October has been a groundbreaking month for the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center in more ways than one.
At the start of the month, the first ceremonial shovels of dirt were turned at the future site of the museum in the west end of Columbia Park. It was a long-awaited day of celebration in a nearly decadelong effort to build the facility.
Those shovels of dirt meant a lot for a project that has already faced its share of challenges while still in the planning stage, most notably when it lost the preferred site for the interpretive center at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers.
Last week brought more news from the Richland Public Facilities District. It was announced that CEO Kimberly Camp will be leaving the project. The Richland PFD was formed with the intent to build the interpretive center and Camp was hired in 2007 to bring the museum to fruition.
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The day after Camp's announcement, the PFD board's president, Joel Rogo, resigned. He was the last board member remaining from the inception of the project in 2002.
The exodus of two people from such key positions is certain to raise concerns about retaining momentum, but change is also always accompanied by a chance for new energy and ideas.
For the interpretive center, that opportunity could hardly come at a more critical time.
Building the museum is a complicated process, requiring the cooperation of the Richland PFD, the Richland City Council, the Reach Board, the Capital Campaign Steering Committee, the new regional PFD board and other stakeholders.
It's a complex web of boards and tribes, of hierarchy and regulations governing public facilities and of rules for the use of local, federal and state money. While daunting for many of us, for a person with a passion for project of this nature, it is a dream job.
The search for a new CEO at this stage presents some unique challenges. But with so many challenges already overcome, the PFD has new clarity on the type of skills and personality needed to move the museum into the next phase.
The urgent need is for fundraising. So far, $26 million has been raised, but there's still a long way to go to cover the $40.5 million project and additional longterm operations costs.
State and federal officials who helped provide much of that $26 million expect results. If those results don't materialize it could seriously jeopardize future funding here in the Tri-Cities.
Making a wise choice for the new CEO is vital to the success of the interpretive center. The project is at a point now where it needs momentum and energy from a person who can unify the various groups and open up pocketbooks.
It's a decision that shouldn't be rushed, but time is of the essence, with plans calling for the center to be built by the end of 2013.
The last thing the community needs is another stalled project. The interpretive center is too important and has come too far to be derailed now.
The stage is set for success. The PFD board and nonprofit Reach Board have been revitalized and are on the same page. The Richland City Council has taken a leadership role.
The museum is on the cusp of becoming reality, and it needs the leadership of the PFD board to find the best person for the job, someone who can bring life to the project and whose success will fulfill the dreams of an entire community.
It's a tall order, but not out of reach.