DALLAS — Work has been halted on an American Indian museum in Oklahoma City following the demise in the 2012 Legislature of a $40 million state bond measure to complete the project.
Construction was expected to come an end at the site Sunday after funds ran out, said Blake Wade, executive director of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum, at a June 28 news conference.
The semi-completed project will be secured and maintained for at least a year in hopes of getting a bond bill through the 2013 Legislature, he said.
Gov. Mary Fallin supported the 2012 bond measure that failed, and Wade said Fallin continues to support additional state funding for the museum.
“The only way to resolve this situation favorably is for the state to deliver the necessary funds to complete work at the American Indian Cultural Museum,” Wade quoted from a letter he received from Fallin. “She will continue to work with legislators in the 2013 session to achieve that goal.” He said $91 million has been spent on the project to date.
The $170 million project has been financed in part with $58 million of proceeds from state lease revenue bonds issued by the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority and $6 million of federal stimulus funds allocated by Gov. Brad Henry in 2010.
The Capitol Authority’s appropriations-backed debt is rated AA by Fitch and Standard & Poor’s, and Aa3 by Moody’s Investors Service. The Oklahoma Legislature established the Native American Cultural and Educational Authority in 1994 to build and operate the museum. The Authority receives $1.5 million a year from the state for operations.
Wade said the Authority has enough money on hands to mothball the project for 12 months at a cost of $52,000 a month.
Work began on the museum in 2005 with proceeds from a $33 million state lease revenue bond issue.
The 2008 Legislature approved a $25 million bond issue for the project but in 2010, lawmakers rejected a $43 million bond measure for the museum.
The $40 million proposal failed by one vote in the Senate in the waning days of the 2012 session after being approved by budget committees in both chambers.
Wade said the project could be completed with $40 million of bond proceeds. Private donors, including tribes in Oklahoma, have promised $31 million.
Oklahoma City had agreed to provide $9 million to match the $40 million from the failed bond measure.
Wade said the museum would have been a centerpiece for Oklahoma City during the recent National Basketball Association championship series that pitted the Oklahoma City Thunder against the Miami Heat.
“It would have been grand to have the American Indian Cultural Museum up and running so the whole world would have known what it was to be in Oklahoma and see the American Indian,” he said.
The earliest completion date is 2014, Wade said.
“I hope we can move rapidly to get it completed because the Thunder will be back in the finals and the whole world will come back and see us,” he said. “We must have this center completed by then.”