Contractors got back to work Monday on the U.S. Marshals Museum after two weeks of flooding downtime.
The museum under construction on Riverfront Drive in Fort Smith stayed about 3½ feet above the floodwaters in the recent flooding of the Arkansas River, U.S. Marshals Museum President Patrick Weeks told his board of directors Tuesday.
"We didn't dodge a bullet. It was due to good planning, and not luck," Weeks said of the 8-foot mound built on Riverfront Drive where the museum is being constructed.
CDI Contractors of Little Rock completed preliminary work on the pad in 2017 with engineering by Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects.
If a dam upstream gave way, though, Weeks noted, there would have been much more to be concerned about than the $19.1 million building under construction 423 feet above sea level. It would've been "catastrophic" for the city, he said.
In addition to a new brick paver fundraising campaign — $250 for 2-by-4 inch bricks and $500 for 8-by-8 inch pavers — the museum will hold a town hall event at 6 p.m. Thursday at Southside High School to present more information on the museum's ideas for the exhibit "experience."
"This is not political ... it's nothing more than to show what will be in the building," Weeks explained.
Despite the two-week setback, dedication of the 50,000-square-foot Mary Carleton and Robert A. Young III building is still being planned for Sept. 24, the 230th anniversary of the U.S. Marshals Service. CDI is focusing on completion of the Sam M. Sicard Hall of Honor, which will be viewable by appointment as construction of the rest of the museum is completed, Weeks told the board.
Since earlier this spring, the fundraising goal for the U.S. Marshals Museum Foundation has decreased by about $2 million, with efficiency measures to cut costs and continued fundraising efforts. In March, Fort Smith voters denied the museum's request for a nine-month, 1 percent tax that was expected to raise about $16 million.
Weeks noted about $7.75 million of the $15 million remaining to be raised was "key." Once the museum receives $7.75 million in cash and pledges, it will be able to "pull the trigger" on buying the exhibits needed for the museum "experience," he said. Only $10,000 of a $3 million loan from First National Bank of Fort Smith has been used, he added.
Alice Alt, vice president of Development for the U.S. Marshals Museum Foundation, said she and other foundation members are "diligently" working to seek out pledges both regionally and nationally. Jim Dunn, president of the Museum Foundation, said seeking local pledges in the face of the devastating floods was not appropriate. Fort Smith and Van Buren residents have already provided a majority of the $33.5 million in cash and pledges, and another $3.5 million in land and in-kind donations.
In this 2019 forecast, U.S. Marshals Museum CFO Darren Brewer, said year-to-date operating expenses for the museum up to April are about $119,000 under budget at $521,000. The projection for the remaining months of the year is to end up with about $625,000 in expenses. The 2019 budget for operating expenses approved last year was $792,000. Brewer said education, marketing and personnel expenses have been less than expected.
With the building project, the museum has spent about $11.4 million in capital expenditures this fiscal cycle and projects to spend about $10.5 million in the next fiscal cycle.
The 2020 budget plan calls for a request of $808,000, which is about $16,000 more than requested last year. While many of the line item expenses are expected to go down, costs for insurance and utilities for the new building will be higher.
"The point I would make here is that but for the fact we'll have higher insurance and utility expenses because we'll be in the new building, the budget will be lower, quite a bit lower," U.S. Marshals Museum Board Chairman Douglas Babb said. "The staff has prepared a mean, aggressive and reasonable budget that would be considerably lower were it not for the insurance and the utilities."
In other news, the museum's governance committee unanimously chose Babb to remain chairman of the board, with Fred Williams as vice chairman, Pat Hightower as treasurer and Claude Legris as secretary. Legris noted the recent passing of longtime Marshals Museum supporter Linda Seubold after seven years of battling cancer.
David Kennedy, curator for the U.S. Marshals Museum, informed board members that a large amount of material on famed U.S. Deputy Marshal Helen Crawford of Texas has been obtained from her former caretaker. Crawford, famous for commandeering a World War II Nazi submarine off the coast of Texas, was with the Marshals Service from 1934 to 1970 and died in 2010 at the age of 102. One of her first assignments in Texas was to be on the lookout for bandits Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, according to U.S. Marshals historian Dave Turk.