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Science center gift is pulled

A month after approving $21 million in seed money for a space and science museum, the Henderson City Council took back its gift on Tuesday night but promised funding help in the future.

In a unanimous decision Tuesday night, council members reversed a June 9 vote to transfer money from the city’s land fund to an advisory board seeking to develop the Henderson Space and Science Center.

Instead, the city will hang onto the $21 million but earmark it for the science center.

The proposed project is expected to cost about $61 million and be built on city-owned land along U.S. Highway 95 near Russell Road.

Before the vote, council members voiced support for the science center concept.

Mayor Andy Hafen said he fully supports the project and believes the $21 million should be used for it eventually. At the moment, though, he said he doesn’t want to see the city lose control of any money that could be used in the event of an emergency.

The June 9 vote came during the final meeting for former Mayor Jim Gibson and former City Councilman Jack Clark, both of whom serve on the science center advisory board and voted in favor of the $21 million gift.

On Tuesday night, several people spoke out in favor of the science center, including former Lt. Gov. Lonnie Hammargren, who has famously built something of an amateur space and science museum in his backyard.

Hammargren urged the city to forge ahead with the project. “We might even have a few things to donate,” he said.

But not everyone was so supportive. Audience member John Jackson blasted Gibson and Clark for voting to approve the gift when they “clearly had a conflict of interest verging on a breach of the public trust.”

Neither Clark nor Gibson attended Tuesday’s meeting, but both have denied any conflict.

Clark has noted that his work on the science center board is voluntary and unpaid, and he doesn’t stand to gain anything if the project goes through.

City staff now will draw up an amendment to Henderson’s agreement with the science center board. That amendment will be brought back before the council for approval at a future meeting, after which it will be forwarded to the science center board for consideration.

Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350.

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