LIMA — With city tax revenues stressed due to the coronavirus pandemic’s economic fallout, the Lima Astronomical Society is looking to the public to raise the funds needed to restore the use of Schoonover Observatory.
Club Vice President Michael Ritchie said the motors that control the dome’s rotation and opening began to spark and smoke several months ago, and the astronomical society began to work on a plan to fix them. Eventually, that led the roughly 50-member club to send a representative to Lima City Council just a few months prior to when the pandemic hit.
Ritchie said in the last few months since approaching the city, there has been some movement. Discussions have continued, and city officials have begun to bid out the replacement of the motors after the Lima Astronomical Society had them tested and scrapped.
Currently, Ritchie said the society and city are now drafting an updated memorandum of understanding between the two entities that better defines the relationship with the City of Lima, which owns the property.
The Lima Astronomical Society has also set up a gofundme page to see what kind of support it can find from public donors. Specifically, the society is seeking $4,000 to pay for the replacement of the motors that control the rotating and opening of the dome in order to lessen the impact of the price tag on the city’s already stressed budgets.
Ritchie said the society is also seeing the fundraising as an opportunity to gauge how much the public is willing to support the efforts of the astronomical society, which has maintained use of the observatory since it was built in 1956.
The society does have some initiatives that it would like to see pushed forward. Ritchie said the group has been talking to Johnny Appleseed Metropolitan Park District to see if a second “dark sky” observatory could be built at Kendrick Woods, close to Spencerville. Ritchie estimated the cost of such a project at $130,000.
In a related effort, the society has plans to send another representative to council to lay out what could be done on a local level — such as adding lamp-like hoods onto lamp posts — to reduce the amount of light pollution caused by Lima.
Those in more rural Allen County townships know that the city often glows orange from afar at night, which reduces the brightness of the stars.
As for the astronomical society’s summer season of star gazing sessions, Ritchie said its probably not going to happen this year.
“I think this year is basically going to be done for us, unless the city can get the motors replaced,” he said.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.