Directors of both the Museum of Bus Transportation and that museum’s host, the AACA Museum, have said that they intend to wrap up the merger of the two museums within the next few months now that members of the bus museum have voted to approve the merger plan in an effort to keep it from going bankrupt.
“I hope to close the merger within 60 days of the announcement of the voting results,” said John Oakman, the chair of the Museum of Bus Transportation’s board of directors.
That announcement came this week after the museum’s lawyer, Charles Beckley II, tallied the 214 ballots that the museum received prior to its July 15 voting deadline. Of those 214 ballots, 177 were in favor, 36 were against, and one was marked as “no vote.” According to Beckley, the museum’s bylaws require not just a majority of voters, but a majority of the museum’s 316 members – or at least 159 members – to approve of the merger.
The bus museum’s board of directors will now send a letter to AACA Museum Executive Director Jeffrey Bliemeister, notifying him of the result of the vote, Oakman said. A committee appointed by the bus museum board will then negotiate a merger agreement with the AACA Museum. It will then be up to the AACA Museum’s board of directors to ultimately approve the merger.
That merger, according to preliminary discussions between the two museums would require the bus museum – a 501(c)3 non-profit – to dissolve and turn over all of its assets and equipment to the AACA Museum. The bus museum would afterward have one member on the AACA Museum’s board of directors and would still care for the buses in the collection and put on bus-related events via a specially created committee, similar to the AACA Museum’s arrangement with the Tucker Club of America.
“Everything here is theoretical right now,” Bliemeister said. “But we want them to continue their events, and we believe this will strengthen both of our financial positions.”
Merging the two museums would altogether avoid the question of the bus museum’s lease of space from the AACA Museum, which expires in 2023. The bus museum prepaid the 20-year lease in 2003 but based on projections from Oakman and the bus museum’s treasurer, the bus museum will become insolvent in five years at the rate it’s currently losing money. According to Oakman, there was little hope that any major sponsors or donors to the museum would come through in that timespan.
While the bus museum does own outright the annex that houses some of the bus museum’s collection of roughly 50 vehicles behind the AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Oakman said the merger committee intends to present to the AACA Museum a plan to sell off the annex to raise funds to construct a new building that would better display the bus collection.
“We still have to see what that new building would cost,” he said, noting that the bus museum committee may have to raise additional funds after selling off the annex to afford the new building.
No plan for future bus museum facilities has yet been approved, Oakman pointed out.
Opponents of the merger pointed out that the bus museum’s merger discussions, which began as early as November, focused solely on the AACA Museum. While other members of the bus museum’s board of directors proposed exploring mergers with other museums as part of a due diligence process, those proposals were tabled prior to the vote.
While Oakman believes the merger can be wrapped by September at the earliest, Bliemeister – who has spoken favorably about the merger – has said he believes both museums should be able to hammer out an agreement before the end of the year.
“The basic goal is to get them into a long-term home,” he said.
For more information about the Museum of Bus Transportation, visit BusMuseum.org.