Children’s museum isn’t a necessity

April 13th, 2010 by Ken

I’ve never been a big fan of the Hands On Children’s Museum.  Maybe it’s because my children are grown and I don’t have any need to take my grandchildren to the museum.

Supporters want to tell you that the museum is a visitor’s draw and that people come to Thurston County and use the museum.  I  don’t think the Hands On Children’s Museum is a visitor draw.

I suspect that many people who use the museum are locals and those that aren’t, are attracted to the museum by its location near the state capitol.

When, and if, the museum moves to Port of Olympia property off State Avenue, its attendance from out-of-town visitors will drop significantly.

So, efforts on the part of the museum to get money from the community are efforts that won’t work. 

Here’s the bottom line.

The museum relies on Public Facility District  (PFD) monies and other public funds to build and operate its facility.

In order to receive the Public Facility District money, it has to start construction on the building before the end of this year.  If it doesn’t, the money will revert back to the City of Lacey for use in its Regional Athletic Complex.

Museum supporters have to have the money in hand in order to pay for the construction of the new facility.  That’s money it doesn’t have now.  In order to get the money, museum supporters want the City of Olympia to co-sign. if you will, a note with a local bank, to front the needed money.

The museum needs $18 million dollars, total, for this new tourist attraction on port property.

It currently has, on hand, $4 million in cash and pledges, most of it public money, taxpayer money, already put forth by the City of Olympia. 

It has had very little success in getting private donations.

Part of that is due to the poor economic conditions currently in play.  It’s hard to get major donations from corporations who don’t know if they’ll have enough money to get through the year.  And, it’s hard to get money from private individuals when they don’t know if they’ll have a job or not.

But also, is the fact, that the Hands on Children’s Museum, while a nice thing to have, isn’t a necessity.  It is something the community can do without.

Besides, there’s another Hands on Children’s Museum just up I-5, and another one after that.  There’s a half dozen or more children’s museums in this state.  Our’s is not unique.

The City of Olympia will be asked next week to co-sign the loan, so the museum can start construction before the end of the year, or lose all PFD money.

My advice to the council is to be cautious.  Perhaps the museum can raise the money, but perhaps it can’t.  City taxpayers will be on the line to pay off the note if museum supporters can’t raise the needed funds.  They haven’t shown much ability so far and things don’t appear to be getting any better.

Maybe the City of Olympia has better uses for its credit?

Posted in Business, Government, History, The Real News

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