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Published: Wednesday, 12/19/2007

COSI closing as planned Dec. 31 after levy's defeat

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
ChMarrea Parks, 10, at COSI with a Southfield, Mich., elementary, learns about static electricity with Vanessa Young. ChMarrea Parks, 10, at COSI with a Southfield, Mich., elementary, learns about static electricity with Vanessa Young.
THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON Enlarge | Buy This Photo

There will be no holiday miracle for Toledo COSI, which will close as planned Dec. 31 despite some community efforts to keep its doors open, the downtown science museum's board decided yesterday.

Discussions aimed at reopening the nearly 11-year-old museum will continue, including the possibility of asking voters a third time for public funding, said David Waterman, COSI's chairman.

But Mr. Waterman said it would not be possible to get such a levy onto the ballot for the March primary election, and no other solution to COSI's $1.5 million annual deficit has been found.

Last month, Lucas County voters rejected for a second time a 0.167-mill levy request that would have plugged COSI's budget gap while costing the owner of a $100,000 home $5.21 in annual property taxes.

Mr. Waterman said yesterday he had hoped until a week or so ago that a financial solution would be found to keep the museum running. Funding options that could allow the museum to reopen at a later date remain under consideration, the board chairman said.

"We're exploring the possibility of reopening with the support of community organizations - if the support materializes, and I don't know that it will," Mr. Waterman said yesterday.

He warned last month that a shutdown of any duration would complicate a reopening because at least some of COSI's 22 employees might find new jobs elsewhere in the interim.

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and other community leaders have been discussing ways to prevent COSI's permanent shuttering.

Among possibilities that have been discussed by leaders, including University of Toledo President Dr. Lloyd Jacobs and Toledo Federation of Teachers President Francine Lawrence, is opening a Toledo Public School geared toward science at COSI.

Various options to raise money and work with schools are still being explored, Brian Schwartz, the mayor's spokesman, said yesterday.

Other leaders involved in discussions include Toledo Councilman Mark Sobczak and Tina Skeldon-Wozniak, president of the Lucas County board of commissioners.

Details of COSI's shutdown will be announced today during a news conference. Lori Hauser, director of operations, and other COSI employees may be retained up to two months to finalize affairs, the board decided yesterday.

The COSI levy proposal was defeated Nov. 6 by 43,248 to 41,571 votes - a deeper margin than its first ballot appearance, during the 2006 general election, when the same request failed by 71,249 to 70,001 votes.

Following last month's election failure, a then-tentative Dec. 31 closing date was set six days later by the COSI board, with the provision that it could revisit the matter if the museum's funding outlook improved.

COSI will be open the rest of the year except for Monday and Tuesday for the Christmas holiday.

Hours are noon to 5 p.m. Sundays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on other days of the week.

"We're hoping that people will come down and see us one last time," Mr. Waterman said.

Blade staff writer Tom Henry contributed to this report.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.



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