Originally created 05/02/04

Future of Fort Discovery lies in limbo



As the General Assembly goes into special session Monday, legislators must pass a balanced budget that includes anything from roads and bridges to schoolbooks.

Among the millions of dollars at stake are funds for Augusta's Fort Discovery, an interactive science museum that's a joint effort between civilians and the Army.

Fort Discovery officials declined to comment about the situation until the budget is passed and the outcome of funding is certain.

"Until we know where we stand, we want to take this as a positive stand," said Kathi Dimmock, the organization's marketing director.

"He (Fort Discovery CEO Joe Edwards) doesn't want to talk about it until there's something to talk about."

At issue is more than $1 million in grant money from the Legislature that has gone to the museum to provide free admission to Georgia's schoolchildren.

This year, preliminary budgets worked out under the Gold Dome provided Fort Discovery with $890,000, which is less than what was requested.

During a visit to Augusta in April, Gov. Sonny Perdue expressed his support for the science center and said he wished there was more he could do to help it.

Officials have also given tours of the facility to Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Gen. Kevin Byrnes, the head of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, which has responsibility for Fort Gordon.

Larry DeMeyers, the chairman of the CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon, which is trying to keep the post off the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure list, said that if the state doesn't step up to the plate with its share of funding, it would give the state a black eye with the military.

As Fort Discovery officials try to stay positive about the facility's future, rays of hope might come to the group.

Mr. DeMeyers said his organization has discussed the possibility of providing interim funding to help meet any shortfall that might occur because the state's contribution is less than requested.

He said no decision has been made about it, and no exact numbers have been determined.