RICHLAND -- A power struggle appears to be brewing between members of the Richland City Council and the city's Public Facilities District Board.
Discussion Tuesday as the council considered two appointments to the facilities district board indicated a disconnect between the council and the board about the board's purpose and how much oversight the city council should have over it.
The sticking point was a document Mayor Pro Tem Ed Revell said was handed out at a facilities district board meeting Monday that suggests the board sees fundraising for the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center as its primary mission.
But Revell said the council's perspective is that it created the board to govern a public agency, not to raise money.
"We have different views of the role of the PFD," he said.
The facilities district was formed in 2002 to build the interpretive center -- a museum intended to tell the story of Hanford's role in winning World War II and the Cold War, as well as the history, geology, flora and fauna of the region.
But the estimated $40.5 million price tag is more than the state sales tax revenue brought in by the district, and so the board has sought money from state and federal grants, and from private fundraising.
About $26 million has been raised so far, but that still leaves a significant amount to be raised before the project can be completed.
The board recently cleared a major hurdle with approval from the Army Corps of Engineers in Walla Walla for a sublease on land at Columbia Park west and a determination that the project complies with federal environmental laws.
Project developers now want to focus on raising the rest of the money needed to start construction.
But council members said as the governors of a public agency, the board members should hire someone to raise money and focus their efforts on running the facilities district.
"I certainly do not see the public facilities district board's primary mission as fundraising," Mayor John Fox said. "It is a public agency spending tax dollars. It is not a private philanthropic organization. ... You don't create government agencies for that purpose. You don't run them like a nonprofit."
Also at issue was the council's expressed desire for oversight, which it described as monitoring the board's activities and making sure city investments are protected.
But that would not include giving the board directions how to operate, Revell said.
"When I read (the document), what I got out of it is they didn't want council liaisons to do any oversight," he said. "They want the liaisons to be messengers taking messages back and forth."
Revell added he has had trouble getting answers from the board and the district staff when he asks questions about the project, and wants greater transparency and accountability.
"One of the key duties right now is planning," he said. "What's the plan? How much money is needed? We don't get very good answers."
Board Vice Chairman Joel Rogo told the Herald outside the meeting that he believes council members are misinformed.
"They have some valid points, but they took a lot out of context," he said.
The council appointed Rick Jansons, president of the Richland School Board, and Fred Raab, head of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory at Hanford, to fill positions being vacated by Eric Gerber and Burt Vaughan.
Council members said Jansons brought good governance skills, while Raab brings scientific know-how and experience designing educational programs.
Rogo said he was happy with both appointments and thought both men would be good additions to the board.
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org