KENNEWICK -- The Kennewick City Council has agreed to let a group of influential business owners and community leaders have the reins in resurrecting its 44-horse carousel project.
"The goal is to complete the project without cost to taxpayers. ... We will build a home for the carousel," said Eric Van Winkle, chairman of the newly reconstituted board of directors of the Three Rivers Carousel Foundation, at a Tuesday special council workshop.
That home would place the 100-year-old carousel in a facility to be built near the Southridge Sports Complex in Kennewick.
The foundation committee's preferred site is on city-owned land.
"We'd be hard-pressed to find a site that makes more sense," Van Winkle said.
Kennewick council members asked a few questions, but generally were positive, then quickly nodded and voiced their approval.
"I appreciate your enthusiasm, but will it be self supporting?" asked Councilman Don Britain.
Dwight Marquart, owner of Tri-Cities Toyota and who worked quietly for nearly a year to pull together the new team effort, said the plan is to have a carousel facility and a separate building as an events center. Contractors and suppliers will donate toward the project.
But details about the operation aren't yet sorted out, said City Manager Marie Mosley. "The foundation will be involved," she said.
Mayor Steve Young said he was glad to see so many community leaders participating.
"This is citizens coming together to make this happen," he said.
Councilman Bob Parks said he still wants Kennewick to get back the $830,000 it has put toward the carousel.
"It is good to see all this horsepower coming together, but I'd like to see some community support, not just this one group. This is five years too late," he said.
Hubbard said he was still interested, if possible, in seeing the carousel go-round in Columbia Park, where it would be close to other community facilities such as the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center and an outdoor performing arts center, if both are built.
Councilman Bob Olson, who has urged the city to force a sale of the carousel so it can be reimbursed, changed his position after hearing the proposal.
"I threw as much cold water on this as anybody. But with (Councilman) Paul Parish in there, I say let's go."
Parish announced six months ago that he was going to try to keep the carousel project from grinding to a full stop.
"Now it has got a home and that's what we need to raise the money," he said.
Britain also asked how much money needed to be raised.
That is still an unknown, Van Winkle replied.
"In 90 to 120 days we can bring back some answers," he said.
The carousel, created in 1910 by Charles Carmel, was purchased in 2003 by the foundation, largely with the city's financial help.
Its 44 horses have been restored, but the mechanical system still is in pieces. The entire carousel is in storage in a city building.
Fundraising efforts during the past five years didn't go well, and there were disagreements over where the carousel should be located -- in Columbia Park or on the west side of the city near the Three Rivers Convention Center.
Mayor Pro Tem Sharon Brown called for setting deadlines on the new committee's efforts.
But Young insisted that the group have some leeway to "do what they need to do."
Van Winkle suggested a three- to four-month window of time, which all the council members indicated was acceptable.
The foundation committee listed several businesses willing to provide labor donations: Conner Construction, Brashear Electric, Bruce Inc. Heating and Air, Murley Floor Covering, Nichols Drywall, Creative Concrete, J & E Meza Plastering, Bagley Landscaping and Evergreen Plumbing.
Community leaders, who Olson had described as "heavy hitters," willing to help the cause include: Van Winkle of Townsquare Media; Marquart; Dave Retter of Windermere Realty; Carlos Martinez of Dura-Shine Clean; Bill Lampson of Lampson International; and Barb Johnson of Columbia Center mall.
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