The Richland Public Facilities District Board voted unanimously Monday to try to re-capture a $700,000 "windfall" of money previously earmarked for the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center project.
The money was believed lost to the project because it was tied to the previous proposed location at the south end of Columbia Point, but the federal government recently opted to release the money back to Washington to re-allocate to a shovel-ready project.
Richland Deputy City Manager Bill King told the facilities district board that the city can apply to the Washington State Department of Transportation to have the money sent back to Richland for the Reach project, but would need an agreement with the transportation department by year's end.
Facilities district board members Nick Ceto and Rick Jansons reported that a subcommittee met Thursday and talked for nearly two hours about whether to go for the money, and concluded that it would be worthwhile since the project already has a completed plan for the first phase of construction in the west end of Columbia Park that already had been approved by state and federal agencies.
Jansons said that the facilities district can submit that existing plan to get the money, but still have flexibility to make tweaks as the district continues with a redesign of the interpretive center building.
The district had hoped to start construction on the first phase -- which involves extension of utility lines and construction of a driveway, parking lot and amphitheater -- this year but the city had to reject the only bid for the work in July because it came in more than $1 million over budget.
The district's board and staff currently are working to scale down the planned interpretive center from its original 61,000-square-foot design to something much more modest and affordable with the money pledged or on-hand.
With the reconfigured building footprint, board members said the $700,000 plus the $3 million available for the first phase would be more than enough to get the work done.
Ceto said he believes the district has a good shot at the money since it already was supposed to be committed to the interpretive center project, and letting it come back to the project would be an easier process for state and federal agencies than giving it to someone new.
Richland City Councilwoman Sandra Kent, who serves as a liaison to the facilities district, said council members are willing to back the plan but the board needs to act soon.
Since the city would be making the application for the $700,000, the council has the final say.
"I would encourage you all to move swiftly ... so you can get this back before the council as soon as possible," Kent said.
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org