Budget reduced for U.S. Marshals Museum, awaiting word on ‘major grant applications’

by Michael Tilley (mtilley@talkbusiness.net) 973 views 

Updated rendering of the planned U.S. Marshals Museum under construction in Fort Smith.

Staff leaders with the U.S. Marshals Museum told the museum’s board they were able to reduce the budget for the planned facility and the amount to raise is now down to around $17.9 million.

The museum board, which held its quarterly meeting Tuesday (June 12) in Fort Smith, also approved moving ahead with a design of the “Mounted Statue of the Native Light Horseman.” The statue will be placed on the grounds of the U.S. Marshals Museum and paid for by the Five Civilized Tribes. Museum staff will now work with the tribes’ leadership on details related to statue installation. Sallisaw-based artist Daniel HorseChief designed the statue.

In January 2007, the U.S. Marshals Service selected Fort Smith as the site for the national museum. A ceremonial groundbreaking was held in September 2015 on a site near the Arkansas River in downtown Fort Smith, and museum officials initially hoped to have the facility open by late 2017. Fundraising delays have pushed the opening date of the estimated 50,000-square-foot facility to September 2019.

Once completed, it will include iconic features inspired by the U.S. Marshals Service badge. It will be a state-of-the-art national museum focused on providing visitors with what it calls “a transformative storytelling experience.” In addition to five sections inside the museum dedicated to different aspects of the Marshals service and history, the museum will feature a “Hall of Honor” to honor U.S. Marshals killed in the line of duty.

The Light horsemen, using various names by the different tribes, served with the U.S. Marshals prior to Oklahoma statehood. The Cherokee Lighthorsemen were founded when the tribe was still located in Georgia and other parts of the Southeast. The name continues, for example, with the Chickasaw Nation in 2004 re-establishing the now active Chickasaw Lighthorse Police Department.

Marshals Museum President and CEO Patrick Weeks told the board the financial picture is good with facility construction set to begin soon and museum work begin to transition more to the opening in late 2019.

“Before we blink, construction will begin on the United States Marshals Museum,” Weeks said, adding several times during his presentation that the construction is possible only because of all the work that began in 2007.

A rendering of the “Mounted Statue of the Native Light Horseman” to be placed on the grounds of the U.S. Marshals Museum and paid for by the 5 Civilized Tribes.

The museum and its foundation spent about $2.8 million in fiscal year 2018 (July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018) primarily for design and site preparation work. The board on Tuesday approved $18.5 million in fiscal year 2019 for facility construction, exhibits and other work necessary for the opening in early fiscal year 2020 (July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020).

Week also said the museum and foundation staff have worked with architects, exhibit designers and others to reduce the cost to complete the museum from around $53 million to $49.907 million. Funds raised and the facility budget reduction result in about $17.9 million remaining to raise, Weeks said. While that is a big number, it is down from $33 million when he became CEO in mid 2016.

The board approved the fiscal year 2019 budget and funding to continue with facility construction.

On the point of fundraising, U.S. Marshals Museum Foundation President Jim Dunn said two “major grant applications” are pending that could provide “significant” money. He said the foundation will soon submit another grant application. The foundation, Dunn said, is also pursuing large donations from individuals in the Fort Smith area, Northwest Arkansas and central Arkansas. Dunn said he is optimistic in positive returns on the many “asks” made by the foundation.

“We are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and I do not believe it is an oncoming train,” Dunn said with a smile.

The board also on Tuesday approved member and leadership changes. Approved for board membership were Trish Flanagan, director of the Future School of Fort Smith, Charolette Tidwell, head of the Antioch for Youth and Family in Fort Smith, and Fred Williams, downtown Fort Smith property owner and co-owner of the marketing firm Williams-Crawford & Associates.

New board leaders are Douglas Babb, board chairman, Charles Ledbetter, vice chairman, Patricia Hightower, treasurer, and Fred Williams, secretary.