Betthauser out as space center leader

DOWNEY - Jon Betthauser has been fired from his position as executive director of the Columbia Memorial Space Center, city administrators confirmed this week.Betthauser's last day of work was June 11. His duties have been assumed by Scott Pomrehn, a deputy city manager. City manager Gerald Caton is on vacation this week, but assistant city manager Gilbert Livas said the space center's performance "has not been what we want." "We're trying to deliver a high degree of service, and we have certain expectations," Livas said. "There are a number of things we want to mature and accomplish and we want to make sure we get it to a place where the community would like to see it." Even with a $100,000 donation from the local Kiwanis clubs last week, Pomrehn said the center was doing a poor job in soliciting donations and grants. Pomrehn will also work on completing the center, which still is not fully operational despite its grand opening last October. "The bottom line is the center is currently average and it should be exceptional," Pomrehn said in a phone interview. "It really needs to be outstanding." Pomrehn has already begun making changes. Effective in July, the space center will feature expanded hours of Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is expected to remain the same at $5 each, or $3 per person for groups of 10 and more. Pomrehn also plans to introduce a docent program utilizing former Boeing and North American Aviation employees. The space center currently employs two full-time and about eight part-time workers, Pomrehn said. The 20,000 square foot center cost approximately $10 million to build. Exhibits include a robotics lab, space shuttle simulator and gravity scale. The Challenger Learning Center, a "hands-on learning experience, transforming you into a scientist, engineer, or researcher on a simulated space mission," will be dedicated next month, Pomrehn said.

********** Published: June 17, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 9