STRATFORD — After 16 years of operation, the financially strapped Garbage Museum will close today.
The Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority board voted this morning to shut down the home of the famed Trash-o-saurus, a dinosaur sculpted from one ton of garbage, after falling $32,000 short of reaching a $100,000 fundraising goal.
The museum, which in 2010 provided educational services to 30,708 adults and children through museum visits and outreach programs, has an annual operating cost of about $300,000. But the museum’s pockets are currently only about $60,000 deep, excluding $68,000 in commitments the board was able to garner this summer from local municipalities and corporations, said CRRA spokesman Paul Nonnenmacher.
“There’s just not enough money to keep it going,” Nonnenmacher said.
Historically, the 16-year-old museum has been funded by the Southwest Connecticut Recycling Committee, a group of 19 local municipalities that trucked recyclables to the regional recycling facility and helped support the museum through deposit fees. But in 2009, several of those cities and towns pulled out of the group and began sending their recyclables elsewhere. Funding for the museum plummeted.
At the time, CRRA said the museum would likely close. But, until now, it survived on new funding sources, including a $2 fee for entry into the museum.
“The museum is a building with a a lot of interesting stuff in it, but the reason that it works so well is because of the staff,” Nonnenmacher said. “They have been doing everything they can think of to try to keep the museum going. They have hung in there even though they knew that their jobs were in jeopardy. They could have gone out and found other jobs, but they stuck with us. That kind of dedication and loyalty is what made the museum great.”
Stephen Edwards, the only CRRA board member to vote against closing the museum Thursday morning, said he is hopeful more funding will surface over the next year and the museum will be able to reopen.
“We’re essentially going to just mothball (the exhibits) right now,” said Edwards, who is also chairman the Southwest Connecticut Recycling Committee and director of the Westport Public Works Department. “There’s no immediate need to liquidate anything. We’re going to shut the lights, close the doors and go out and try to find more funds.”
He added, “I haven’t found anyone who doesn’t think this is a worthwhile endeavor. It’s just that times are tough.”