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October 22, 1999

Ryan Announces Decision On National Coal Museum

SPRINGFIELD - Governor George H. Ryan announced today the state will not invest in the ailing National Coal Museum in West Frankfurt. Ryan made the decision after reviewing a feasibility report from the Task Force on the National Coal Museum that was formed to study the issue.

"Three weeks ago I asked a 14-member task force composed of mining experts, organized labor, tourism and historic site consultants to evaluate the safety, management and viability of the National Coal Museum in West Frankfort," Ryan said.

"The findings of the task force clearly indicate that a significant state investment in this particular site is not in the best interest of the people of Illinois. First and foremost, the site simply is not safe and requires substantial renovation. Unfortunately, an underground mine can never be guaranteed safe. And it is with that in mind that I have decided against dedicating any further state resources to support the National Coal Museum in West Frankfort."

On September 16, Governor Ryan met with Dr. Christopher Ledvina, Chairman and Founder of the National Coal Museum, to discuss the future of the museum. Ryan indicated then that any decision regarding state involvement with the museum would depend on the outcome of a thorough evaluation of the museum's safety and soundness, historical significance, tourism potential and financial viability.

Since September 30, the state has been paying the power bill of the National Coal Museum. Museum officials were several months behind in payments to the Southeastern Illinois Electric Cooperative. Threatened with power disconnection which eventually would have rendered the mine useless, the state entered into an agreement to keep the power on until the task force had the opportunity to complete their evaluation and report their findings to the governor.

Effective October 29, Southeastern Illinois Electric Cooperative will terminate service to the National Coal Museum unless the museum honors its previous payment commitments.

"I believe the concept of a National Coal Museum to preserve the history of coal mining and teach future generations about mining's heritage is a good idea," Ryan added. "However, after having reviewed the task force's report, I cannot commit further state funding to this particular project.

"I want to thank the members of the Task Force for having used their combined 168 years of mining experience to conduct this important evaluation. Also, I'd like to acknowledge Dr. Ledvina, and his associates for their cooperation and assistance."

Attached is an executive summary of the report issued by the Task Force on the National Coal Museum.

A complete copy of the task force's report is available upon request.


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