It's fantastic that the carousel is one step closer to becoming a reality -- good news for Kennewick taxpayers waiting to see a return on their investment.
The Kennewick City Council voted last week to support the Three Rivers Carousel Foundation's plan to build a permanent home for the carousel near the Southridge Sports and Events Complex. The city owns the carousel.
The nonprofit group expects the project to cost nearly $2 million. That includes the cost of the building and bringing the antique carousel to life. Plans call for a facility reminiscent of a circus tent in keeping with the feel of the 1910 Charles Carmel carousel.
The carousel is right up near the top of the list of projects in this community that have seen a lot of talk and not much action over the past decade.
After purchasing the horses in 2003 and some stalled fundraising attempts over eight years, the foundation -- which was under different leadership than the current group -- was still not able to bring the project to fruition.
The horses had been restored and trotted around town at all manner of events and business lobbies to drum up interest but not much else happened.
Kennewick took possession of the carousel just over a year ago and the council hinted that it was ready to abandon the project. With the city's investment at $830,000 for a carousel that has yet to take one spin here, any additional investment was out of the question.
But rather than make a hasty decision, the council gave the community a chance to respond. And a new set of board members and business owners has taken the reigns and says it can have the project completed in just over a year from now.
We have said the city should divest itself of the carousel if it was going to languish in storage building and return the taxpayers' money to some more appropriate and feasible project.
But we've been impressed by this new group's determination and ability to stick with deadlines, and we're glad the city has given it a chance to succeed.
The foundation has commitments from contractors and others for in-kind donations, and says it can pay for the rest with cash donations. It has some movers and shakers on its board who know how to deliver on a promise.
The council doesn't want to see any more taxpayer money spent on the project, and the foundation has vowed to pay for the costs of getting it up and running, including any initial operating losses.
The foundation has pledged to make the project self-sustaining over the long term.
Under the plan, the carousel would be open for 200 days a year, eight hours a day and cost $2 per ride. The facility would also be available to rent for receptions and other events.
No plan can guarantee the city will never be stuck with some operating costs. But as long as the carousel brings visitors to the city who end up visiting its shops and restaurants, the use of some tax money would be justified.
More importantly, the foundation says it won't need any. And its members know how to read a bottom line.
As long as the foundation stays focused on producing a self-sustaining facility, we predict worries about operating costs will evaporate.