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Four members, director of Hubbard County Historical Society quit; board will reorganize

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Four members of the Hubbard County Historical Society board have resigned amid differences as to how the group should function and how it can raise the money to operate.

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Museum director Karen Danks also resigned, citing economic reasons.

The resignations took place last week, according to vice president Frank Mitchell, who said he was not given a meeting notice to attend.

Mitchell and two board members remaining on the seven-member steering group plan to meet April 12 at 7 p.m. to try to recruit new board members and volunteers to keep the mission alive.

President Barb Balas, board members Joan Bradach, LaVonne Shelton, Steve Bolton all submitted their resignations last week.

Board members contacted and Danks all tried to downplay the friction that existed, but county commissioners have discussed the drama and dissension within the organization and with the North Country Museum of Arts Board. The two groups occupy the old courthouse.

The century-old building is in poor shape. Last summer the county fixed the foundation to prevent chronic mold problems, but both boards said the building has no heat in the winter, which is not a good situation for preserving the valuable artifacts they are stewards of.

Balas did not return a call seeking comment. Bradach said Balas resigned for health reasons.

Mitchell denied there was dissension within the board and said fundraising has never been a problem for the group.

"We had a fish fry a month ago and did well," he said.

But county funding for the group has been sparse. Late last year Danks and some board members came to the commission meeting to essentially beg for the county's $4,200 funding. They were cash strapped, they said.

Danks said she is currently working with the Census Bureau and will eventually take a job in Brainerd with the state Historical Society.

"I think I left the museum in pretty good shape for it to keep progressing," Danks said, adding she "had no idea" there were differences among board members.

"The reason I resigned was because I needed to make more money," she said.

Mitchell said Danks was paid $6,000 annually.

County officials were still trying to sort out the sticky situation Monday, complicated by the fact they were unable to reach many of the board members.

Uncertain funding sources made day-to-day operations challenging, board members said. County commissioners chastised Danks last fall when it turned out grant funding from the state may have been available to fix the building foundation, but was not applied for.

"The county doesn't commit to anything" as far as levels of funding, Danks said. "We don't know what we're getting until we get a check."

Bradach said the decision to resign was agonizing for her. As a former school administrator, she said she saw a need for the board to run things in a more businesslike manner, especially the group's finances.

"Barb Balas did one heck of a job," Bradach said. "She tried so hard to keep the thing running."

Bradach said the museum's crushing financial problems were the biggest obstacle to its success and survival.

"I believe that museum has to be maintained but it has to be approached from a reasonable standpoint," she said. She hopes Mitchell can recruit new board members with organization and business skills.

"I believe it's a very valuable asset for this community, for this county," she said. "I would dearly love to have continued but I just couldn't handle it anymore," Bradach said.

The April 12 reorganization meeting will be held in the community room of Northwoods Bank.

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