Kennewick Carousel Foundation says it is frustrated

KENNEWICK — The Kennewick City Council is nearing its last go-round on what to do with a 1910 Charles Carmel carousel worth nearly $1 million.

Ken Johanning of the Kennewick Carousel Foundation told the council Tuesday night that without a strong show of community support to complete restoration of the rare 44-horse carousel and build a facility to house it, the valuable "community treasure" may have to be put out to the proverbial pasture.

"I'm very frustrated. No one is more disappointed about (the lack of progress) than I am. The key is to get a location for the carousel," Johanning told the council at its workshop.

Tuesday was the carousel foundation's day to report on progress toward raising money to build a $1.3 million facility and complete the restoration that began more than three years ago. Johanning persuaded city officials and the council to front hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy the 90-year-old carousel from a woman in New Mexico in 2003.

Since then, the city has increased its investment in the carousel project to more than $860,000 and has little to show for it other than restored wood carved horses and newly created Husky and Cougar mascots that will join the equestrian parade if and when the entourage is reassembled.

Mayor Steve Young said the city is done putting additional tax money toward the project, but will help in other ways if the foundation can show it is making progress.

"We need to have community momentum to get this done. Checks for $500 and $1,000 won't do it. We need $10,000 and $50,000 donations," Johanning said. "The people of the Tri-Cities really haven't made their minds up whether they want a community treasure carousel."

Johanning said a community poll, led by the Tri-City Herald, could show how "how badly we want it."

Young said the poll also should ask whether the community will pay for it.

"If not, and I'll hate it, we'll have to face the reality (and sell the carousel)," Johanning said.

Councilman Don Britain said the project needs a deadline. "We need to know so we can recoup our money if we need to," Britain said.

Young agreed.

"As time moves on it loses its luster because people are losing confidence this will happen," Young said.

To which councilman Paul Parish noted: "The foundation needs to say where the carousel is going to be. Pick a spot and bring this issue back to us."

Johanning said everyone has an opinion on where the carousel should go -- near the Three Rivers Convention Center, the east end of Columbia Park, or the west end, or in the middle near Edison Street, or in downtown Kennewick, or close to Duffy's Pond.

As a final, encouraging word, Councilman John Hubbard suggested the foundation team up with the Port of Kennewick commissioners.

Young suggested May 1 for a due date on the foundation's next update.

"(The city) has reached a decision. We are out of time. We want to hear you've sited it, got a conceptual plan and are raising money," Young said.

-- John Trumbo: 509-582-1529; jtrumbo@tricityherald.com