PFD seeks public's input on Reach project

The Richland Public Facilities District board is asking for the public to weigh in on what they'd like the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center project to look like.

"We want to bring the public up to date and hear what they have to say. We have some big decisions that need to be made," said Fred Raab, board president.

The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at Richland City Hall, 505 Swift Blvd.

The interpretive center project, originally conceived as a $40.5 million facility to be built at the south end of Columbia Point in Richland, had been scaled back and relocated to land in the west end of Columbia Park that falls within Richland's boundaries.

The original concept's design envisioned a facility with striking architecture and impressive, grand interior spaces, similar in scale to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland.

But financial circumstances have forced the facilities district board to consider backing away from a large museum complex and developing the interpretive center in smaller stages.

Raab noted that a recent study by Lockheed Martin suggested several options to help reduce construction costs. One of those options is to build a municipal-style building, similar in size to a large library. That would be about half the size of the original concept.

"This is not a decision-making meeting. It will allow us to present to the public this current state of the project and to hear what they have to say. It'll be a listening session," Raab said.

He said the board wants to hear if the public is interested in the look of the outside of the building, or more interested in what kinds of exhibits and activities would occur inside.

The interpretive center project was one of four proposals considered by the Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District board.

The Richland facilities district board had hoped the regional board would provide $14.5 million to go toward construction. But the regional board has selected a $35 million aquatic center project as its first choice for a regional project that would be built with a voter-approved 0.1 percent increase on sales taxes in Richland, Pasco and Kennewick.

The Richland facilities district board broke ground for the interpretive center last fall, but has not awarded a contract for the earthwork. A call for bids produced only one response, which the board decided was too far above the engineer's estimate.

After receiving public comment at the Monday evening workshop at the Richland City Hall, the board will reconvene in a special meeting for a closed-door session to consider pending litigation.