Easement issue resolved clearing work on U.S. Marshals Museum

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 81 views 

A potential property easement conflict has been resolved that involved the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and could have delayed construction of the U.S. Marshals Museum.

In early 2014 the U.S. Marshals Museum Board of Directors learned that the planned museum site near the Arkansas River in downtown Fort Smith may have to be changed because of an unknown easement issue.

The museum provided the following language to explain the issue: “The riverfront tract is subject to a bank rectification and channel improvement easement acquired under a federal Declaration of Taking in the 1960’s when the navigation system was built. The easement was not recorded in county real estate records and was discovered by museum engineers in early 2014. Since then, the museum has worked collaboratively with the Corps’ regulatory and real estate division on a plan to allow construction on the site. The Robbie Westphal family completed the land transfer in September 2015.”

Jim Dunn, president and CEO of the U.S. Marshals Museum, said Thursday (Nov. 5) the museum and Corps signed a consent agreement that will allow work on the more than $50 million project on the 16.3-acre space donated by the Westphal family.

The agreement will allow the museum’s planned spire representing “America’s Star” spire – symbolic of the U.S. Marshals Service – to extend 90 feet above the easement westward toward the Arkansas River and Oklahoma.

“Today is a major step forward for this project,” Dunn said in a statement. “We appreciate the high degree of cooperation of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in addressing the easement issue. This outcome is a win-win, and we could not be more pleased.”

The consent agreement also allows improvements on the easement, including parking lots, pedestrian walkways and a reflecting pool, according to the museum. Also, the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma may build a monument to tribal law enforcement within the easement. However, any work within the easement is subject to removal if the Corps is required to perform bank repairs to maintain navigation.

The museum’s architects, Cambridge Seven Associates and Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects, resume work on the first phase of the architectural drawings. Brent Johnson Design, Inc., the museum’s exhibit designer, has completed the first phase of their exhibit plans and will continue after the architects complete their conceptual drawings. The architectural design work is expected to take at least nine months.

In January 2007, the U.S. Marshals Service selected Fort Smith as the site for the estimated 50,000-square-foot national museum. A ceremonial groundbreaking was held in September, and museum officials hope to have the facility open by late 2017.

The museum will contain three primary exhibition galleries, a temporary exhibits gallery, a Hall of Honor, and a National Learning Center to offer programs for students, adults, and families. The three galleries are: “Marshals Today,” an overview of the role of U.S. Marshals in contemporary society; “A Changing Nation,” telling key stories of U.S. Marshals history; and “Frontier Marshals,” bringing law to the ever-changing frontier.

The museum reports it has $26.236 million “committed,” with $22.66 million available after deducting prepaid construction costs and other expenses. The museum’s numbers show it needs $32.869 million to complete the facility, based on a total campaign cost of $55.529 million. The total campaign cost includes $4 million for an endowment and $2.977 million for “contingencies.”