Reach center gets final OK to move ahead

RICHLAND -- Outgoing CEO Kimberly Camp got to share one last piece of good news about the planned Hanford Reach Interpretive Center with the Richland Public Facilities District Board on Friday.

The project cleared its last hurdle before being able to start the first phase of construction in the west end of Columbia Park with an approval by the Washington State Department of Transportation issued Thursday.

The approval allows the city of Richland -- which is managing the grant money for the first construction phase -- to advertise for bids and award a contract, said Camp, who is leaving the district this week after leading development of the museum project for more than four years.

"There are no barriers -- none at all -- to starting phase one construction," Camp said with a wide grin. "I'm so happy."

The facilities district had a ground breaking ceremony in early October to celebrate the symbolic commencement of the first construction phase, which includes extending utilities to the site and building a driveway to the spot where the building eventually will go.

But the district and the city had to wait for official approval from the state and federal governments to hire a contractor and start turning actual dirt.

With the approval that came Thursday, the district is in a good position to meet a deadline in its sublease with Richland for the land in Columbia Park that requires the first phase to start by March 31.

In her parting comments to the board, Camp encouraged members to focus on fundraising as they hire a new CEO.

"The building is designed, the site is selected and we're ready to put shovels in the ground, but we can't do that without fundraising," she said.

The 2012 budget adopted by the board at its meeting Friday shows the district has about $27 million left to raise of the $40 million needed not only for construction and exhibits, but for operational expenses for the next few years and a $2 million endowment fund to help support the center in the future.

The district has more than $12 million in unspent cash or pledged donations, according to the 2012 budget document.

The district's operating budget for 2012 is about $992,000, which includes a $125,000 severance payment to Camp required by her employment contract, and payment of her health insurance benefits for seven months after she leaves.

The district expects to bring in about $836,000 in revenues for 2012, but also expects to have $200,000 leftover from the 2011 budget that can go toward 2012 expenses, said Dan Boyd, the board's secretary/treasurer.

The budget anticipates ending 2012 with about $44,000 in the bank for operating expenses.

The board agreed Friday to revisit the budget at the end of the first quarter of 2012 to give the as-yet-unnamed new CEO a chance to look at the budget and make comments, and because the hiring of a new CEO could change some of the numbers.

"I felt if we want the new CEO to stand behind the numbers, it would be good to involve the new CEO," said Fred Raab, the board's vice president.