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Salem International cuts Fort New Salem's funding

by Darlene J. Taylor

STAFF WRITER

SALEM -- Salem International University will cease its funding of the Fort New Salem pioneer log house settlement on Dec. 31, officials said Monday.

Without substantial financial support from the community, Fort New Salem will not be able to reopen in the spring, said John S. "Jack" Kaull, Fort New Salem Foundation chairman.

It takes approximately $200,000 annually to run the fort of 20 houses that feature craft demonstrations with costumed interpreters from the 1800s, Kaull said.

Meanwhile, the foundation has $9,000 in reserves, Kaull said.

Salem International University provided $58,480 to the fort last year, said Lissa Lucas, SIU spokeswoman.

"That is in addition to maintenance and facility services, which are part of overhead. Those costs are estimated at $20,000 to $25,000," Lucas said. "The university has spent a great deal trying to help the fort achieve the goal of a real cultural resource for the community."

One way the university will continue to provide support to the independent Fort New Salem Foundation is through a lease, Lucas said. If the fort's foundation succeeds in obtaining alternative funding, Salem International has agreed to a $1 lease for five years with a renewal up to 95 years, Lucas said.

The Fort New Salem Foundation was formed more than a year ago to raise funding for programming and scholarships at the fort, Kaull said.

Now the foundation will be responsible for complete operations, including insurance and payroll for its three permanent employees.

"The fort brings in about $60,000 per year through its many programs for the public and schoolchildren," Kaull said.

That amount is less than one-third of the money needed to run the fort, Kaull said.

A Save the Fort campaign will kick off from 2-4 p.m. Sunday on the grounds of Fort New Salem. In case of inclement weather, the event will be held on the second floor of the university's Randolph Campus Center.

"We will know by the response whether the fort can be saved," Kaull said. "If the foundation is not able to raise the necessary funds, another piece of our heritage will be lost."

The foundation will pursue grant writing resources as well as any other type of funding that may be available for the non-profit, tax-exempt organization, Kaull said.

SIU President Dr. Richard Ferrin, who could not be reached for comment Monday, said earlier this year the university was having cash-flow problems. He vowed to turn around the declining enrollment and slow cash-flow problems.

Staff writer Darlene J. Taylor can be reached at 626-1403 or by e-mail at dtaylor@exponent-telegram.com