TR Library receives money for operations costs
Development of the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library will continue after the state Legislature cleared the library to use some of the funds it was previously given for operations.
In 2013, the Legislature set aside $12 million to help build the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library. The 2015 Legislature carried the money forward with the stipulation the money could only be used for planning, design and construction of the presidential library and not operations or exhibits.
If Gov. Doug Burgum signs Senate Bill 2003, $10.5 million will be available on July 1 for planning, design and construction, plus an additional $750,000 will be available for operational costs.
"The operational funds will allow the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation to move forward more aggressively with fundraising, public relations, and architectural design work," Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation Board Chair Bruce Pitts said in a press release. "This has been a grueling session for our legislators. We are grateful for their continued support."
TRPLF Theodore Roosevelt Scholar Clay Jenkinson said it has been "a challenge" to be able to spend the money that was allotted to the project because of the requirements that it only go to the building of the library.
"Now, we'll have the chance to use this modest, but important, amount of money to help move forward those parts of the project that are critical to its success," he said. "We're very grateful. ... At a time in North Dakota when funds are very short and the state is in a perceived budget crisis we feel that this a really important vote of confidence by the Legislature of North Dakota in the project that we're doing."
The bill requires that construction on the TRPL facility be well underway by Dec. 31, 2018. However, Jenkinson said this is actually "good news" for the project because it forces them to get something built in 2018 and 2019.
"Without this legislative challenge, this amendment, we might have continued down the path of trying to build all of it at once," he said. "... It's a wake-up call, it's an opportunity. It also sharpens our focus in a way that works out for our original intention, which was to have something that the public can go into and enjoy in the year 2019."
Rep. Vicky Steiner, R-District 37, who is also a TRPLF board member said some of the legislators wanted to see some sort of action happen with the library, which is why the amendment specified the construction date.
"We're going to have to sit down as a board and probably look at how we are going to accomplish that goal for them," she said. "We will accomplish it, we will. Once we start construction, once we lay footings then the money is secure because we've begun construction."
She added that it was a good step to be able to have some money available for the board to use.
"It was good to get the operational money," she said. "... I actually wanted a little bit longer timeframe, three to four years, so that we could take our time, but there's some legislators down here from other districts that are a little bit more impatient with that. We'll respect that and work with it."
Jenkinson said the board has been anxious since the beginning of biennium because they were aware that state money would not be readily available. He also noted that while they wanted the library to succeed, it was also important to them that Dickinson State University be "assisted through a time of difficulty."
"The project started at Dickinson State, it will always have an important relationship with Dickinson State and Dickinson is so blessed to have one of North Dakota's four-year universities," he said. "The last thing we wanted was this to somehow become a kind of zero-sum game where they succeeded and we didn't or we succeeded and they didn't. The way this has come is beyond what we could have expected and we are delighted for the relief Dickinson State is getting."