Members of the Minnesota Senate Capital Investment Committee toured the Becker County Museum in Detroit Lakes late Tuesday afternoon, then heard a presentation from local officials requesting $3 million in state bonding funds to help pay for a new museum facility.
"I think it went really well," said Becky Mitchell, executive director of the local museum. "We heard a lot of great, positive comments from the senators on the bonding committee. They were very complimentary of the project, and the progress that’s been made with the (capital) campaign and the partnerships we've formed."
Mitchell, who made the pitch for the state bonding funds alongside Museum Board President Natalie Bly, said that the senators were also quite impressed with the turnout for Tuesday's presentation.
"There were about 60 of us in all," Mitchell said. "The representation by everyone from city and county officials to museum volunteers and supporters was nothing short of amazing. One of the senators actually made the comment that no other project (presentation) they'd heard had a crowd that large."
Mitchell informed the 17 committee members in attendance at the presentation that the museum had already raised "just shy of $3 million" in pledges toward the $6.4 million, 30,000-square-foot museum building project that is tentatively slated to begin construction in 2020. Among those entities pledging their support thus far have been the Becker County Board of Commissioners ($1 million); the Detroit Lakes City Council ($500,000); and all the other communities in the county, along with several townships and a large number of of local businesses, organizations and individuals.
"We still have about $500,000 left to go," she said, adding that they hope to raise that amount in time for the start of the 2020 legislative session in St. Paul, which is when the formal committee hearings on all statewide bonding requests will be heard.
"I've heard numerous times from legislators that they want 'shovel-ready' projects," said Mitchell, explaining that the lawmakers want the balance of the local money needed to fund each of these projects to have been raised prior to the final bonding appropriations being made, to avoid any obstacles that would prevent the projects from beginning construction sometime in 2020, or shortly thereafter.
As she explained to the senators during Tuesday's presentation, the new two-story museum facility would be built directly to the north of the existing Historic Holmes Theatre, and would be attached to the theater via a joint lobby entrance that would allow them to share box office, gift shop and staffing resources. The existing building, meanwhile, would be demolished to make way for about 50 much-needed parking spaces immediately adjacent to the theater parking area.