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Suffolk could give $250G to Vanderbilt Museum

Suffolk’s Vanderbilt Museum will reopen its planetarium March

Suffolk’s Vanderbilt Museum will reopen its planetarium March 15. The planetarium will feature new shows produced by planetariums as far away as Great Britain and China, as well as high-definition video from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and other satellites. Photo Credit: Handout

The Suffolk Legislature’s parks committee advanced a proposal Wednesday to give the county’s Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport another $250,000 on top of the $3 million already appropriated to renovate the museum’s planetarium.

The full legislature is expected to vote on the proposal Tuesday.

The museum’s interim director, Lance Reinheimer, said costs have risen since the renovation plan was created three years ago.

Without the additional funds, Reinheimer said, the museum would have to forgo construction of a pit that would allow the planetarium’s projector to be lowered below the floor.

The view of the stars may be what brings most people to the planetarium, but Reinheimer said the museum wants to be able to make the facility available for concerts and plays, too.

Without a pit, the projector would block sight lines. Reinheimer said being able to stage other events would bring in revenue that ultimately would pay for construction of the pit.

The proposal calls for $100,000 to construct the pit, $50,000 to replace the roof, $50,000 for new energy-efficient lights for the dome and a $50,000 contingency fund.

Despite approving the proposal by a 3-1 vote, with one abstention, lawmakers expressed irritation at the request, which comes after the county raised park fees in 2009 to bail out the museum. Legis. Ricardo Montano (D-Brentwood), who abstained from Wednesday’s vote, told Reinheimer, “It seems like money goes out, but nothing comes in — or at least not enough.”

After the committee’s vote, County Executive Steve Levy said he opposes giving the museum more money.

“The Vanderbilt has become a never-ending money pit that is in desperate need of privatization,” Levy said.

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