Port Columbus: We may be forced to close the doors

By Mackenzie Patterson - bioemail

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Port Columbus is saying it may have to shut its doors if the Columbus City Council passes a budget plan that cuts the museum's funding by about 70%.

The museum is home to the C.S.S. Jackson, the largest single Civil War artifact in the nation.  Bruce Smith, the Executive Director at Port Columbus, said it holds great significance for Columbus.

"Built right here in Columbus during the war.  One of the most modern warships that was generated during the war.  Built right here, and we've got the remains and the story," said Smith.

But will it be the last time the war ship is seen here? Port Columbus Executive Director Bruce Smith said that might be the case if the Columbus City Council approves a budget that cuts the museum's funding from the city.

"It basically would allow us several months to be able to make all the arrangements that have to be made in order to close the facility such as this one--loaned artifacts returned and final debts paid," said Smith.

Right now, Smith said Port Columbus gets about $300,000 per year from the city.  That money along with about $300,000 from nonprofit donations, fundraising, and ticket sales keep this place up and running. But, the proposed budget cuts the funding down to $78,000 from the city.

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said the cuts are necessary because the museum sees 20,000 people a year, about 8 times less than the number of visitors projected.  However, the mayor does not want to see the museum close.

"Start looking at a new way for them to do business and so no one's saying to close.  I don't think they should be thinking either, but how can we be great with the resources we're taking in and the partnership we are getting from the city," said Tomlinson.

The mayor said it also up to the people of Columbus to make sure this museum that has been around since the 1960s stays open.

"The community's going to need to stand up and frequent Port Columbus, have events at Port Columbus, and donate to Port Columbus if they want to have it as the great historic resource it is," said Tomlinson.

Tomlinson said she expected City Council to discuss the issue again next week.

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