Visitors, revenue on rise at museum

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Berryville City Council members heard an encouraging report from the Saunders Museum during its regular meeting on Nov. 16.

The monthly activity report from the city’s Saunders Museum showed a significant increase in visitation and monies received, matching last year’s October attendance — which was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic — and nearly reaching 2019 levels.

Monthly revenue for the museum was also up, topping sales over the past two years combined. Council member Linda Riddlesperger, who volunteers at the museum, attributed the revenue increase to an increase in merchandise sales.

Linda Riddlesperger

“We sold more merchandise, therefore our deposit is up,” Riddlesperger said. “We’ve got some mugs and things like that, and they are really selling good. We want to increase that next year. And then we did have some visitors, some people from the [Arkansas Heritage Center in Little Rock] there last Friday, and they are going to send us some suggestions on how we can better market it and maybe do different presentations and a few different displays.”

The October report, prepared by curator Joan Lasseter, showed the museum hosted 149 visitors and took in $950.50, including $762.50 in admission fees and $170.50 in merchandise sales.

In 2019, October merchandise sales totaled $32.50. In 2020, the total was $37.50.

Two years ago, the museum hosted 166 visitors in October and took in $872.50. Last year, after the museum delayed its opening until Aug. 17, 146 people visited in October, and the museum took in $717.50.

Mayor Tom McKinney queried Riddlesperger on attendance numbers from the first week of November, the last week the museum was open for the season and its traditional open house, during which visitors are offered free admission.

“We had 206 people come in,” Riddlesperger said. “That’s more than we would normally have in a month.”

In other business, the council heard from Berryville Police Chief Robert Bartos, who delivered his department’s monthly report.

According to Bartos, city police issued 102 citations in October, down from 133 a year ago, and investigated 64 offenses, matching last year’s monthly total. The department’s clearance rate for the month, Bartos said, was 82 percent.

The department took in $290 in fines and bonds and responded to 16 traffic accidents, up from 9 a year ago.

The council also reviewed the monthly financial report showing sales tax collected in the city during the month of October. According to the report, the city received $156,585.75 from the city’s 1 percent sales tax — a significant increase from the $135,830.00 received in October 2020, but down a bit from last month’s $165,615.25 — and $78,292.88 from the city’s half-cent sales tax for the community center, down from last month’s $82,807.63.

Of the tax money received from October sales, $113,064.45 was added to the city’s general fund, $17,000 to the sewer bond fund and $13,958.58 to the street fund. The remainder was divided between the Saunders Museum and the parks commission funds, which received $4,187.57 each, and the tourism and cemetery funds, which received $2,093.79 each.

McKinney noted that city staff are already engaged in preparing the city’s 2021 budget and asked that council members keep that in mind.

“If anybody has any concerns or something you’d like to look at, let us know,” McKinney said. “We’ll have that put together pretty soon.”

The council’s next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 6, at Berryville City Hall.

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