Friends of the Zeiss

P.O. Box 1041

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15230-1041 U.S.A.

Telephone: 412-561-7876

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Internet Web Site: < >

Statement Before Pittsburgh City Council

2002 October 22

Good morning. I am Glenn A. Walsh, and I reside at 633 Royce Avenue in Mount Lebanon. I am Project Director of Friends of the Zeiss, which is working to preserve the historic equipment and artifacts of The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.

In July, the Department of General Services, in a very brief letter, rejected our proposal to preserve the historic Buhl Planetarium equipment and artifacts; they gave no further information.

I immediately submitted a request, under the Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Law, asking for a copy of the winning bid, as well as copies of the lease contracts for the building and the artifacts. In a July 23[letter attached] response from the City Law Department, my request was denied, due to the fact that no lease contracts had been officially executed.

In that July 23 response, Assistant City Solicitor Yvonne S. Schlosberg stated: "However, we will ensure that the Department of General Services does forward you a copy of any executed contracts as well as the competing RFPs submitted at the time any contracts are executed."

This did not happen. At last evening's annual public hearing, before the Regional Asset District Board, Children's Museum Board President Anne Lewis announced that the Children's Museum has executed a lease contract with the City for the Buhl Planetarium building. She also stated that the Children's Museum is now preparing the Buhl Planetarium building for some type of temporary occupancy, while waiting for State funding. This was the first notice of any new plan to occupy this City-owned building.

What does this temporary occupancy mean? What will the Children's Museum do with the Buhl Planetarium, while they cannot go forward with their proposed project? I do not know. The public does not know. Do you know?

Will they dismantle the historic Buhl Planetarium equipment and artifacts, and hence make irrevocable changes to the building, before knowing whether they can complete their proposed project? What if, after several years, they cannot complete their project? Will the building be returned to the City, in a manner where it can no longer function as a planetarium?

The plan for use of Buhl Planetarium by the Children's Museum, provided to this Council last Spring, is not being implemented. Some new plan, which has not been reviewed by the public or this Council, is now being implemented. The secrecy of this new plan, by both the City Administration and the Children's Museum, is outrageous!

I, respectfully, request that this Council schedule a public hearing, or at the very least, a cable-cast post-agenda meeting, to bring these new plans, for this important City landmark, out into the open.

Thank you.