Kennewick has thrown open the gates on plans for a historic 44-horse carousel.
The Three Rivers Carousel Foundation received the go-ahead Tuesday in a 6-1 vote by the Kennewick City Council to put the 100-year-old Carousel of Dreams at the Southridge Sports and Events Complex.
The nonprofit board of business and community leaders told the city last month that it could raise the $1.9 million needed to get the carousel running and build a place to house it.
The board also committed to paying for carousel operations for the first two years and making the project sustainable. Board members estimate the carousel will be operational in about 13 months.
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Kennewick Mayor Pro Tem Sharon Brown said the nonprofit board has done a wonderful job reorganizing and bringing forward a plan that doesn't require more taxpayer dollars.
"We can see the end in sight now," said Mayor Steve Young. "It's pretty exciting."
Councilman Don Britain, who cast the sole "no" vote, said he still has some concerns about the carousel.
"I am not anti-carousel," he said.
But Britain said he has several questions about ownership of the carousel, the city's liability and what the city's responsibility will be if the project is not sustainable. He does not want to see taxpayer dollars involved in operating and maintaining the carousel.
The vote will set things in motion that will be hard to stop, Britain said.
"There is no going back if the vote is a go," he said.
City Attorney Lisa Beaton said all the vote did was state the city's support of the foundation's efforts. The city and foundation still would need to work out an agreement about who would be responsible for what.
The city is secure in its investment in the carousel, which the city possesses, she said. It is stored in a secure location and insured.
"We've done what we could to preserve the public investment in the carousel," Beaton said.
The council was considering selling off the 1910 Charles Carmel carousel to recoup some of the $830,000 the city invested in the project. The horses, bought in 2003, were restored and have been sitting in city storage.
But the city gave the nonprofit and its new board members another chance to finish the project in January.
w The Kennewick City Council unanimously approved raising the monthly ambulance utility fee to $5.50 and the resident transport fee to $660.
The increase means the city will not use general tax dollars to fund ambulance services in the next biennium. Dan Legard, city finance manager, said that without the increase, the revenue for 2013 and 2014 would be about $6 million, while the expenses would be almost $8 million.
With the change, revenue in the next two years is projected to be a little more than $8 million, Legard said.
The nonresident transport fee will be $990.
The changes go into effect July 1.
w The city's moratorium on medical marijuana gardens was extended until January 2013 in a 6-1 vote.
The moratorium would have expired July 17 if the council had not approved extending it another 180 days.
Beaton said the imbalance in state law continues. The U.S. Department of Justice issued a memo saying that creating a permitting and zoning statute for medical cannabis gardens would run afoul of federal law.
The California State Supreme Court is reviewing the same issue, Beaton said.
Councilman John Hubbard, who cast the dissenting vote, said he would prefer to see the city take a stand and send a message to the state, instead of kicking the can down the road.
He applauded Pasco's Monday decision to ban medical marijuana gardens.
The Legislature in 2011 passed a law allowing collective gardens, but Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed parts of it. The state law is at odds with federal law that makes growing or possessing marijuana illegal, no matter if it is for medicinal purposes
Pasco, Kennewick, Richland and West Richland all put the issue on hold for almost a year to see if legislators would act during the 2012 session to clarify the 2011 law. But the recent session came and went with no changes to the law.