City hopes to pull MSC out of depths

POULSBO — There is hope yet for the financially-strapped Poulsbo Marine Science Center.

An amendment to the center’s lease contract with the City of Poulsbo would reduce monthly rent payments, but would only come if the Marine Science Society of the Pacific Northwest agrees to create a long-term business plan.

“We’d like a new business plan, so we know what your goals are,” said Poulsbo City Councilwoman Connie Lord at a meeting of the society, the city and North Kitsap School District July 15. “And I suspect (the center’s current plan) could use some overhauling.”

Board members of the MSSPN said they would begin work on a revised plan that would be finished as soon as possible so that the city, which owns the building that houses the center with Kitsap County, could move forward on a process to amend the Society’s lease payments.

Poulsbo Finance Director Nanci Lien said the plan would include having Poulsbo City Attorney Jim Haney amend the lease to state that because the general public utilizes the center, it therefore adds a different kind of financial value to Poulsbo other than through its monthly direct payments.

“We don’t subsidize,” Lien said. “(We show) there’s a direct benefit to citizens.”

Lien said the plan will need to go through Poulsbo’s finance committee and receive city council approval before Haney reviews the potential changes. Lord, the sole council member at the meeting, said she and her colleagues need a business plan in order to add an amendment to payments and to ensure the financial situation won’t happen again.

When members of the Society asked for an idea as to when the new business plan would be due, Poulsbo Mayor Donna Jean Bruce replied, “The sooner, the better.”

“If you want to reduce your rent next month, just hop to it,” she added.

A month ago, the MSC was at its financial limits, with an estimated $50,000 in debt that would likely close the facility by year’s end.

Now, there is some breathing room, said Brad Allen, board member in the MSSPN, thanks to public contributions.

“We were at a point in June that we didn’t have enough money to get through June but the revenue has picked up substantially,” Allen said, noting that the center had survived in the past on large donations to get through each year. “Historically, we’ve lived from one big check to the next,” Allen commented.

North Kitsap School District Supt. Gene Medina — whose organization already pays three-quarters of the center’s rent to the city — advocated seeing the district, the center and the city create interdependent agreements to help utilize the MSC in the long run. Though he admitted it would not eliminate the current $50,000 debt, it would help create a new relationship that would prevent such debt accumulation to occur in the future.

“My perception is we won’t solve a particular problem here but we can come to a new beginning,” Medina said.

Medina added that all sorts of partnerships with other educational organizations, including the Bainbridge Island Children’s Museum, the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, the Port Madison Suquamish Tribe and Stillwater’s Environmental Organization could become utilized to increase educational offerings.

“What’s the starting point of building these relationships?” Allen asked of Medina.

“Today,” Medina quipped.

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