Science Center May Go To A Vote


They needed just shy of 6,000 signatures. They got more than 12,000.

A group of Spokane residents hoping to put the proposed science center in Riverfront Park to a public vote may get its wish.

“We’d like a receipt for these,” petition leader Ken Withey said Wednesday, plopping two, fiveinch stacks of petitions on a counter in the city clerk’s office.

“Six thousand were required,” said signaturegatherer Don Skaufel. “We’re turning in twice that many.”

The group began gathering signatures within minutes of the City Council’s approval last month of a contract leasing the park’s Pavilion to the Seattle-based Pacific Science Center. Councilman Chris Anderson signed the petition while sitting on the council podium.

Opponents of putting the center in the Pavilion object to the council making any major changes in the park without voter approval. Some also object to $10 million price tag for the project, which would be partially funded with public money.

Some people also don’t want to see the Pavilion’s carnival-type rides and other attractions displaced.

The science center proposal now may go before voters in September or November, unless the council decides to repeal its earlier approval, said City Attorney James Sloane.

Most likely, the council first will have the county elections office validate the signatures, making sure at least half the 12,000 signatures came from registered city voters, Sloane said.

The council could set a hearing on the issue as early as April 17.

Opponents of the science center proposal had 30 days to gather 5,941 signatures - 10 percent of the voters who cast ballots in the November general election.

“The response was unbelievable,” said Steve Corker, Riverfront Park’s former public relations consultant, who helped lead the petition drive.

Putting the proposal to a vote would show whether or not there is widespread community support for the science center, Corker said.

An earlier petition drive led by Corker to put the park’s future to a vote failed for lack of valid signatures.

Meanwhile, supporters of the science center plan have raised more than $2.1 million in private donations for the project, said Nancy Goodspeed, a fund-raising consultant.

Supporters remain hopeful the Legislature will find money for the science center, despite a proposed House budget that doesn’t include money for the plan.

“We remain very optimistic,” Goodspeed said.

The petition drive for a public vote won’t affect fund-raising efforts, she said, adding that the money should be in place by fall.

“We are proceeding with our plans,” Goodspeed said.

xxxx What’s next? The council could set a hearing on the issue as early as April 17.


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