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Science Center Won’t Be On Spring Ballot Proponents Tell Park Board To Solve Riverfront Problems First

Spokane city residents won’t get a second chance next March to vote on a Pacific Science Center in Riverfront Park. The center isn’t interested.

Not now, anyway, said Ric Odegard, one of the leaders of the September campaign to approve the science center proposal.

Maybe later, but there are no guarantees.

“The people of Spokane need to determine what they want for the park,” Odegard said Monday afternoon at a news conference.

The announcement came just hours before the Spokane Park Board was to ask the City Council to give voters a second shot at a deal to put a branch of the popular Seattle museum in the Riverfront Park Pavilion. That proposal would have been on the March 26 ballot.

At Monday’s council meeting, Mayor Jack Geraghty said he knew the decision had been “difficult” for center directors. But, he added, “Looking at the larger picture … this is a prudent course of action.”

Councilman Joel Crosby said that while center opponents might be “gloating and feeling victory,” he felt “great sadness” at the news.

“I want to express my real disappointment,” he said.

In September, Spokane voters narrowly rejected the center’s proposed lease in the Pavilion.

Under state law, the city must wait at least six months to put the same issue back on the ballot.

After March, some of the funding for the project, such as the $2 million set aside by the Legislature, might not be available.

“It’s not right to rush it,” Odegard said. “You just can’t keep going back to the public, time after time.”

The Park Board must come up with answers to some of the questions that doomed the proposal in September - what to do with the rides in and around the Pavilion, what to do with the offices in that building, and how to restore the 21-year-old structure.

Rushing into a campaign and losing would doom the project, Odegard said. Waiting, studying and developing a consensus in the community could eventually produce a science center in Spokane.

“If we go through the process again…the Pacific Science Center is open for discussion,” he said.

While that doesn’t mean the Seattle facility is promising to come to Spokane, “it means they are willing to come to the table,” he added.

Carey Charyk, a community activist who was trying to rally support for a March vote, said she was “just devastated” by the announcement.

“We were geared up to start a grassroots movement,” Charyk said. “Everyone deserves (a science center) in this town.”

But Steve Corker, who helped lead the opposition to the center’s lease of the Pavilion, said the decision to wait was wise.

“I think they’re beginning to realize this issue is about process as much as about the Pacific Science Center itself,” said Corker.

Opponents were able to defeat the proposal by raising questions about access, parking, the fate of the children’s rides and the terms of the lease. If those concerns are properly addressed, the public would be more likely to support the proposal, Corker said.

“I think this is good for the city, the science center and the park,” he said.<

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Jim Camden Staff writer Staff writer Kristina Johnson contributed to this report.