When Farmington officials ask residents about the future of the historic Governor Warner Mansion, the first question may well be, “Do you know what it is?”.
City council members on Monday voted to spend up to $10,000 with OHM Advisors to survey the public and determine potential uses for the 154-year-old house museum. Built by pioneer P. Dean Warner, the mansion was home to his adopted son Michigan Governor Fred Warner.
The Warner family donated the property to the city about 40 years ago, requiring that it have some public use. But now, the house on Grand River needs more than $600,000 in repairs and costs the city $45,000 a year.
One option, city manager David Murphy said, may seem drastic: selling it.
“I don’t think anybody wants that as an option, but it is an option,” he said. “It’s a money pit, to be sure.”
Council member Maria Taylor asked whether the engagement process would be like the city’s 2018 millage campaign.
“I think that was really well done,” she said. “I want to make sure the community understands what the options are. I think a lot of people will say I want to keep the Mansion, but are not experts in how to make it sustainable.”
Murphy said the process will be different because “we’re not asking for anything right now. We’re just trying to lay the groundwork and find out what (residents’) understanding is. I think we have to educate first.”
One possibility, he added, might be a millage to support the Mansion.
“Then if residents truly want to subsidize it, they can vote for it,” he said. “If not, then council has some tough decisions to make.”
Taylor sought to reassure Mansion supporters that the study “is a good thing.”
“The research we’re doing is something council has talked about for a while,” she said. “This represents the city investing in the Mansion to make sure its future is secure.”