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Port, Marine Science Center partnership to be explored

POULSBO — The Port of Poulsbo and nearby Marine Science Center could potentially benefit by working together.

That was Poulsbo Council Member Becky Erickson’s message to the port’s board of commissioners last Thursday night.

While commissioners decided more discussions and information are needed, they did give the go-ahead to Erickson to continue exploring a partnership between the two entities.

Each, she said, could be better if they cooperated with the other.

The Marine Science Center is currently searching for funding to stay afloat — an expected $100,000 from the legislative budget was axed at the last minute by Gov. Christine Gregoire, meaning to keep its doors open past next summer some major financial help is in necessary. Without funding, the center can’t begin its educational curriculm either.

The port, meanwhile, is looking to replace its breakwater. A new, floating structure is planned.

Erickson said by teaming together in support of widening the port district, both agencies’ needs could be met.

“The big ‘cha-ching’ is the ability to annex land and to increase your tax base out,” she said. “The port could be the hero and help the Marine Science Center.”

The agreement: the Marine Science Center Foundation would work to gather supporters for an increase in the port’s tax district, and in return the port would support the center with its added income and bonding capability. The port would also take ownership of the building housing the center.

A hypothetical 80-20 split in the added revenue was mentioned. Quick math shook the numbers out to a potential $500,000 additional each year for the port, $100,000 of that going to the center.

Erickson said the project would be one with a two-year horizon, and wouldn’t appear on any ballots until 2010.

The effort supports the port’s economic contributions to the city, she said.

“The idea of going out to the fire district areas and trying to ge those people to sign on ... that’s going to be a very hard nut and I just don’t see it happening, especially with the way the economy is now,” said Port Commissioner Arne Bockus. He said he’d like to see further studies on the issue, including the public’s interest in the center and the response of those who would potentially be annexed.

“I don’t think the port would be adverse to going along with a program such as this if we had the money to do it and if we had the tax base to do it,” he said.

Commissioners Glenn Gilbert and Tony DeCarlo agreed, and said while increased tax revenue would be beneficial, the future of the port must be considered.

In the meantime, Erickson said the Marine Science Center is working on fundraising events, including a Sept. 20 black-tie auction and a pledge drive.

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