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Planetarium lays off 20 part-time workers

Suffolk’s Vanderbilt Planetarium is laying off 20 part-time workers during an eight-month shutdown during which a new state-of-the-art projector will be installed to upgrade its sky shows.

The layoffs will take effect Aug. 1 and continue until March, when the planetarium is scheduled to reopen. Lance Reinheimer, interim museum director, said formal notices went out to workers last week and meetings were held to explain details.

The jobs affected include ushers, ticket takers, projectionists and concession and planetarium store workers. Reinheimer said many of the workers are college students and retirees.

“This is not a surprise to anyone,” he said, noting that employees were aware of plans for the renovation project and temporary closing.

Part-timers were told that if they need to leave for another job before Aug. 1, they will be welcomed back when the planetarium reopens. Two full-time workers will remain to help with renovations and installation of the new projector and plan new programs.

Vanderbilt officials also announced that a public hearing will be held July 20 on plans to install a cell tower. The museum has proposed the 140-foot cell tower as a way to generate about $100,000 a year in new revenue for the financially ailing facility as well as improve communications on the 43-acre grounds.

The hearing will be held at 7 p.m. at the planetarium. Last month, the Suffolk Council on Environmental Quality heard a complaint about the tower plan from Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone.

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