State pop museum bond proposal being pushed
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
12/18/12 at 7:45 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - Supporters of a proposed Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture in Tulsa will again ask lawmakers for a $42.5 million bond proposal.
Oklahoma Historical Society Executive Director Bob Blackburn said the facility will not decrease general revenue to retire the bonds.
Blackburn, in a news briefing Monday, said the state could use the money in his agency's base appropriation to retire debt on its new building to pay off the debt on the bonds for the Tulsa museum.
Bond proposals to repair the Capitol, for the Tulsa museum and to finish the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City failed to garner legislative approval last session.
Blackburn said bonds for the Oklahoma History Center will be paid off in 2019. The bonds total $50 million, he said.
"That money will still be in our base in 2019 when that bond issue is paid off," Blackburn said. "All we need is a vehicle to sell the bond issue to get the cash to front-load the (Tulsa) project and the money in our base will pay off that bond issue."
But Blackburn said there is no guarantee lawmakers will not take the funds out of the agency's base once the History Center bond issue is paid off.
There would be a funding gap for three years of about $6.6 million when the agency would be making two bond payments should bonds for the Tulsa facility be authorized when the agency is still retiring the bonds for the Oklahoma History Center near the Capitol, Blackburn said.
Debt service on bonds for the Tulsa facility is $2.2 million a year.
Blackburn said the business model for the museum, which includes special events, parking and sales, would cover the $2.1 million needed to operate the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture, also called OKPOP.
Blackburn said opposition has been toward debt and obligating general revenue funds to retire it and not so much against a bond issue.
"We are not increasing the state's indebtedness out of general revenue with this," Blackburn said. "We are just asking for a bond issue to serve as a vehicle to allow us to expand our ability to collect, preserve and share history."
Jeff Moore, project director for OKPOP, said the museum could be built by late 2016 or early 2017 in the Brady District. It would be about 75,000 square feet with 25,000 square feet of exhibit space. Space would also be dedicated to programs, education and storage, Moore said.
Blackburn said once the museum is approved, it would open the floodgates for donations to collections that might otherwise wind up in facilities in other states.
Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, last year carried legislation for the bond proposal for OKPOP. He was not ready on Monday to commit to a bond issue, although he said he supports the project.
House Speaker-elect T.W. Shannon said infrastructure issues will be a high priority in the coming legislative session and reasonable proposals will be given consideration.
Original Print Headline: Pop museum push still alive
Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465