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Felix Adamo / The Californian

The newly restored main building at the Kern County Museum with the Beale Clock Tower at left.

The Kern County Museum Authority will take a two-pronged approach to finding a new operator for its Chester Avenue historical complex that includes Pioneer Village and the Lori Brock Children's Discovery Center.

At a meeting Wednesday, Museum Authority Board members concurred with a plan to simultaneously:

* Seek proposals from for-profit and nonprofit organizations to take over the museum's operation.

* Refine a proposal for the Kern County Board of Supervisors to establish a new board to govern the museum, with an existing nonprofit organization named to operate the facility, or a new nonprofit organization formed for that purpose.

Depending on the proposals received and the organizational structure that emerges, the hope is to chart a new future for the Kern County Museum, which dates back to the early 1900s. Facing state cutbacks, the Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office, which took over management of the museum in the early 1990s, will relinquish control of the Chester Avenue complex in July.

Turning over control of the museum to a private, non-government entity is attractive to the Authority Board because it affords greater flexibility to operate the museum in a more cost-effective manner. Often private entities are not required to follow the same rules that apply to government agencies for such activities as purchasing, contracting and hiring staff, Kern County Superintendent of Schools Christine Frazier and others noted at the meeting.

When they meet again on March 9, Museum Authority Board members are expected to review both the scope of the proposal to solicit potential operators and the details of a proposed new organizational structure.

Jeff Frapwell, the county's general services director, told Museum Authority Board members that county officials are evaluating the county's existing operational arrangements, such as those involving the county's golf courses, where the county contracts with a private entity to operate the facility.

The Kern County Museum Authority is the body that makes the major decisions for the museum and represents the superintendent's office and the interests of other government agencies, including the county, which owns the museum. Another key player represented on the authority board is the Museum Foundation, a nonprofit fundraising entity that operates independently of the county and superintendent's office.

Members of the Museum Authority Board include Frazier, county supervisors Watson and Karen Goh, Bakersfield Mayor Harvey Hall, Kern County Board of Education trustee Jim Bartleson, and Beth Pandol and Mike Ansolabehere from the Museum Foundation board.

County supervisors authorized creation of the Museum Foundation in the late 1980s to help raise money for physical improvements of the grounds. Transferring day-to-day operation to a reconstituted Museum Foundation is an option being considered.

"Everyone involved is committed to keeping the museum open and making it financially strong, functional and educational," said Beth Pandol, the chairwoman of the Museum Authority Board and a member of the Museum Foundation Board. "Everyone has a real stake in seeing this resolved. It's our history. It's very important."

Also presented at Wednesday's meeting was a report summarizing revitalization suggestions made last month during a public brainstorming session at the Kern County Museum. The session was facilitate by Mary Beth Garrison and focused on the museum's operational needs, as well as marketing ideas designed to give Kern County residents reason to visit the museum.