Ben Franklin Costs Taxpayers

The statue of Benjamin Franklin in front of the old courthouse in Union may cost county taxpayers almost $30,000 since private donations for the project have fallen short of covering the price of the bronze.    Missourian Photo.

Fund-raising efforts to buy the statue of Benjamin Franklin that sits in front of the old courthouse in Union have fallen well short of covering the entire cost of the bronze.

The statue cost about $43,080, and so far, $13,657 has been raised through donations.

That means at this time the county taxpayers are paying for the remaining $29,423.

Bob Hansen served on the  fund-raising committee for the project and said the amount of money raised was a “disappointment.”

Ed Hillhouse, who was the presiding county commissioner when the statue was purchased, said he thought more money could have been raised.

Going into the fund raising he thought more than half of the money could have come from donations.

“I don’t think (the county commission) has been as aggressive as we could have been,” Hillhouse said. “It always falls on the county commission in the final analysis.”

The statue was put in as part of the restoration of the old courthouse in 2010, Hillhouse noted.

The economic downturn could have also hurt donations, Hillhouse said.

The county went ahead and paid for the statue, which represents the county’s namesake, Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer said.

The best decision is for the county to just write off the expense and go on to “bigger and better things,” Griesheimer added.

“The original plan was that when they got Ben Franklin they were going to take donations from the general public  and that way they wouldn’t use county funds,” Griesheimer said. “I think there’s still about $30,000 outstanding.”

Second District Commissioner Ann Schroeder said, “I would have hoped we could have done better,” with the fund raising.

But Schroeder said she still holds out hope that the rest of the money can be raised.


Schroeder said she is working on installing a plaque in the old courthouse to display the donors’ names, and if anyone else contributes, their names can be added.

In January, none of the commissioners who were originally involved with the statue will be on the county commission.

“I think we’re as far as we can go with it,” Griesheimer said. “It is what it is.”

Griesheimer noted that he was not on the commission when the project began.

Despite the fund-raising efforts falling short, Griesheimer said he still thinks the statue is an asset to the county.

“It really looks neat over there,” he said.

While donations are still being accepted for the statue, they are no longer being solicited, Griesheimer said.

“It’s pretty hard to go back and raise money for something that’s been sitting there for two years,” he said.

Bill Miller, Sr., who helped on the raising of funds, agreed with Griesheimer, and added that the early purchase and installation of the statue probably had an effect on raising money.

“It was installed about the time the drive was just getting started,” Miller said.