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Discovery Station seeks more funds

July 19, 2006|by TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN

Discovery Station at Hagerstown Inc. asked the Washington County Commissioners for an additional $30,000 Tuesday to help boost the interactive science museum's struggling finances.

The County Commissioners, who agreed in April to give the center $20,000, said they would get back to museum officials on the additional request.

More than halfway into its 2006 calendar budget year, the center has taken in just 24 percent of its budgeted income.

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Discovery Station, which opened in May 2005 at 101 W. Washington St., budgeted $342,150 in anticipated income for 2006. As of June 30, the museum has received $82,300 in income, according to financial information presented to the commissioners.

The center has spent $87,839 as of June 30, $5,539 more than the income it has received and well short of the $342,1500 budgeted amount.

"We're seven months into your budget year, and your income's only 24 percent?" Commissioner Doris J. Nipps asked. "Has the (Discovery Station) board looked at what you're going to do if the income doesn't come in?"

B. Marie Byers, Discovery Station interim executive director, said the center would no longer bring in large exhibits from outside the area. It would focus on local exhibits, if necessary, she said.

Nipps said Discovery Station would have to considerably reduce its budget if it doesn't hit its anticipated income mark.

The center budgeted $22,000 in admission revenue for the year. So far, it has taken in $17,280. Revenue from its gift shop has exceeded the $2,500 budgeted amount, bringing in $2,642, according to the financial information.

Corporate and individual donations are struggling.

Discovery Station budgeted $100,000 in corporate donations for the year. As of June 30, it has received $1,550.

Byers said the center sent 146 letters to corporations requesting donations and received three positive responses.

"We're new," Byers said. "This is a new enterprise, so we'll continue being very positive."

The center budgeted $45,000 in individual donations. It has received $5,756.

In April, Discovery Station asked the commissioners for $30,000 from the county's fiscal year 2006 budget and for $30,000 from the county's fiscal year 2007 budget. The commissioners agreed to give the center $20,000 from the 2006 fiscal year budget but nothing from the fiscal year 2007 budget. Fiscal year 2007 began July 1.

The City of Hagerstown contributed $10,000 this calendar year and a $50,000 state bond bill is pending, according to Discovery Station officials.

Commissioner John C. Munson asked Byers whether the center has received support from residents to be subsidized by tax dollars.

"I question whether taxpayers want their taxes going to something like this," Munson said.

Byers said she has received such support.

"We'll see that you get some letters," Byers told Munson.

Thomas B. Riford, president and CEO of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), supported the center at the meeting.

He said Discovery Station is a popular place for families to visit.

Since the museum opened in May 2005, 6,805 adults and children have visited.

"It's usually the No. 1 place for kids to go now," Riford said. "So, we're glad to have the Discovery Station in downtown Hagerstown."

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