The rocks and other materials at Arizona’s Mining and Mineral Museum will continue to gather dust after Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed a measure Thursday to reopen the museum, which closed in 2011.
In the veto letter, Ducey said he doesn’t think there is a plan to secure the future of the museum and that the state needs to evaluate the use of all of its buildings, not just the mining museum.
Democratic Sen. Ed Ableser, D-Tempe, who sponsored similar legislation for the last several years, said the museum would give students a chance to learn about important aspects of Arizona history. “The irony in his veto letter is he’s talking about effective use of state property — and he’s spending a lot of money for an empty building that is collecting cobwebs,” he said.
The proposal by Republican Sen. Gail Griffin of Hereford was designed to transfer the stewardship of the museum from the Arizona Historical Society to the Arizona Geological Survey and allocated more than $428,000 for operation and maintenance costs.
Griffin said the Arizona Historical Society is already spending money earmarked for the museum on the empty building, so it might as well use it to educate children and adults. “I want to see the building open. I want to see the building productive and I want to see children,” she said during committee hearings.
Legislative analysts estimate reopening the museum could cost more than $2 million.
The measure was part of an annual effort to reopen the museum since it closed its doors in May 2011 and never reopened. This year’s effort passed through the Legislature with only two lawmakers voting against the bill in the House and three in the Senate.
Many of the museum’s more than 20,000 museum specimens are scattered around the state, though some remain in the museum’s basement.
Arizona Historical Society official James Norton said the attorney general is looking into an incident involving missing museum rocks and minerals being auctioned on eBay Inc., though he confirmed the museum’s moon rocks are safely stored at the society’s museum at Papago Park.