City Council Approves Science Center Anderson Casts Lone Vote Against Riverfront Park Lease
The Pacific Science Center got a thumbs-up Monday from the Spokane City Council, which gave its nearly unanimous approval to the center’s move into Riverfront Park’s Pavilion.
“Those who say it can’t be done need to get out of the way of those who are doing it,” said Councilwoman Phyllis Holmes.
“People of all ages are going to love it,” said Councilman Joel Crosby.
Councilman Chris Anderson cast the lone dissenting vote, objecting to the “flawed process” that had brought the proposal before the council. “This isn’t fair to today’s taxpayers,” Anderson said.
The council approved a contract leasing the Pavilion to the center - a hands-on science museum - for the next 20 years with two 10-year renewal options.
Council members also approved a separate five-year services contract requiring the city and Spokane Park Board to pay the center $400,000 annually for two years, reducing the amount each year thereafter.
In return, the center plans to give reduced- and free-admission tickets to students, senior citizens and low-income persons.
Several council members compared plans for the science center with Expo ‘74, the world’s fair that prompted development of Riverfront Park. A proposal to pay for Expo with a bond issue failed, but few people today would admit they had voted against it, said Councilman Mike Brewer. “I can’t help but believe the science center eventually will have the same thing,” Brewer said. “Very few will admit when it’s over they voted against it.”
Pacific Science Center boosters are trying to raise about $3 million in private money and $7 million from state and federal taxpayers to pay for the $10.3 million project.
So far, they’ve raised about $1.8 million in private funds and $1.25 million in federal money. If supporters can’t raise the money by March 1996, the contract must come back to the council for reconsideration.
“This lease is a contingent lease,” said Mayor Jack Geraghty. “We all know what’s going on at the state and federal level.”
The council held a public hearing on the center’s proposal last week and no new testimony was allowed during Monday’s meeting.
In the forum session after the meeting, Ken Withey, an outspoken critic of the plan, told the council he “looked forward to getting 6,000 signatures necessary to put this to a vote.”
“That’s your prerogative,” Geraghty said.
Anderson volunteered to be the first to sign the petition, to which Geraghty responded, “This is one of the reasons we get the rap we’ve got for the council being out of control.”
Withey and Steve Corker, the park’s former public relations consultant, plan to gather nearly 6,000 signatures in 30 days to put the council’s decision to a public vote.
That magic number is 10 percent of the voters who cast ballots in the November general election.
An attempt to put Riverfront Park’s future to a vote failed earlier this year for lack of valid signatures.
Also Monday, the council approved:
Donating $20,000 to the Spokane Area Chamber of Commerce efforts to keep Fairchild Air Force Base off the federal government’s chopping block.
Chamber President Rich Hadley reminded the council that this was the third round of base closures.
“It will be equal to the two previous rounds,” Hadley said. It also will be “much more competitive” this time around.
Resident Duane Harlander said he didn’t think the city’s spending $20,000 could do anything to sway the military’s decision.
“I don’t want to see the base go, but the Air Force will move bases as they so desire, which is all the more reason we need to watch where our money goes,” Harlander said.
Anderson voted against the plan.
A contract with E-Lite Ltd. to develop and install experimental devices that warn drivers when an emergency vehicle is coming to an intersection.
The $8-$10 million project will be paid for with federal taxpayer money.
Under the E-Lite system, firefighters and police officers would use infrared remote units to turn red lights green as their emergency vehicles approach intersections.
About 30 intersections will be equipped with the experimental system.