They wanted the region's natural history museum to be self-supporting through fees.
Already, the museum had lost 85 percent of its staff in downsizing. Volunteers man the front counter and work-release prisoners do the groundskeeping on weekends.
An interim director was appointed in March, and the
But a recent lawsuit revealed a dispute at the core of the museum's travails.
The much-anticipated, 12,000-square-foot hall was completed in 2009. But it has sat empty and unused except for a few invitation-only fundraisers and the annual National Fossil Day in October.
Now the county is suing the design firm that was supposed to produce the replica beasts. Instead, the firm delivered boxes of bones unassembled, the lawsuit alleges.
No one can explain why the new hall was allowed to languish for five years before the county took action
The company also failed to produce a "time tube" showing geological eras and a display showing how tectonic plates created the continents, according to the suit.
As much as
In March, McKernan resigned without explanation. Reached by phone on Friday, he declined to comment.
But without McKernan at the helm, the museum's nonprofit board worried that the priceless collections of preserved birds, eggs and textiles would be allowed to degrade, and the museum could lose its accreditation, vital for getting grants and exhibits on loan from other museums.
County supervisors appointed County Librarian
After uncovering more missing exhibits, broken video monitors and a water feature with a non-functioning pump, county lawyers filed the suit this month.
Reached by phone, Platypus President
Valencia's lawyer Richard Ashbran of
When the county temporarily put the project on hold for lack of funds, Platypus had to halt the subcontractor's work, Ashbran said.
A year later, when the money was released and Platypus asked the subcontractor to resume work, it raised its price and wouldn't complete the models, Ashbran said.
For a year and a half, the county and Platypus tried to resolve the dilemma. Eventually, Platypus got the subcontractor to send parts so the models could be assembled at the museum.
County supervisors voted last month to give the museum
Last month, Hernandez hired
Progress won't stop in the meantime.
The staff and consultants plan three exhibits for the coming year with existing collections: "Fossils Underfoot," presenting current artifacts in a new manner; "Pioneers, Mountain People and Outlaws," highlighting
He hopes to open the first floor of the Hall of Geological Wonders with several exhibits that were delivered, Hernandez said.
That way the public can see some of what it paid for. Perhaps that will inspire donors to contribute money to finish the project.
Hernandez also is recruiting a history curator.
The supervisors are fully engaged and committed to the museum's stability, he said, pointing to the renewed funding.
Ramos hopes the museum will become a valued attraction for residents, where they can learn about the origins of the place they live.
Association board member
"They're a long ways from bringing the museum back to where it should be," he said.
Contact the writer: 951-368-9470 or cmacduff@PE.com
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