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Tribe to build $14 million headquarters

The White Earth Reservation Tribal Council recently received some good news: Proposed funding for a new RTC Administrative building has been approved, with groundbreaking scheduled for May 2007.

The $14.5 million building will feature two stories and 80,000 square feet, and it will be located west of the Biimaadiiziiwiin Senior Apartments near White Earth Village.

"We're very excited about this new facility," said White Earth Tribal Chairwoman Erma J. Vizenor.

"It's a dream come true -- and it's been a long time coming to reality," added Executive Director Ron Valiant.

Non-taxable bonds through the Eaton Vance Agency in Boston will finance the project. Additionally, the tribe received a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for furniture, fixtures and equipment, and another $400,000 from the White Earth Department of Transportation, which will build the road to the building site, and a parking lot equipped with security lighting.

The tribe will pay back the bonds through rent paid by its programs, and some gaming revenues.

"The need (for additional space) has been there for some time," Vizenor noted. "As our tribal programs, services, and government develop and grow... we need a new facility to better provide and coordinate services for our members."

"About two years ago, we got serious about looking at financing (for a new building)," Valiant said.

Because of favorable interest rates and other factors, Vizenor continued, "this just seems to be an opportune time."

"The new building will provide constituents with one-stop shopping," said Secretary-Treasurer Bud Heisler. Currently, several programs are housed at facilities throughout the reservation; with the new building, the majority of programs will be located in one building.

Some of the services to be housed in the new building will include human resources, law enforcement, tribal courts, tribal council headquarters, the finance department and "pretty much all of our administrative services," Valiant said.

Vizenor added that one of the more exciting aspects of the project is that there will be a wind turbine constructed nearby to provide electrical energy for the new building.

White Earth Health Services, which has also grown, will make use of the present headquarters building for health programming, she said.

Plans are currently being drawn up by the Fargo architectural firm Hunter -Grobe.

"We're looking at a bid letting in March," Valiant said.

Construction of the new building is expected to take 18 months to two years.

"When groundbreaking ceremonies take place in May 2007, there will be a celebration of feasting and a powwow at White Earth for everyone," said Vizenor.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454