Originally created 06/02/04

Fort Discovery awaits word on state funding



A day after Fort Discovery officials announced the cut of two-thirds of its work force because of the lack of state funding, there was still no word Tuesday on when, or whether, money would be coming from Atlanta.

Shane Hix, a spokesman for Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, said the layoffs of 40 out of 60 employees of the science center were a "day-to-day operation of a particular entity" that his office wasn't aware of.

He reiterated the state's lean budget situation, and said Mr. Perdue has acted fiscally responsibly.

"In budget times like these, there are implications of having to operate with fewer resources," Mr. Hix said.

Mr. Perdue was in Costa Rica for a trade meeting Tuesday.

Joe Edwards, the CEO of Fort Discovery and the National Science Center, announced the layoffs and cuts to the center's hours Monday after Mr. Perdue decided to defer $890,000 for the center.

"We could have reduced the severity of the restructuring if we had learned during the (Legislative) session that it was not supported in Atlanta," Mr. Edwards said.

Despite the cuts, he said the NSC has made the best decisions it can to ensure that the center does not close.

If the funding is restored, Mr. Edwards said, he hopes to restore the staff of the center.

"The organization cannot function with a skeleton crew," he said.

"At some point, these people will have to be hired back.

"We believe this organization is important to Augusta, to Fort Gordon and the country," Mr. Edwards said.

"And we're not going to give up."

Reach Jeremy Craig at (706) 823-3409 or jeremy.craig@augustachronicle.com.