Make us your home page

Hillsborough county agrees to give financially troubled Tampa museum $400,000 — if they meet these 14 conditions

The Museum of Science and Industry must agree to an extensive list of conditions to secure a $400,000 loan from Hillsborough County. [SKIP O’ROURKE  |   Times] 

The Museum of Science and Industry must agree to an extensive list of conditions to secure a $400,000 loan from Hillsborough County. [SKIP O’ROURKE | Times] 

TAMPA — The financially troubled Museum of Science and Industry is again asking Hillsborough County for money, though its board will have to agree to a long list of conditions before receiving a requested $400,000 loan.

The museum, known as MOSI, asked for the money to cover payroll and operating expenses. County Administrator Mike Merrill has tentatively approved the loan pending MOSI's approval of the conditions. The museum board will discuss the terms at a meeting Tuesday.

This is not the first time MOSI has tapped into a county reserve fund to help alleviate financial woes. During the last decade, MOSI has requested between $600,000 and $800,000 a year to get through the fall lull, a slow time for museum visitation after the busy, tourism-fueled summer months.

MOSI president and CEO Molly Demeulenaere said the $400,000 request is evidence that the museum board has been working hard to establish financial stability.

"We have a lot of old debts that we're working to get rid of," Demeulenaere said. "It's still a work in progress."

But the conditions for this year's loan are extensive. The museum must put up its endowment fund as collateral and get county approval before spending it, documents show. The county will approve MOSI's annual budget and amendments, a term that has existed in prior loan agreements.

And the museum will need the county's permission to take on any more debt or make capital improvements greater than $5,000 that are not in the budget or funded by grants. MOSI must pay back the loan within 12 months.

The final condition gives MOSI 90 days to address a list of problems the county identified during a site review two months ago. It found that MOSI was having trouble paying certain vendors on time, and that some have refused to continue working with the museum. The report also outlined concerns with the security of vendor checks.

County Commissioner Les Miller, who represents the county on MOSI's board, said the museum's tight leash does not mean it is still spiraling. On the contrary, he said, it shows that the board and the county are taking the museum's financial issues seriously.

"They're not where they need to be, but they're not where they were before," Miller said. "In 12 months, hopefully, they'll be able to be back on stable ground."

Miller expressed confidence in Demeulenaere's leadership.

The CEO came under fire this summer when the Tampa Bay Times reported that she was selected for the top job at MOSI — the largest science center in the Southeast— despite financial troubles during the time she led Gulfcoast Wonder and Imagination Zone, a science museum in Sarasota. It closed its doors shortly after she left in 2012.

Demeulenaere joined MOSI as vice president for development, then served as interim CEO before securing the job in June.

Supporters say MOSI's financial shortcomings began long before she took charge.

"As we're working with her and her new team, we're getting some confidence in her ability to turn this around," said Merrill, who had been critical of Demeulenaere's leadership.

Demeulenaere would not say whether she felt the terms were agreeable but said the museum board is committed to working with the county to bring financial stability soon.

MOSI's five-year plan includes phasing out the placement of expensive, permanent exhibits. Instead, the museum will regularly swap out exhibits to give visitors a different experience each time they come, Demeulenaere said.

Contact Katie Mettler at or (813) 226-3446. Follow @kemettler.

Hillsborough county agrees to give financially troubled Tampa museum $400,000 — if they meet these 14 conditions 10/21/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 21, 2015 9:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park


    Associated Press

    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]
  2. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  3. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood


    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  4. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa


    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.
  5. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county


    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.