The West Chester Township trustees, once again, agreed to enter a five-year lease with the Board of the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting. This agreement, which was made official Tuesday night at the latest trustee meeting, will put the museum’s board in charge of maintaining the landmark and will allow them to raise funds as a non-profit corporation.
In December, the trustees agreed to enter the lease, but the deal still required the approval from the Secretary of the United States Department of Interior.
The lease agreement did receive approval from the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior, but with the approval it came back with some minor changes, according to Barbara Wilson, public information officer for West Chester Township. Since there were changes, the trustees had to vote again.
According to Wilson, the minor changes reflected wording that any modifications to the building would have to be submitted to the National Park Service for approval. Furthermore, the Program for Preservation and Utilization for the VOA Building was updated. This dictates how the building is to be used and what needs to be preserved.
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Since the township acquired the property in 1998, it has undergone numerous restoration projects that were finally completed in the summer of 2012.
Through those improvements and utilities payments, the township has spent around $1.68 million from its own budget on the building since 2004. Additionally, according to the museum’s board, $1.5 million from the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission has been used to repair the structure built in 1944.
Since its inception to 1994, the Bethany Relay Station delivered U.S. news in a total of 52 different languages throughout the world. It was originally created under the direction of Powell Crosley Jr. to combat Germany and Japan shortwave transmitters, which shared anti-American propaganda to the world.
“Locally we want people to understand the history that has been made in West Chester and all the history of broadcasting that has been developed here in Greater Cincinnati,” VOA board chairman Ken Rieser said.
“There is also a certain draw to the people behind the Iron Curtain, the people in China and places where there have been problems understanding and knowing what the truth was. This place is a draw for them. They just want to see it.”
For any person to see it the way the VOA Museum board wants it to be presented, approximately $12 million will need to be raised to make it a revenue-generating landmark.
Its first large contribution could come from the township itself. The trustees are expected to vote soon on a financial contribution schedule. Amounts could change, but the contributions, if approved, will descend from $85,000 in the first year, to $75,000 in years two and three and to $50,000 in years of four and five.
“It is important to all of the board that this facility be able become an independent unit,” said West Chester Trustee President Catherine Stoker, who has been trustee since 1994.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to bring West Chester before the world.
“We have had people come over, for example, from Ukraine, who specially came to West Chester to see that building because during the Cold War they would secretly listen to Voice of America so they could find out what was going on. They were just in tears when they played some old broadcasts for them. It was just a wonderful experience.”
If and when the fundraising is completed, it is expected to attract 25,000 visitors, bring in $475,000 in out of area direct spending and provide an overall economic impact in excess of $1.7 million annually, according to estimates by museum design firm Jack Rouse Associates.
Currently, the unfinished museum off Tylersville Road has been open from 1 to 4 p.m. on the third Saturday of each month since July of 2012. It will be open, again, this Saturday during that same time.
As of right now, it consists of exhibits featuring the old relay station; Media Heritage’s Greater Cincinnati Museum of Broadcast History; the Gray History of Wireless Museum; and the West Chester Amateur Radio Association control room.
For more information about VOA museums, go to www.voamuseum.org.
The museum is located at 8070 Tylersville Road in West Chester.