Feedback at meeting has commission poised to form nonprofit group to replace it
Encouraged by the response at a community meeting, the Grafton Historic Preservation Commission plans to continue exploring the possibility of forming a historical society to take over its mission.
About 20 people attended an informational session the commission held Feb. 18 to discuss establishing a private, nonprofit organization to document and promote Grafton history, commission member Tom Krueger said.
“We had a very decent turnout. It was good in terms of having people come out to show they are interested in supporting a historical society,” Krueger said.
Krueger, who is a village trustee, said another six to eight people who were unable to attend the event also contacted commission members or the village to voice their support.
What was missing from the meeting, Krueger added, was a core of people willing to serve on a board of directors to oversee a historical society. That board, which would probably require five to seven members, is essential if the historical society is to become a reality, he said.
Formation of a historical society has been discussed for several months by commission members. Since the commission was formed in 1995, its primary mission has been identifying commercial buildings, residences and other structures and sites as potential landmarks.
However, the seven-member commission receives no village funding to support their projects. Creating a nonprofit organization with 501(c)(3) status would allow residents, businesses and groups to make tax-deductible donations for preservation efforts and other purposes.
“There’s been a general lack of enthusiasm for what we’re doing,” said Ted Warwick, a four-year commission member who first proposed creating a historical society last fall.
“We haven’t been able to do much except things like deciding who will be the (Paramount) Walk of Fame inductees. It would nice to be able to do more.”
Warwick said a historical society would provide a more effective way to preserve Grafton’s heritage, including documenting contemporary events, structures and sites as well as those from bygone eras.
“My feeling is that what’s happening today is going to be history tomorrow,” he said.
Commission members said that forming a local historical society requires:
n Adopting a mission statement and bylaws that describe objectives, membership rules, dues, officers, elections and other guidelines.
n Being governed by a board of directors that includes a president, vice president, secretary and treasurer.
n Attracting members who will pay annual dues to support the organization's mission.
Commission member Dave Antoine said some of the historical society’s initial projects may include video recording local residents talking about historically significant events, digitally storing and displaying historical photographs and collecting community memorabilia. Ultimately, the organization could also help oversee the establishment of a museum or archives, he added.
Other area communities such as Port Washington, Saukville, Belgium and Mequon-Thiensville have had historical societies for years, Antoine noted.
The commission will hold its next monthly meeting Thursday, March 24. Krueger said public input from the Feb. 18 event will be reviewed, including a list of people willing to serve on a board of directors.
Warwick said he believes the historical society “is the way to go” and that drafting a mission statement and electing a board could be done as early as next month.
“There’s nothing stopping us from forming a group and applying for nonprofit status,” Warwick said. “It’s really not that difficult of a process, but we need to have people willing to participate. I think they are out there.”
Anyone interested in supporting a local historical society, including serving on a board of directors, can call the Village Hall at 375-5300.