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City of Poulsbo, Marine Science Center Foundation reach agreement on lease

The City of Poulsbo and the Marine Science Center Foundation have reached consensus on a five-year lease for the Marine Science Center property.

The foundation will pay the city $15,000 for maintenance of the building in 2011 and, according to Mayor Becky Erickson, will “reopen the conversation” of contributing next year if the city needs additional funds for the building’s maintenance.

And more money will be needed. Erickson said a new heating and air conditioning unit will cost about $180,000, and she said she doesn’t want the city to go into debt or dip into reserves. She wants to develop a sustainable source of funding for the building’s maintenance.

“Everyone wants the Marine Science Center to thrive. The question is how to pay for it,” she said.

Councilwoman Connie Lord said the final lease is being reviewed and will be presented to the council for a vote May 11.

The Marine Science Center Foundation doesn’t pay rent for the city-owned property, but is viewed as providing a public benefit: It draws people downtown, educates visitors about the local marine environment, and admission is free. Some 30,000 people have visited the center over the past three years.

The foundation derives income from donations, grants and Sealaska Environmental Service’s second-floor lease of $40,000 a year. The center typically receives $1,200 per month in donations.

The center is reopening May 14; it has been closed since Nov. 29 to repair damage caused by a broken sprinkler pipe. Poulsbo Finance Director Debbie Booher said the repairs are expected to cost about $150,000 and will be covered by the city’s insurance policy.

Foundation vice president Bill Austin is pleased with the lease. “We came to an agreement that is quite acceptable to both sides,” he said Thursday. Regarding the building’s heating and air conditioning needs, he said the foundation has more flexibility than government in getting work done, with donations of labor and money. He believes the foundation can get the work done for less than $180,000.

Aquarium Director Patrick Mus said visitors will see new and familiar features in the center when it reopens. Aquarium residents include an octopus, perch, rockfish, wolf eel, and various crab species. The floating lab and the touch tank will be there, as well as a bull kelp and eelgrass exhibit, and an activities room for children.

 

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