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House Speaker Presents Plan To Finish American Indian Cultural Center

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Sitting on prime property on the banks of the Oklahoma River, the American Indian Cultural Center has become a boarded up political boondoggle. Sitting on prime property on the banks of the Oklahoma River, the American Indian Cultural Center has become a boarded up political boondoggle.
OKLAHOMA CITY -

A plan to finally finish construction of the Indian Cultural Center will be considered by lawmakers this week. The bill was filed Tuesday and would essentially mean handing the museum over to the City of Oklahoma City.

Sitting on prime property on the banks of the Oklahoma River, the American Indian Cultural Center has become a boarded up political boondoggle.

“I'm the 11th Speaker of the House to deal with this issue,” said Speaker Jeff Hickman.

But Hickman says he has a plan to finally get the museum finished and open.

“Hopefully what it is is the final plan, the final chapter in this story,” said Hickman.

The state would pay $25 million toward construction, proponents say they have another $40 million pledged to complete the project. To offset the state's new bond payments, the city would take over $2 million in yearly operational costs. Currently the state pays the $2 million in operational costs in addition to a $5-million bond payment on debt on construction so far.

5/11/2015 Related Story: OK Speaker To File Legislation That Could Give Native American Cultural Center To OKC 

“There's no new money,” said Hickman. “We have no new money if we wanted to put into it.”

The city would immediately take back the 143 acres of real estate surrounding the museum. The city could lease that property out. And once the bond is paid off, they would also take ownership of the American Indian Cultural Center. All the profits would go toward operations of the museum.

“I wouldn't know why they wouldn't want to be part of the project,” said Hickman. “They've been telling us for decades now how this is going to be very successful for the state.”

Mayor Mick Cornett says the city wasn't involved in putting together the plan.

“I think the council wants to be open minded to it and if the legislature passes it we'll look at it and try to see if it works within what we can work with,” said Cornett.

Cornett says it would take weeks, maybe months for the council and city budget staff to consider the proposal. Negotiations would begin when or if the legislature approves the plan.

“We've explored every alternative that is out there and that's why we believe this is not only the best option it really is quite frankly the only option,” said Hickman.

The bill is expected to be heard in committee Wednesday and could be voted on by the full house as early as Thursday.

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