The Hanford Reach Interpretive Center project is getting more money along with fewer restrictions from the city of Richland to start building in the west end of Columbia Park.
This week, the city council agreed to assign $700,000 in unused Washington State Department of Transportation funds allocated to Richland for the Reach project.
The council's vote of 5-1 included opposition from Brad Anderson. It also accepted the interpretive center's proposed operations and budget plan. And the council amended the city's sublease with the Richland Public Facilities District to give more time to begin construction, as well as reduce the financial reserves required as a facility contingency fund.
Prior to the council vote, Fred Raab, president of facilities district, asked the council to consider how useful the $700,000 would be for the interpretive center project. Mike Kluse, director of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, said the funds would "make a tremendous difference in the project."
Pete Rogalsky, Richland's director of public works, explained that while the city had the $712,000 available in its six-year transportation plan, it needed to assign it to a "shovel-ready project" before the end of 2012. The interpretive center project qualified, he said.
The money would go toward the first phase, which involves earthwork and building a road with infrastructure to the project site in west end of Columbia Park.
The council also approved amendments for the sublease on the Reach project. The city, which has a lease on the Army Corps of Engineers land in Columbia Park, is subleasing the site for the project to the city's facilities district, with terms to ensure the project is completed in a timely and responsible manner.
The project has been scaled down from 61,000 square feet to a first-phase building of 12,000 to 17,000 square feet.
The staff report said the amended sublease allows for reductions in the required contingency fund for "an appropriately scaled and successful project."
The amended sublease approved by the council calls for a $250,000 bond reserve, a three-month operating reserve and a contingency fund based on $18 a square foot of building space with a maximum of $1 million.
That fund will be built over five years and be used for major facility maintenance costs.
Battelle's $1 million endowment for the project also will be retained.
If the facility district's interpretive center project fails under terms of the sublease, the city will use the contingency fund to modify the facility or restore the site.
Lisa Toomey, chief executive officer of the Richland Public Facilities District and the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center, said the council's actions clear the way for the project to move quickly toward construction.
"We are pleased and ready to go," Toomey said. "We want to get this baby built."