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FORT SMITH -- Construction of the 50,000-square-foot U.S. Marshals Museum is scheduled to begin June 21, the president and CEO of the museum said Tuesday.

Patrick Weeks told the museum's board the museum foundation has raised enough in cash and pledges, $31.5 million, to begin construction on the U.S. Marshals Service's national museum on the banks of the Arkansas River.

The board passed two resolutions at its quarterly meeting Tuesday. One was to authorize the start of construction. The other was to begin design development for the exhibits.

Museum officials will meet this week with construction manager CDI Contractors of Little Rock to get the company's guaranteed maximum price on building the museum.

"You should see by the time the first of June comes around a bunch of ants over on the hill," Weeks said.

Activity will begin on site in late April or early May toward preparation of the foundation, and contractors will begin to mobilize for the construction work. Weeks said work will continue until opening day, Sept. 24, 2019, which marks the 230th anniversary of the U.S. Marshals Service.

The schematic design for the exhibits -- Weeks refers to them as "experiences" because they are more than just things to look at -- has been completed, but the design development must be completed before production can begin in July. Weeks said the exhibit production will be the second most expensive part of the project, about $10 million, after construction of the building.

Exhibit designer Thinkwell Group of Los Angeles will provide detailed design drawings and descriptions of all project elements "so everyone involved knows just what to do, how to do it and what it will cost."

Weeks said the $31.5 million will cover such things as the cost of building the museum, finishing design work, architectural fees and running museum offices.

That leaves $19.4 million yet to raise, Weeks told board members, noting the figure was down from $33 million needed 18 months ago.

"I'm pretty stinking excited about the fact that we're able to be where we are today," he said.

The museum foundation isn't easing up on raising the remaining money, foundation President Jim Dunn said. In addition to continued fundraising work, he said he expects the museum to draw investors through the government's new market tax credits program gaining popularity with the recovery of the economy.

Dunn said R.A. Young III of Fort Smith, chairman of the museum foundation, will continue to lead fundraising in the Fort Smith area. Young and Mary Carleton were honored in January for the key leadership role they have played in supporting and raising funds for the museum.

Foundation Vice President Alice Alt told board members the museum will apply this week to the National Endowment for the Humanities for a $750,000 grant.

NW News on 03/14/2018

Print Headline: Marshals museum gets start date

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