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Discovery Station requests funding

January 02, 2001

Discovery Station requests funding



By SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer


The Discovery Station at Hagerstown Inc. is asking the Washington County Commissioners for some proceeds from a hotel tax increase to help fund a $1.4 million interactive science center in downtown Hagerstown.

Dave Barnhart, the organization's treasurer, said there is not yet a specific budget request amount. At this point the organization just wanted to provide the commissioners with an update and to let them know of the organization's interest in the money, he said.

The commissioners took no action on the request. Commissioners President Gregory Snook thanked Barnhart for the update and complimented him on the project work so far.

The group has asked the commissioners for some of the money resulting from increasing the hotel-motel tax to 6 percent from 3 percent. Under state legislation tied to the tax, the county is expected to receive about $350,000 a year to develop tourism attractions, enhance economic development or support cultural and recreational projects.

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It is the first time the group has requested funding from the county, Barnhart said.

The Discovery Station has also requested money from other groups, as well as $375,000 from the state.

Discovery Station needs money to renovate a building at 58 E. Washington St. that it is leasing from the City of Hagerstown, Barnhart said. The lease costs $1 a year for five years. Before the lease expires, the Discovery Station can opt to purchase the building for $100,000.

The group wants to make about $1 million in renovations and additions to the building. Some project supporters have also begun doing their own cleaning of the building.

Barnhart has said the group would like to raise about $1.4 million to pay for construction, exhibits and operating costs for the first year. A fund-raising campaign is under way, he said.

An opening is planned for fall 2001. Barnhart said attempts are being made to establish cooperative relationships with other science centers in the region.

He projects drawing 50,000 visitors in the first year, calling that a "conservative estimate."

The center will be self-sustaining within its first year, Barnhart said.

The center's mission is to "promote informal learning about science, technology and local history through exhibits and programs that are both educational and entertaining. The primary audiences served should include individual, families and school groups from around the region, as well as tourists," according to Discovery Station documents.

The interactive science center will also be part of the revitalization of downtown Hagerstown, Barnhart said.

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