University of Iowa officials are giving the federal government a few more months to provide answers to questions regarding funding for the flood-damaged Museum of Art before moving on with other options for the facility, UI President Sally Mason said Wednesday.
The idea of litigation against the Federal Emergency Management Agency over the art museum funding, mentioned last June by a UI official as one of all possible options on the table, is not likely, Mason said.
“I don’t sense that we’re heading toward litigation,” Mason said during a break in the state Board of Regents meeting in West Des Moines. “I sense that we’re looking now at a range of options that might be available to us, including everything from going out on our own or public/private partnership.”
After the 2008 flood, FEMA ruled that damage to the UI Museum of Art did not meet the necessary level to qualify for replacement funding at a new site. UI officials disagreed with that decision, saying they could not return millions of dollars worth of art to the building on the river for insurance reasons, but FEMA has twice denied UI appeals on the matter.
Questions about FEMA funding for three major UI flood replacement projects — Hancher Auditorium, the School of Music and the Art Building — were recently settled, so UI officials now want to turn attention to finally settling the Museum of Art issue, Mason said Wednesday.
“We’re going to start exploring how we move ahead with the art museum now that we’re pretty confident about the (three) big projects moving forward,” she said.
There’s still ongoing conversation with FEMA officials regarding the art museum funding, Mason said, and UI officials have asked them to “move things along.”
“I’d say that if we haven’t gotten anything from them before the end of this semester … we really have to think hard about our choices,” she said. “So we’re in a sort of 60-to-90 day waiting period on questions that we have with them. When we get answers, then we’ll know how to move forward. I think that will be this spring.”
A preliminary estimate discussed by UI officials in June showed it could cost $75 million to replace the Museum of Art, a figure based on looking at other new museums built in the past few years.
UI officials want FEMA’s help to replace the museum at a new location, away from the Iowa River, because they say no insurance company will insure the art in that location. The 12,000-piece collection, insured for $500 million, was evacuated from the museum in the days leading up to the June 2008 flood. The collection is now displayed and stored in other locations.