The Kennewick City Council plans a special workshop today about reviving the city's 1910 historic carousel, which has been mothballed for months for lack of money to put it into running condition.
City Manager Marie Mosley said the 5:30 p.m. meeting will update the council about what private citizens have been doing to rejuvenate the project.
Kennewick bought the antique from a private owner in New Mexico eight years ago. The 44-horse carousel was created by renowned carver Charles Carmel.
So far, the city has spent about $830,000 on the polarizing project, with most of the money going to help the Three Rivers Carousel Foundation buy the horses and machinery.
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Most council members told the Herald on Monday that they knew nothing about the special meeting except that it would be about the carousel.
Mosley said details about the presentation were intentionally left out of the background packet council members usually receive before a meeting so that details would remain secret until they meet.
"There are people who have been working on this, and we want the council to hear it from us first on what the potential opportunities are," Mosley said.
Don Britain, Sharon Brown, Bob Olson and John Hubbard said the first they heard about it was late last week. And Mayor Steve Young could not be reached about the meeting.
Councilman Paul Parish said he knows details about the proposal but would not talk about them before the meeting.
"You'll have to show up tomorrow. It's all good," he said.
Parish told the council in May that the carousel deserves a second chance, and that Columbia Park would be a good place to put it.
The council and the Three Rivers Carousel Foundation have been unable to decide where the carousel should be placed. Two possibilities are the west end of Columbia Park near the site of the proposed Hanford Reach Interpretative Center or close to the Three Rivers Convention Center, east of Columbia Center Boulevard.
Another potential site is the Southridge area off Highway 395 at the south entrance to the city where a multifield sports complex and indoor pavilion will be opening this spring and where the new 9/11 memorial was placed.
Brown said she would consider putting the carousel at Southridge, but only if it didn't involve city funds and was the best choice.
Britain said the best news he could hear at tonight's workshop is that someone has offered to buy the carousel so the city can get back its money.
The purchase and city's investment opened the council to public criticism, contributing to the election of Brown, Hubbard and Britain in 2009. Their campaigns focused in part on the city's financial involvement with the carousel.
The election convinced remaining council members to stop spending money on the project.
"Somebody's got a new idea about the carousel, so I asked if this is different. 'Oh yeah,' I was told," said Olson. "And there are some heavy hitters on board too," he added.
Olson still insists the city not spend another nickel on the carousel, and Brown, mayor pro tem, agrees.
"My comment is no more city money," Brown said.
Councilman Parks also wants the city's money returned.
"I think it would be great to have (the carousel in Kennewick), but only if we get our money back," Parks said.
Hubbard believes the carousel should be part of a children's museum built near or included with the expected Hanford Reach Interpretative Center.
"I've tried to get something going about the future of the carousel at the Reach, but I haven't been able to get any traction," Hubbard said.
"I would be surprised if it went to Southridge. Parish and I have talked about this and we are in agreement the Reach would be a good location," Hubbard added.
Mosley said tonight's meeting, which is open to the public, may include information about the financing, an inventory of the carousel components and various options for completing the project.
The foundation estimated in May 2010 that it would cost about $2.8 million to buy the land and build a new facility for the carousel. The board expected at the time that only half of that would need to be financed.
-- John Trumbo: 582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org