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US Marshals officials searching for new path to fund museum

FORT SMITH, Ark. — It could take more than a year to come up with the $15.3 million needed to complete construction of the U.S. Marshals Museum after Fort Smith voters rejected a temporary sales tax increase to fund it, according to officials behind the project.

Unofficial results from Tuesday’s special election show 65 per cent of voters opposed introducing a nine-month, 1 per cent sales tax hike to fund the $19.1 million, 50,000-square-foot (4,700-square-meter) facility in the city near the border with Oklahoma.

Jim Dunn, president of the U.S. Marshals Museum Foundation, said Wednesday it could take up to 18 months to raise the money needed to complete the museum, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Dunn denied media reports that said the museum’s donations were running thin, saying museum officials have raised about $35 million over 10 years.

“Fundraising will be more difficult,” he said. “We are still fundraising and will continue fundraising, and we anticipate additional gifts” to the museum project.

The museum and the 1,000-item collections will display five galleries — Defining Marshals; Campfire Stories Under the Stars; Frontier Marshals; A Changing Nation; and Modern Marshals. The museum also will contain the Samuel M. Sicard Hall of Honor, commemorating those who have died in the line of duty, and the National Learning Center.

The opening had been scheduled for Sept. 24, which is the U.S. Marshals Service 230th anniversary. The building will be dedicated on that day, said Patrick Weeks, president and CEO of the U.S. Marshals Museum.

George Catsavis, a Fort Smith city director, said he voted against the museum tax ordinances due to the special election. Catsavis argued that the usual low turnout in special elections benefited residents who support the issue and said the vote should have been held during the Nov. 6 general election when more voters go to the polls.

Critics of the proposal said it’s unfair to use public tax money to construct a private museum.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com

The Associated Press