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May 22, 2015

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City Government:

Henderson backs off $21 million pledge for Space and Science Center

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Henderson Space and Science Center

An artist’s rendering depicts the outdoor exhibits courtyard at the Henderson Space and Science Center.

Henderson Space and Science Center

An artist's rendering depicts the outdoor exhibits courtyard at the Henderson Space and Science Center. Launch slideshow »

The city of Henderson is pulling the plug on a $21 million promise to help fund the proposed Henderson Space and Science Center.

Tuesday night, the city council unanimously voted to remove money designated for the science center from the city’s land fund and use it for other capital projects.

The council also voted to begin an official separation between the city and the Space and Science Center.

“Times have changed,” Mayor Andy Hafen said. “When we first got into this, the economy was great.”

An adopted resolution cites the “continued downturn in the economy, the (city’s) projected budget deficit and the compelling need for the city to engage in capital projects” for revoking the designated funds.

“We have needs for those land fund monies,” Hafen said. “Quite frankly, that museum is not going to be built in the near future, and we have capital needs, I believe, in this community that can be put to work immediately.”

The city had given $4 million to the center for architectural designs and public works costs, according to a city spokesperson. Then in 2009, the city entered into an agreement with the science center, promising to earmark an additional $21 million from the city’s land fund for the project, except in the event of a city emergency.

The city has since continued to provide the center’s board with about $3 million in funding. Now almost $18 million is left in the land fund.

The state-of-the-art science museum will sit on five acres next to the proposed Union Village complex near U.S. 95 and Galleria Drive. The museum will cost an estimated $63 million — money the Henderson Space and Science Center board doesn’t have just yet.

The resolution approved Tuesday doesn’t officially create a split between the city and the proposed museum; however, it does begin the process of separation, according to City Attorney Josh Reid.

Hafen and other members of the council agreed they should at least provide the promised funding for the next fiscal year to allow the center’s board to reorganize.

“I think that the city has made a commitment to the science center for a number of years, and I, for one, am in favor of that commitment,” Councilman John Marz said. “I think they deserve the interest on that money.”

With the dissolution of the gift agreement, Marz suggested the council continue to fund the project as other revenue sources come through — by possibly matching funds if the board is able to raise enough money in certain time increments.

Larry Carroll, vice president of the Henderson Space and Science Center Board, acknowledged that the city’s financial situation has changed but told the council the board was working hard and was determined to raise the money for the museum.

“It’s an uphill battle with raising funds, but we are confident,” Carroll said.

The council agreed to continue talks about how it would wean the science center off the land fund money and go about an official separation at future council meetings.

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