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Science Central Receives $100,000 From AEP For Planetarium

Zach Bernard/WBOI News

Science Central is trying to raise money to build a planetarium at its location, and it announced another financial commitment from a local entity Wednesday morning.

American Electric Power -- a significant donor to Science Central’s “Science on a Sphere” exhibit that opened in October 2013 -- pledged $100,000 to the planetarium effort. AEP President and Chief Operating Officer Toby Thomas spoke about the importance of advancing education in the community.

“We know this is going to support STEM education both now and well into the future, and create a place and continue to have a place where kids can come and adults can come, everyone can come and explore this part of what we do,” said Thomas.

The contribution brings Science Central’s capital campaign to $1.7 million, with an end goal of raising $2.4 million in total.

Some of that remaining funding has been in limbo at the city level for quite some time. Since November, Science Central has been asked to wait on a $500,000 Legacy Fund grant twice -- once by the committee itself, and more recently by Fort Wayne City Council.

Science Central executive director Martin Fisher says there’s no hard feelings toward either body, noting that it’s just part of the process.

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“This is public funding, and as custodians of public funds they’re following due process. So I respect them for that,” Fisher said.

He added that Science Central’s community fundraising effort has not ended, and that several conversations for additional funding are still happening.

Fisher does have at least one council member in his corner. Councilman Geoff Paddock (D-5th) voted against tabling the proposal on April 16, and attended the grant reveal at Science Central, calling on his colleagues to approve the project.

Paddock made a similar call to his colleagues, while acknowledging the funding delays, during council’s meeting Tuesday night.

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“Science Central is raising a substantial amount of private dollars for the addition they want to build with the planetarium, and I’m hoping this city council can see their way clear that we can support that,” Paddock said.

Some council members want to meet with Electric Works developer RTM Ventures to determine the outlook of that project before deciding on the planetarium. Currently, $10 million in Legacy dollars are committed to Electric Works, but those council members expressed concern over RTM Ventures’ ability to meet closing deadlines, which were recently extended from June 30 to Sept. 1 by the Redevelopment Commission.

Without a standard meeting scheduled until May 14, it is unclear when the request will return to the Council table.

Full Disclosure: Martin Fisher is the volunteer host of WBOI’s “Weekly Experiment” segment.

Zach joined 89.1 WBOI as a reporter and local host for All Things Considered, and hosted Morning Edition for the past few years. In 2022, he was promoted to Content Director.
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