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City commits to Roosevelt Library project, but only in Dickinson

The campaign to bring the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum to Dickinson continues.

City Commissioners Wednesday, March 7, approved a resolution committing hospitality tax and sales tax dollars to the proposed presidential library project.

A letter of support, though, makes it clear financial support will only be given if the project is constructed in Dickinson, as reflected in previous city resolutions.

The Library Foundation board restarted discussions recently on where the library should be constructed, with Medora now considered a potential site.

"It is very clear the commission's intent has been that our financial support was reliant on a construction location in Dickinson," Shawn Kessel, city administrator, said. "What this letter does is state, very clearly, that we continue to support the presidential library being constructed, and that our financial support is contingent upon a Dickinson location."

In 2014, the city pledged $3 million to the project as local match for a state pledge of $12 million. Half of that funding was secured through the city's pledge.

In 2017, $300,000 was awarded as 10 percent of the $3 million local match.

A matching grant of $350,000 was also committed for the Elkhorn Cabin replica construction.

Losing the local match could jeopardize the project's state funding, Kessel said.

"I believe that if the local match that the city has provided is withdrawn, it will impact the legislative pledge," he told The Dickinson Press Wednesday.

The foundation is also asking for an additional yearly operational supplement, ranging from $85,000 to $125,000 each year over a five-year period.

"Some of the (board's) members felt it would enhance the placement of the library in Dickinson if we committed to operational funds," Mayor Scott Decker said.

He added, "It's going to take about five years for it to get traction. In fact, they said it might take 10 years to get traction."

Commissioners agreed that if the project venue is changed, the foundation should return the $300,000 the city has already rewarded.

"We have a responsibility to our taxpayers, and to make sure that if we are using sales tax dollars it is going to a project that's going to benefit them within city limits," Commissioner Sarah Jennings-Trustem said.

Commissioner Jason Fridrich concurred.

"I just don't see why we would financially support a project that is outside of the city," he said. "If it's not going to be built here, I think we can find a different use for the $3 million that will support Dickinson a lot better."

The foundation board has committed to making a final decision on the project at their March 15 meeting, Kessel said.

They are on a timeline, Kessel added, as their state funding is based on starting construction in 2018.

"The legislation that provided those fundings says they have to have it vertical by the end of 2018," he said. "It may not be completed, but they have to start."

Following approval of the resolution, language was changed in the letter of support to reflect the city's position.

Decker will deliver the letter himself while attending the foundation's upcoming meeting in Minneapolis, Minn.

"The biggest thing," he said, "is to make sure they understand where our commitment is at."