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PMSC buoyed by state Legislature

POULSBO — Because of a last-minute change of heart by the Washington State Senate, 23rd District Rep. Sherry Appleton was able to make good on her promise to supporters of the Poulsbo Marine Science Center.

As the state Legislature passed its 2007 biennial budget Friday, $150,000 was included for the center’s operations and $100,000 was alloted for a proposed floating classroom.

“I am disappointed that we did not get the full $250,000 (for operations) for the one year, but this opens the door for me to come back in the supplemental budget year for $100,000,” Appleton said. “It could have been worse if the Senate had not come to the House’s appropriation.”

Appleton, city officials and PMSC supporters had sought $250,000 for the center’s operations this year, but all greeted the news cheerfully.

“We’re very happy,” said PMSC president Bruce Harlow. “What we don’t know is if it’s $75,000 for this year and $75,000 for next year.”

Regardless of whether the full $150,000 is available this year or divided in increments, the funding provides a much-needed boost to the efforts to reopen the center, Harlow said.

“It allows for a very modest education program, and it’s going to be a nice aquarium,” he said.

Bight of Poulsbo founder Bill Austin has done a magnificent job in coordinating the work on the aquarium, which includes a small house above the tank in the center’s main entrance, Harlow said. The center closed March 2005 due to funding issues.

“We don’t want to charge anyone to enter,” he said. “We want to make it available to all people.”

Even though there haven’t been many opportunities for public interaction with the center during the past year, that will change dramatically in the coming months, said Susan Crawford, education director for the Science Education Alliance based out of Keyport. “We want to thank the public for all its support. There will be more opportunities to get involved,” Crawford said.

While the $250,000 from the state Legislature is appreciated, more money will be needed if the center is to meet the grand expectations of its supporters, Harlow said.

“We’re not resting on our laurels. We’re going to continue seeking funding for the center,” he said. “We have enough to move ahead, but we’re looking for more.”

Some of the money could come from leasing the center’s second floor offices, he said.

“We’re looking for a suitable tenant. It would be nice to have a non-profit in the same vein of the center,” Harlow said. “All of the money would be funneled back into the center.”

As for the $100,000 for the floating classroom, Harlow said center officials have already begun figuring out how to make it a reality within the budget constraints.

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