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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Park Board Approves Science Center Contract 20 Year Lease To Bring $10.3 Million Center To Riverfront Must Still Pass City Council Next Month

The Pacific Science Center cleared its first major hurdle Thursday on its trek to the Riverfront Park pavilion.

Spokane Park Board members unanimously approved a contract leasing the pavilion to the Seattle-based science center for 20 years with options for two 10-year renewals.

“We’re going to make this into a world-class facility,” George Moynihan, the center’s executive director, told the board. “I’m very excited.”

The City Council gets final say on the contract with the center - a hands-on science museum - and is expected to vote on the proposal next month.

The Park Board also approved a separate five-year services contract that requires the city and 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.

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 $1.7 million in private funds. If supporters can’t raise the money by March 1996, the contract must come back for reconsideration.

The contract’s widespread support from the Park Board didn’t reassure those with grave concerns about the proposal.

Several opponents questioned the cost and the impact on the park, especially the loss of the pavilion’s carnival rides.

The Park Board has considered relocating the rides to the north side of the Spokane River.

Park Board member Mark Virden said early calculations show the proposal saving the Parks Department $700,000 during the first five years, and nearly $3 million during the next five.

The board has long maintained the park’s attractions cost $400,000 per year more to operate than they make, not counting the the cost of revamping or replacing the aging rides.

Mamie Picard, a longtime critic of city spending, said she wanted to see something on paper that proved those numbers.

Indian Trail resident Jonathan Swanstrom said he was deeply disturbed by what he considered conflicts of interest among board members.

Swanstrom raised questions about board member Victoria Erickson’s job at The Rockey Company, a public relations firm that represents the science center. Erickson countered that she abstained from all votes related to the center, and she didn’t vote on the contract.

Swanstrom also questioned board member Ann Schneider’s $1,000 donation to the center, but board president Dennis Hession assured Swanstrom that wasn’t a conflict.

“I’m almost at a point where I’m going to get hot,” said Swanstrom.

“So am I,” said Hession.

Last year, Steve Corker circulated a petition calling for a public vote on the park’s future, but didn’t get enough valid signatures.

A former public relations consultant for the park, Corker said Thursday he hasn’t given up.

“I plan to do everything I can to get the public to vote on this,” he said.

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