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Published: 11/13/2007

COSI delays closing date until Dec. 31; 2,400 weekend visitors stoke hopes for a bailout

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Although it may be a case of too little, too late, COSI just recorded one of its most successful weekends for attendance.

In part because of the show of support, the COSI staff has agreed to stay on the job through Dec. 31, officials of the science museum said yesterday.

Lori Hauser, director of operations, said nearly 2,400 people visited Friday afternoon, Saturday, and Sunday - "a great weekend for us."

"I think people wanted to come out and show their support for COSI," Ms. Hauser said.

Despite that, the science museum is making arrangements to shut down at the end of the year for financial reasons.

Lucas County voters on Nov. 6 rejected a new levy that would have generated $1.5 million a year to keep the science museum afloat in the former Portside Festival Marketplace building on the downtown waterfront.

"I think the team at COSI is extremely dedicated and they have been exceptional through this. They feed off people coming in and the positive experiences people have at COSI," Ms. Hauser said. "They want to be there as long as they can."

Employees yesterday were given a choice of closing earlier in December on an undisclosed date or staying open through the end of December.

The choice was between getting a guaranteed severance if they stopped working earlier in the year, or getting paid through the end of the year and taking a smaller severance.

Ms. Hauser said she talked to COSI's staffers in meetings and on the telephone to get their votes. The center has 22 full-time employees.

David Waterman, the COSI board chairman, said the weekend attendance was double the normal level, stoking long-shot hopes for a bailout.

"I think we might see some outstanding support from the community. It would help us help our staff" with their severance, Mr. Waterman said. "I continue to say I'd be surprised if something would intervene to stop a closing."

COSI's hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is $7.50 for children and $9 for adults. The center will be closed Thanksgiving Day, but open the rest of the weekend.

COSI is still selling memberships for $65, Ms. Hauser said.

She said the memberships provide reciprocity with other science centers.

Ms. Hauser said lots of ideas have been advanced for saving or relocating COSI.

But she said COSI has to see the money.

"We have to have some sort of funding that goes along with it to keep open," she said.

A solution would involve a combination of political and public entities, such as universities and schools, and possibly another levy attempt, Mr. Waterman said.

"All of those organizations making decisions would probably be influenced by or interested in a show of support from the public," he said.

He said political advisers have said the earliest they would suggest another levy attempt is next November - a presidential election - when turnout would be high.

He said it would take close to $1 million to maintain the science museum in operation until then.

Jack Ford, a member of the Toledo Board of Education, on Friday called for $1 million in support from the city, the state, and the federal government to convert COSI to a science-based middle or high school that would be a museum on weekends.

The $1.5 million that would have been raised by a 0.167-mill property tax levy would have filled the gap in the operating budget and provided for facility improvements and new exhibits, Mr. Waterman has said.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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