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Economic "perfect storm" shelves Coast Guard Museum plans

Due to lack of funds, plans for the Coast Guard Museum, spearheaded by The Coast Guard Foundation in Stonington, Conn., have been laid aside.

"When we got into this a year or so ago we were concerned then with the economy as a whole impacting all of the fundraising," says Ross Roeder, chairman of the board in a phone interview with Soundings. "But we wanted to test the waters anyway. We had indication that we had private and governmental support, but almost a year later the support wasn't there."

Roeder says the project, which was first estimated at $65 million, was soon turning into $100 million. The building was estimated to be between 50,000 and 60,000 square feet to be built in Trumbull, Conn., and to accommodate 200,000 to 300,000 visitors each year.

"We are still enthusiastic about it," says Roeder. "It's hard to believe that the Coast Guard, one of the oldest and most noble services, doesn't have a museum. So we definitely want this to happen - just not now."

As a result, Jerry Ostermiller, who was named president of the project Jan. 15 of this year, chose to step down from his post and will return to his home and family in Oregon.

Coast Guard Foundation is a non-profit organization committed to the education and welfare of all of its members and their families. An auxiliarist, Ostermiller has almost 30 years of experience establishing museum programming, renovation and capital campaign fund-raising efforts. He retired last June as executive director of the Columbia River Museum in Astoria, Ore., after coming on board in 1989.

"Working hand in hand with the Coast Guard Foundation staff to serve our guardians, the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard, was a noble experience, and experience I will never forget," says Ostermiller in an e-mail to Soundings.

Ostermiller says though the "economic perfect storm" hampered their funding so badly, he believes the museum is destined to be a reality.

"I have no doubt we will see the funding and building of a remarkably outstanding museum, honoring the values, missions and heart of our nation's foremost humanitarian service at a more favorable time," says Ostermiller.

Ostermiller continues to be involved with the Coast Guard in his hometown. Roeder says he hopes it will be less than a year before they can return to making this dream a reality.

"I don't know if we'll bring Jerry back to the project down the road, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it," says Roeder. "There's no doubt [the museum] will happen. We just need the right opportunity to do it and do it correctly."