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DANA POINT : City Ends Joint Powers Agreement With Marine Institute After Debate

After nearly two hours of heated debate, the City Council voted Tuesday to end its participation in the Orange County Marine Institute joint powers agreement, helping to pave the way for the 18-year-old educational facility to go private.

The institute announced plans two months ago to become a private, nonprofit organization to help raise funds for an expansion that could cost as much as $30 million and could eventually add 47,000 square feet of learning centers and indoor exhibits to the facility. Institute officials are now asking the seven participating agencies, including Dana Point, to approve dissolving their operating agreement with the institute.

“It’s an important service that we can provide for our residents and to our local community,” said Stanley Cummings, executive director of the institute. “We have sought continually to stand on our own two feet.”

But the action drew criticism from council members William L. Ossenmacher and Toni Gallagher, who said that the council was misled by the institute when it originally was asked nearly four years ago to join the joint operating agreement and donate $100,000 toward the facility.

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“It was not common knowledge to this City Council when we made the decision to invest $100,000,” Ossenmacher said of the institute’s plans to eventually go private. “And now we’re being asked to walk away from that investment. It’s a boondoggle.”

The other three council members disagreed, saying that the nonprofit organization will function solely for the benefit of the people. “I don’t see the ocean as an exclusive possession of Dana Point,” said Councilwoman Judy Curreri, adding that the donated money has already gone for improvements at the facility. “We are turning away far too many children already.”


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