WWU to take over Marine Science Center in Poulsbo

By Terry Asla
For The North Kitsap Herald

POULSBO — It’s official: Western Washington University takes over management of the Poulsbo Marine Science Center  on June 1.

The Poulsbo Marine Science Center Foundation has notified the city it intends to discontinue its operations in the Poulsbo Marine Science Center building, and will terminate its lease with the city as of May 31.

At its May 18 meeting, Poulsbo City Council members voted to enter into an arrangement with WWU, authorizing the university to take over operation of the marine science center on June 1 under a one-year lease. Once all of the legal and real estate issues have been satisfactorily resolved, the city expects to transfer title and ownership of the center to WWU.

The change does not come as a surprise to any of the parties. The city and WWU started the process by signing a memorandum of intent on December 16, 2015.

When asked about the seemingly short time between signing the memorandum in December and turning over the keys in May, City Council member Ed Stern said Western President Dr. Bruce Shepard is retiring in June and has made it a goal to expand new campuses before he steps down. WWU currently provides undergraduate degree programs on the Olympic College campus in Poulsbo.

“This assures the foundation’s mission and the Science Center will continue in perpetuity,” Stern said.

According to city officials, a lot of the details that remain to be worked out are due to complexity of the land boundaries. Some date back to 1895 and they have to be resolved before the final contract can be signed.

Mayor Becky Erickson elaborated on property issues, pointing out that the city-owned property in the area is currently “all one piece” and includes parking for nearby businesses and the city pump station upland of the center, as well as the science center. What land will be included in the transfer of ownership has yet to be resolved.

While details may change, the broad strokes of the agreement are unlikely to change, city officials said.

A draft version of the agreement has WWU agreeing to continue operating the center for the benefit of the public, including keeping the marine science museum and aquarium open to the public, and offering a marine science education program for all education levels, including post-secondary, secondary, and primary education.

WWU also intends to use the Poulsbo Marine Science Center for general university-level classroom instruction.

According to Stern, the Marine Science Center Foundation — which had a lease from the city to operate the center as an
educational site for the community — will dissolve and turn over all of its assets to WWU, including the sub-lease with Sealaska Corporation for use of second- and third-floor office space. Ownership of the building and property, and the foundation’s assets, will be turned over to WWU when the final contract is signed.

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