The Hanford Reach Interpretive Center will see two positions eliminated and the operations budget cut by 28 percent for the remainder of the year.
The Richland Public Facilities District Board voted at its meeting Monday to accept the recommendations of Lisa Toomey, executive director of the interpretive center and the facilities district.
Toomey said the layoffs and across-the-board expense cuts will reduce costs for this year by 35 percent and bring a 58 percent savings for 2013.
She said the move is important to bring the budget "back in line" and to show the public the interpretive center is committed to moving ahead with the multimillion-dollar project at Columbia Park.
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A communications position and a grant writer position are being cut. Toomey, who was under orders to find ways to reduce expenses, told the facilities district board that she had looked at every other possible way, including salary cuts. She had hoped to not have layoffs.
The final decision came after Toomey considered what the essential job skills were and which employees could best meet the needs.
"The staff has been pretty stand-up about this. They want the project to succeed. The staff stood up and made the sacrifices," said Toomey, who was hired 90 days ago to replace Kimberly Camp, the former chief executive officer for The Reach.
The cost-cutting strategy, which will remove $283,000 from the 2012 operational expenses, also eliminates all outside consulting for marketing, public relations and fundraising, Toomey said.
"We're going to do this ourselves. The intent is to manage the project internally," Toomey said.
Board member Rick Jansons praised Toomey for having made a hard but necessary decision.
"It is great work. Expenses have been cut in every category (of the budget)," he said.
In voting to accept the recommendation, the board noted that the cost savings for 2013 will be significantly higher -- 58 percent -- because the budget will not have Camp's salary.
Camp was earning about $150,000 a year and left with $125,000 in severance pay, while Toomey's base salary is about half what Camp earned.
Toomey told the Herald that a fresh opportunity exists for the interpretive center in the west end of Columbia Park, and that timing is important.
"My sense is people are ready to give of their time and money. People on the Reach board and the fundraising people are ready to go with us," she told the facilities district board.
Toomey said that since joining the interpretive center team three months ago, she has focused on re-establishing strong partnerships, developing a donor base and working to resolve budget issues.
Earlier in the meeting, the board voted to formally endorse moving ahead with plans to build the project in two phases, with the first phase being 26,000 square feet. The unanimous vote was based on an assumption that donors and contributors would pay for much of the cost on the first phase.
Toomey said the vote to move ahead would be good timing because Frank Armijo, president of Mission Support Alliance, is expected to announce this morning at a news conference how much financial support MSA and Lockheed Martin will put toward the project.
Lockheed Martin, which is part of Mission Support Alliance, already has started reviewing plans for the first phase and will recommend other possible efficiencies that could also reduce costs.
"I'm interested in what the Lockheed work proposes, but I'm thinking it will be at least $2 million less than (what the architects have said)," Jansons said. "What is making the difference is the people who are supporting this. It's their money that's talking."
-- John Trumbo: 582-1529; email@example.com