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City shows support for ITOW

Perham city leaders have taken action in support of the In Their Own Words Veterans Museum.

As the museum strives to overcome a major financial hurdle, the city council voted at a meeting Monday to publicly support ITOW in its efforts, and to contribute about $21,000 to the cause.

These donated funds will make up a $21,000 shortfall in expected pledges. The ITOW Museum had previously taken out a $125,000 loan from Perham's Economic Development Authority, which was backed by pledges; however, some of these pledges were made by businesses that no longer exist, or are otherwise considered "uncollectible" now.

The city's donation essentially covers these uncollectible pledges.

The funds will help ITOW leaders as they continue to work with Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corporation, or MMCDC, which holds the museum's mortgage. After months of non-payment or partial payments on the mortgage, the museum was given a notice of default in November 2012.

ITOW will owe a balloon payment on the mortgage by April of 2014. While the total cost of the loan owed will be $625,000, numbers newly released Monday show that, after some ITOW escrow funds and an EDA loan guarantee are applied, the total remaining balance due will be about $320,000. This is also after a 15 percent principal forgiveness on the loan, which the new market tax credit loan through MMCDC provides for.

As of Monday, the museum had met its immediate obligations of the default notice, but would need to continue to do so and meet all future deadlines.

One of the obligations laid out in the notice was to have the EDA pledge account up to the full $125,000, which the city's contribution ensures.

"We have met every requirement to date," Marcia Davis told the council. Davis is board president of the Friends of the History Museum of East Otter Tail County, which oversees ITOW.

For the first time in maybe nine months, Davis said, they were able to make the ITOW mortgage payment this month. And they were paid up on utilities.

Davis said museum volunteers continue to meet with state and community leaders on creative fundraising efforts. More than $4,000 has recently been raised, and 300 more fundraising letters will be going out this week. Organizations around the state, such as the VFW in Thief River Falls, are working with the museum to help raise funds.

In addition to fundraising, museum leaders are also working to recruit more volunteers, including a volunteer executive director and board members.

They're also still moving forward with plans to broaden the museum's scope into one that includes more educational opportunities and community involvement.

Mayor Tim Meehl commended ITOW's new leadership for the progress and plans they've made so far.

"I don't see anything wrong with your request for public support and recruitment," said Meehl.

And as far as the city's donation, councilor Fred Lemkuhl said, "Hopefully it helps."