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I am writing with regard to your Jan. 30 article titled “Audit questions community leases, hot-air balloon launches at Veterans Home in Yountville,” which reprints with additions of an article from the Sacramento Bee.

We at the museum were shocked by both the audit report and by the Sacramento Bee article, which so inaccurately describe our ground lease with the state. Both unfairly suggest that we are paying less rent than we should -- even questioning whether the museum is of benefit to our neighbors on the Veterans Home property.

What the audit report and the Bee article fail to disclose is that we are renters of the land on which our museum sits, not of the museum building itself. To suggest that the Veterans Home should somehow now receive “market rate rent” for a building it does not own is nonsensical.

In fact, with the support of our donors and trustees, we developed the land, we built the building, we own the building, and we maintain the building. We also built both our own parking lot and an adjacent lot for use by the Veterans Home, all as part of a ground lease agreement entered into with the state of California for our mutual benefit back in 1988.

Our community has raised millions of dollars over the past 30 years to establish and operate this major nonprofit cultural institution, which not only provides arts and education programming to Napa Valley residents, students and visitors, but that preserves and protects over 15,000 items in our permanent collection, evidencing the history of the Napa Valley.

And while we do pay a low lease payment, our annual operating budget exceeds $650,000 – none of which is subsidized by the state or by CalVet.

Our building is in regular need of repair, for which we alone are responsible. We recently launched a major fundraising campaign to repair our heating, ventilation and air condition, and humidity control systems, which are essential to any museum’s ability to preserve the art and artifacts in its care, and that will allow us to continue to attract and create the caliber of exhibitions for which we are known.

The museum is making long-term investments in its building, and in July 2017 notified CalVet of the exercise of our option to renew the lease, assuring that we will be in our current building until at least 2040.

We are very proud of the work we do at the museum, and of our warm relationship with our Veterans Home resident neighbors – who receive free admission to the museum’s exhibitions. We look forward to unveiling our Veterans Home History Case in our History Gallery this May, supported by a grant we obtained from Napa County, celebrating the history and contributions of the Yountville Veterans Home, and showcasing the art and artifacts collected by its residents over the decades.

We have always been assured that the residents and administrators of the Veterans Home - whatever this audit report might suggest - view our museum and the adjacent Lincoln Theater as assets of great benefit to the property.

At no time was anyone connected with the museum interviewed or consulted in connection with these audits, and we were not informed of its conclusions until the Sacramento Bee article was published and your reporter contacted us.

While we support the good stewardship of assets intended for our veterans, this unfair attack on our nonprofit institution – which is simply abiding by the ground lease under which we have operated for decades – does a disservice to the many veterans who frequent our museum and volunteer here, and to the countless community members, trustees and staff – along with the brilliant artists, historians, and environmental scientists - who have contributed so much to build a Napa Valley Museum of which we can all be proud.

Laura Rafaty

Executive Director

Napa Valley Museum


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