The reorganization and reboot of the Powerhouse Science Center after the center closed its doors May 9 because of financial problems will begin with the creation of short- and long-term plans.
About 21 community, staff and board members met at a board retreat from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday to get the planning started.
“That was dedication right there,” said Powerhouse Executive Director Nana Naisbitt. “And lots of folks are volunteering.”
The group broke into three task forces to plan the next three months, three to six months out and a plan for calendar year 2016, she said.
“My sense from Herald articles, frankly, is that there’s a real shortage of activities for folks with children under 5, because it’s so difficult to find child care,” Naisbitt said. “So, I’m thinking our focus may need to be on programs for 1 to 11-year-olds, for friends, baby-sitters, aunts, grandparents and parents who are juggling so many things and want an enriched environment like this.”
The group is looking for a way to conduct a community survey to find out if those kinds of programs are what the community most wants, perhaps through the city of Durango’s Virtual City Hall, she said.
On June 9, they’ll be meeting with the La Plata County Economic Development Alliance at its monthly meeting as the first of what organizers hope will be several community meetings.
“We need to get the word out that we’re renting the Powerhouse and the plaza for events,” Naisbitt said. “We’ve moved the food-and-beverage tent over to the stage. We’re trimming trees, weeding, putting in planters and spiffing it up.”
After clearing out the center of the plaza, the space now can hold a 216-person tent, she said.
“It’s a beautiful venue for company parties or weddings, receptions,” Naisbitt said. “It’s a unique property and a huge asset that’s being underutilized as an income source.”
Naisbitt came to the Powerhouse after 14 years at the Telluride Science Research Center, which grew from a small science club with 90 members in 2002 to 1,520 in 2014 and reserves from $15,000 to $850,000 during her tenure, she said. And 99 percent of the income was earned income from memberships and programs, she said. As of 2013, the Powerhouse was depending on almost half of its more than $1 million budget coming from contributions and grants.
“I think the Powerhouse budget needs to be cut in half,” she said. “I’ve studied other science centers in small towns with budgets under $2.5 million with comparable square footage, and we don’t need a huge budget.”
Rentals of the facility and plaza are a key part of the center’s recovery.
“That’s part of the strategy, to bridge us to our next step,” Naisbitt said.