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Renewed fight over civil war museum comes after Reed's charged

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Jul 15, 2015 2:41 PM
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Photo by Ben Allen/witf

In this 2014 file photo, Harrisburg City Council holds a special meeting at the National Civil War Museum.

(Harrisburg) -- Former Harrisburg Mayor Stephen Reed's arrest has renewed the fight over the future of the National Civil War Museum.

Some of the charges against Reed stem from him allegedly buying artifacts with public money.

And just hours after they became public, current Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse called for the museum's board to dissolve.

On WITF's Smart Talk this morning, city solicitor Neil Grover says enough is enough.

"We have borne the cost, again and again. Could it be a museum for something else? If someone could figure out the formula. But there's a responsibility to take control your assets and maximize them for the people that they have," he says.

Grover adds: "The city owns the land, the city owns the building, the city owns what's in it. And a group of people frankly, who aren't in the city of Harrisburg, are up there as a board, running it."

But Dauphin County Commissioner Jeff Haste says such a move wouldn't be smart.

"I understand maybe his concerns with how it came about. People talk about all different kinds of projects and how they came about. It's clear that that facility is now an asset," counters Haste.

Haste says if Mayor Papenfuse took issue with everything that Reed did, he would have to shut down the popular attraction City Island.

"It's really disheartening," Haste adds.

Papenfuse and Grover say the city will bring legal action if the museum board does not dissolve.

Meanwhile, the board chairman of Harrisburg's National Civil War Museum says it's likely to remain open.

J. Michael Love says the nonprofit that runs the 14-year-old museum has a legal responsibility to keep it open.

He also says the museum annually attracts tens of thousands of visitors, which provides city revenue.

Love says he is against closing the museum under any circumstances.

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