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North Dakota Legislative Action Accelerates TR Presidential Library Project

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North Dakota Legislative Action Accelerates TR Presidential Library Project

Shanna Shervheim

In his autobiography, Theodore Roosevelt wrote that he “rose like a rocket” in his political career.  With the close of the North Dakota 65th Legislative Assembly late last month, the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation (TRPLF) is “rising like a rocket” to meet the new mandates of the state’s legislation pertaining to the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library (TRPL).

Senate Bill 2003, the appropriation bill for the North Dakota University System, includes continued funding for the TRPL. The bill has several facets that affect the approach the foundation will take to building it.

First, the State of North Dakota reinforced its support of the presidential library project by re-appropriating the remaining $11.25 million of the $12 million that was appropriated during the 2013 legislative session and carried over in 2015.

Secondly, the current legislation allows $750,000 of the appropriated funding to spent on operating expenses. Up until this time, the foundation has relied solely on the financial support of its board of directors, private donors, and a small percentage of the City of Dickinson’s $3 million match grant to carry on the daily operational expenses related to preparing for construction.

The availability of operating funds, starting July 1, will allow the TRPLF to move forward more aggressively with national fundraising, public relations, and architectural design work.

A third, and vitally important, piece of the legislation states that construction on the main facility of the presidential library must commence prior to December 31, 2018.

Fourth, the legislation stipulates that state funding, aside from the $750,000 in operating funds, must be used for construction of the presidential library building only and may not be used for operations, exhibits, or replica structures.

Finally, the building, including building and design costs, must cost at least $14 million.

Of necessity, these provisions of SB2003 accelerate the projected timeline for planning and design. A more aggressive timeline, in turn, has prompted the TRPLF board of directors to carefully consider the most appropriate and efficient approach to building the presidential library.

During its recent monthly meeting, the TRPLF board of directors decided the best course of action is to adopt a phased approach. Keeping the original vision of a $55-60 million facility and a $40 million endowment in mind, the board is moving forward with a firm commitment to meet the legislative requirements by planning and constructing a building costing at least $14 million. Construction on this building will begin in October of 2018 and is projected to be completed in 2020.

It will house the Theodore Roosevelt Center whose digital library first inspired the state to appropriate funding for the TRPL. The building will also provide spaces that allow visitors to explore the life and legacy of Theodore Roosevelt.

This photo of the Elkhorn Ranch cabin was taken by Theodore Roosevelt during his sojourn in Dakota Territory. The TRPLF is building a replica of the cabin on the TR Presidential Library site.

This photo of the Elkhorn Ranch cabin was taken by Theodore Roosevelt during his sojourn in Dakota Territory. The TRPLF is building a replica of the cabin on the TR Presidential Library site.

Meanwhile, construction of the Elkhorn Ranch cabin replica on the site will begin this summer as planned. Surrounding its construction, the TRPLF plans to hold several public events on the site. State appropriated funds will not be used for the construction of the cabin.

“This is an exciting time for the project, and I want to express gratitude to our state legislators for their hard work, to the City of Dickinson for its commitment, and to the many citizens of the region and state for their support,” said TRPLF Board Chair Bruce Pitts.

As the project moves forward, the board of directors remains committed to building a presidential library Theodore Roosevelt would be proud of, and that will be a great asset to the city,  state, and nation.