The Riverside Recreation Department will take over the water tower pump house when restoration to the historic water tower is complete later this year. In addition, the Riverside Historical Museum will remain in its current home, in the east well house on the Centennial Park campus next door to the tower. It will pick up extra exhibit or research space in the west well house, which is currently undergoing restoration as well.

The deal was worked out by members of both the Historical and Playgrounds & Recreation commissions, after trustees urged them to come up with a compromise plan that would serve both groups. Each commission had argued to retain the entire pump house space for its full-time home.

And while on the surface it may appear that the Recreation Department won out over the museum, there’s an understanding that the pump house space should in the future belong to the Riverside Historical Museum and that the Recreation Department will one day need to find a new home.

“There was a general agreement that the water tower [pump house] would be a great place for the museum and the Historical Commission to be,” said Trustee Kevin Smith, who along with Trustee William Scanlon, served as an intermediary in the discussions between the two commissions.

“And a new community center would be good for the Rec Department,” Smith added. “At the present time, there was just no way to work out a one-way move.”

Moving the Recreation Department into the pump house will also be a less expensive
alternative at this point, according to a report to the board from Village Manager Kathleen Rush, who was also present at the April 28 meeting between the two commissions. One of the biggest line items, if the pump house were converted into a museum space and archives, is the climate controlled air-conditioning system. The installation cost was estimated at $700,000. Rush estimated that the cost for making the entire pump house space usable by the Recreation department at $60,000. Prior to the current restoration effort, the Recreation Department was housed in a portion of the pump house.

Rather than installing such an expensive system in pieces and splitting the pump house between the two commissions, the groups decided that the current museum air-conditioning system and west well house would receive a modest improvement (perhaps $10,000 to $15,000) to hold the museum collection over until a final move can be made.

Moving the Recreation Department under one roof immediately is also viewed as a money-saving opportunity.

“For the Parks and Recreation Commission there are rental fees for some of the smaller programs,” said Scanlon. “We can avoid paying those fees if we bring them in house. It’ll work out nicely for Riverside residents.”

But Trustee Thomas Shields expressed disappointment in the plan, and worried that the deal might become a permanent solution.

“I, for one, am disappointed in this solution, because it postpones further the attempt to put the museum in a location where it can prosper,” Shields said.

He also called the cost estimate for the museum’s air-conditioning system a “red herring” that influenced commissioners to accept a deal that keeps the museum in cramped quarters.

“If the expense being incurred to fix the east well house is adequate and the west well house expense is minor, what would be the need for a great expense for the pump house?” Shields asked. “There’s certainly a desire to have more of an archival support mechanism, but there are also space needs.”

Shields hoped that trustees would formally declare that the pump house space would be earmarked for the historical museum in the future, but the rest of the board was reluctant to make such a declaration at the present time.

“All of this assumes that at some point in the future the village will be able to address the need for the Recreation Department to have some type of facility,” said President Harold J. Wiaduck Jr. “But there’s not a strong movement afoot to move in that direction. If we’re going to do that, the community is going to have to give a strong indication that’s where they want to go.

“We have to deal with the reality that the Recreation Department needs space to deal with all of its programs.”

The interim plan will allow both the Historical and Parks commissions to identify their future needs and work on options for funding.