The University of Iowa is asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reconsider its decision not to fund replacement of the flood-damaged Museum of Art.
“We think we have a good case and we’re going to take that case to the federal government,” Doug True, UI senior vice president for business and finance, said. “This may take a while to sort through, but it’s well worth doing if there’s any chance whatsoever in getting the help we need.”
Recovery of the flood-damaged Museum of Art building, on the west bank of the Iowa River, is estimated at about $5.5 million. Most of the art was removed from the museum before the flood; the collection is now being stored and displayed in other locations, as UI officials consider the future of the museum.
FEMA’s regional office in Kansas City ruled that the Museum of Art building did not suffer damage exceeding 50 percent of the facility value. Therefore, FEMA will help pay to restore the existing building, but not to replace it with a new facility elsewhere.
In submitting a request for reconsideration of that ruling, UI officials say the extensive art collection – insured for $500 million — cannot be returned to the building on the river because Lloyd’s of London will not insure it there. Because the museum cannot be restored to its pre-flood function, due to lack of insurance at that site, UI officials argue FEMA should help pay to replace the facility elsewhere. They say there are FEMA policies that discuss replacing a facility to its “pre-disaster condition,” and those policies support replacement as the only viable option.
“The 2008 flood not only caused significant damage; it rendered the building unusable as space to ever house fine art again,” UI officials wrote in an internal position paper about the issue. “For all intents and purposes the flood destroyed the museum.”
The result of the UI request will mean the difference between FEMA covering some or most of the cost to build a new museum and the UI raising private funds for the entire cost, likely$40 million or $50 million.
Should the regional Kansas City office deny the UI request, UI officials are prepared to appeal the decision to FEMA’s national office, according to the internal position paper on the issue. It likely will take several months of back and forth discussion before there is a resolution, True said. UI officials submitted the reconsideration request to FEMA with the full support of the Iowa Homeland Security office, he said.