It would be worth Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’s time to pick up the phone and talk to state Rep. Travis Tranel.
At the very least, the governor should avail himself to listen to a colleague in the State Assembly. At best, maybe he would hear a solution to a problem.
Tranel, a Cuba City Republican, has heard his constituents’ lamentations about the fact that some state historical sites have remained closed. In places including Cassville, Mineral Point, Prairie du Chien and Belmont, having a significant historic attraction shut down just as tourism is starting to revive creates further drag on struggling local economies.
Officials have attributed the continued shutdown to budget cuts in the State Historical Society and staff reassignments. Tranel proposes Evers allocate a share of federal relief aid to fund the reopening of state historical sites.
“With that amount of money, I think the governor can find $2 million to cover the revenue shortfall for the State Historical Society and to get these historic sites open,” Tranel said.
The idea makes sense. The federal aid is intended to patch holes in state and local economies hit hard by the pandemic. Putting some of the aid toward the still-closed sites, which are located in various big and small communities across the state, would be a good way to spread the wealth around and invest in community recovery.
Not all historical sites in the state have been closed, and southwest Wisconsin has been particularly hard hit. Half of the locations shuttered are located in area counties. Attractions include First Capitol, in Belmont; Pendarvis, in Mineral Point; Stonefield, in Cassville; and Villa Louis, in Prairie du Chien. The closures have dealt a significant blow to these areas.
Consider Cassville, a community that has seen two power plants shuttered and deconstructed in the last decade. This is a town that could use state support to keep a key tourism site aloft. Cassville’s Stonefield is a tribute to the state’s agrarian history, set on the former grounds of Nelson Dewey’s estate in a recreated rural village of the early 1900s. Visitors have a chance to connect with the agricultural roots of America’s Dairyland and visit the Wisconsin State Agricultural Museum.
Shuttered during the pandemic, reopening sites like Stonefield could help ignite recovery in these small communities.
Yet, so far, Evers isn’t signaling he’ll send this small fraction of the relief aid to southwest Wisconsin. He also isn’t returning Tranel’s calls to discuss it. In fact, Evers hasn’t told lawmakers what he intends to do with the $3 billion in federal aid the state has received.
Tranel’s suggestion is worth consideration and deserves the governor’s attention.