District, city look for MSC solutions

POULSBO — With no time to lose following the announcement that the Marine Science Center will shut down Feb. 14, administrators from two public entities are banding together to find out if they can keep the financially deprived exhibit hall and museum afloat.

Administrators from the North Kitsap School District, the biggest user and primary tenant of the MSC, and the City of Poulsbo, which owns the building, have been meeting to discuss if the future of the facility — if there is one.

“We’re going to be doing some work together to find out what our options will be,” said NKSD Supt. Gene Medina.

The Marine Science Society of the Pacific Northwest (MSSPNW) shocked both city hall and the district by announcing it would close the MSC Feb. 14, due to a lack of large-scale donations and grants, its board of trustees said.

Despite what Society members said was a banner year for membership and revenue, the trustees indicated it would need at least $150,000-$200,000 per year in additional revenue to remain open.

Medina said the district will continue to pay its portion of the rent — $3,000 a month, or three-fourths of the total it split with the MSSPNW — and will be allowed to keep the center open for NKSD students, though not the general public.

It is not yet known how the remaining $1,000 a month the MSSPNW was to pay will be covered.

The city and the district confirmed that each would contribute, per the council and school board’s approval, $5,000 toward a feasibility study to determine the usefulness and expenses involved in maintaining the center.

“In the next week or week and a half, at least until next Tuesday, we will be researching all kinds of options,” Poulsbo Mayor Donna Jean Bruce informed the city council Wednesday.

Medina said the district’s priorities are to maintain the educational offerings at the center for NKSD students and also care for the sea life there. Some 2,300 students in the district visit the center each year, from elementary field trips to high school courses.

But coming up with $150,000 to $200,000 — the MSSPNW’s purported annual budget shortfall — to keep the MSC running as it did in the past may not be a task that either tight-belt budget of the city or district will be up for. Even so, the two entities will be looking hard at all possible avenues.

“Obviously, we need to explore every option,” said city councilman Ed Stern at Wednesday’s meeting, “and the best partner is the school district because we’re the two left standing.”

Staff Writer Carrina Stanton contributed to this article.

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