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Jeb Bladine: Or, I suppose, we can wait and watch

Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum (EASM) continues its quest for $420,000 in promised donations from landlord The Falls Event Center (TFEC). It’s a long shot — and getting longer — accompanied by dueling claims about the museum’s financial viability if the effort fails.

Utah-based TFEC, in a 2016 bankruptcy case, acquired the water park, space museum and chapel buildings by promising free rent and major donations. EASM, assisted by legal action against TFEC, has received $1.26 million of the $1.68 million donation pledge for 2017-18. But in July, TFEC and various subsidiaries, including The Falls at McMinnville, filed their own bankruptcies.

Here are a few updates on that legal morass:

TFEC owner Steve Down faces claims of fraud related to his spectacular financial collapse; bankruptcy managers want to sell 10 event center properties from Down’s crumbling empire; EASM wants the local bankruptcy case dismissed, hoping to regain lawsuit-won access to the water park bank account; and the government, debtors and creditors apparently all agree that the court should name a U.S. Trustee to take over TFEC bankruptcy cases.

Meanwhile, back at the Evergreen OK Corral:

EASM detractor J.W. Millegan writes, “The Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum will close its doors in December.” EASM Executive Director John Rassmussen responds, “We have never talked about closing.”

A prominent public message from EASM cited museum contributions to the community, concluding: “Because of these reasons and more, we humbly request that you continue to support our Museum in any way you are able. We welcome donations of time, money or artifacts, but more valuable is sharing with everyone you know that the Museum is here for the long haul, despite persistent rumors to the contrary.”

Millegan has been the primary source of those rumors through an email campaign that has combined detailed news, truths, half-truths, misleading conjecture and personal invective. Thus far, local leaders receiving those missives have taken a wait-and-watch approach to EASM’s plight.

While those TFEC buildings and lands head to market, here’s a what-if exercise: What if people actually came together to discuss common interests? What if they found, at the table, a community that wants to help secure the future of a valued local institution; a school district that would like to aquire some of those lands for a future school site; a city with means and potential interests in protecting certain assets; and a group of leaders with ideas and vision.

Or, we all can just wait and watch.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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