where the museum is located.

The Colfax Railroad Museum itself is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

A resolution of support from the village for the museum and its educational mission will help the museum on grant applications and requests for funding, said Scott Gunnufson, village president.

Dunn County officials have indicated they would like to see support for the museum from the village and from the Colfax Commercial Club, he said.

Approving the resolution of support does not have any financial impact on the village, Gunnufson noted.

Colfax was one of two communities selected as the beneficiaries of a grant from the Project for Public Spaces for the Power of 10 workshop. The West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission had applied for the grant.

The Project for Public Spaces is a non-profit organization based in New York City and has worked with cities and villages around the United States and in many foreign countries.

The workshop focused on identifying positive aspects of downtown Colfax, what could be improved, and how those improvements could be accomplished.

The Power of 10 report is available on the Village of Colfax website.

Tax money

Sakalaucks told the village board that this year he is asking Dunn County to return $1,912 in property taxes.

Technically speaking a 501(c)3 organization does not pay any taxes, but because the land where the museum is located is privately owned, the museum pays the taxes in lieu of paying rent for the land, Sakalaucks said.

As part of his estate, Sakalaucks said he plans to transfer ownership of the land to the Colfax Railroad Museum when the time comes.

Two-story depot

In addition to the property tax amount, Sakalaucks said he is asking Dunn County for a one-time amount of $7,600 for help in restoring the two-story train depot on Main Street.

The money would be used to install heating and air conditioning to provide a climate-controlled environment for museum artifacts, he said.

The second story of the depot will be used for storing artifacts. The first floor of the depot will have a kitchenette and meeting rooms for parties and business meetings, Sakalaucks said.

For example, during the annual Founder’s Day event in Colfax, the meeting rooms could be used as exhibit space for local artists, he said.

Two back rooms in the two-story depot will be used for a library and archives, Sakalaucks said.

The Colfax Railroad Museum has 1,000 hard cover books; 2,300 paperback books; 450 videos; 250 eight-millimeter movies from the early 1960s of steam and diesel train engines; and 4,000 slides.

The museum received a donation last year of $20,000 worth of books, Sakalaucks said.

Repository

The Colfax Railroad Museum has received a variety of blueprints and other technical documents.

The museum is the largest repository of technical information for train restoration in the region, Sakalaucks said.

The museum also received notification of an award for a $1,000 grant from the Tom Dailey Foundation in Chicago for a heavy-duty compressor and equipment to work on restoring the recently-acquired steam engine, he said.

Tourism

Dunn County provides funding for several tourism sites in Menomonie but does not provide funding for tourism sites out in the county, Sakalaucks said.

At a meeting of the county board’s community resources and tourism committee a few months ago to discuss a county tourism policy, Colfax was the only village with representation at the meeting, Sakalaucks said.

If any tourism money is available, Colfax should ask for its fair share, Gunnufson said.

Tourism sites are viewed as an important part of the economic development of a region, both as a way to attract visitors and as an amenity for people or businesses planning to move to an area.

The Colfax Village Board unanimously approved the resolution of support for the Colfax Railroad Museum.

Village Trustee Susan Olson was absent from the meeting.