The Dollar$ and Sense of a New Civic Center for Mountlake Terrace: Part 4 — What happens to any money saved?

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The now-vacant lot proposed for the new Civic Campus.

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series examining the proposed Civic Center and Proposition #1, the $25 million capital bond measure to pay for it. Mountlake Terrace voters will find the bond issue on their Aug. 7 primary election ballot, arriving in mailboxes this week. See the links to Parts 1-3 at the bottom of this article

By Doug Petrowski

With the Aug. 7 primary election ballot, Mountlake Terrace voters will decide whether to tax themselves $25 million to build a new Civic Center. But the actual cost of the project, once completed, could be less, according to city officials. If that happens, what would the city do with the extra money.

Approval of Proposition #1 would authorize the City of Mountlake Terrace to raise $25 million to build a new city hall, a new community/senior center, a remodeled and expanded police station, an outdoor space for events and pay for roof improvements for the library.

“The real cost could be much less,” said City Manager John Caulfield.

If the Civic Campus project is completed at a cost of less than $25 million, the money left over could be used a couple ways, Caulfield explained. “If project costs came in under that, say twenty-two or twenty-three million, the city council would have the okay to not do anything with that remaining two or three million, or to use it for general government purposes,” he said.

Proposition 1 uses the specific language “general government purposes” as the guideline for any funds generated that aren’t needed for the Civic Center project. So while retiring the debt early on the 30-year municipal bonds is one option that the council could choose, they could also use any extra money for road projects, park improvements or even paying for additional upgrades in the Town Center area — located at 56th Avenue West between 230th and 236th Streets Southwest, and 236th Street Southwest west to I-5 — that city officials estimate needs $10.5 million of work to attract more private economic development.

For the Mountlake Terrace City Council to use leftover funds from a capital bond issue for purposes other than the specific project outlined in the measure “is no different than any other city council,” Caulfield said. “That’s just common language that’s in these bond issues.”

The council has a prioritized unfunded capital projects list, a wish list of projects and purchases that they would like to see completed, that adds up to about $100 million in spending. The Civic Center project, and its approximate $25 million price tag, is at the top of that list. Other items on the list include the Town Center utility, street and sidewalk upgrades, park improvements at Evergreen Playfield, Forest Crest Playfield, Terrace Creek Park and Terrace Ridge Park, equipment replacement for the Police and Public Works Departments, and street chip seal, overlay and reconstruction work. But the next big ticket item on that wish list for the council is replacement of the 44-year-old Recreation Pavilion.

Mountlake Terrace Unfunded Capital Projects? ?

The million or two generated from potential Civic Center savings would only scratch the surface of the $38.5- million price tag on a new Recreation Pavilion, but it could pay for devising a business plan necessary to begin design ideas for a new facility. It could also pay for needed repairs and upgrades to the present Recreation Pavilion until a new one is built.

The City Council sees the Recreation Pavilion as a priority for future budget considerations. “The first thing we are trying to get through is a civic center, and then the second thing is a new recreation pavilion,” Council member Rick Ryan said at a May 3 council work/study session.

At that May 3 meeting, the city’s Recreation and Parks Director Don Sarcletti gave a presentation to the council outlining issues with the 44-year-old facility. “Over the years some upgrades for the facility have taken place, primarily the pool and the interior of the building, and some upgrades with our mechanical systems,” Sarcletti said. “However, we are left with is a building structure with some design deficiencies and programming challenges.”

Sarcletti told the council of deteriorating exterior wood beams, roof drainage system problems, electrical and plumbing systems from the 1960’s, and limited interior spaces not designed for today’s programming. In addition, a 2011 energy audit listed $452,000 of energy conservation measures needed for the facility.

Caulfield summed up the presentation by saying, “We need to start thinking strategically. For the council, do you want to simply make some fixes to the current rec pavilion, or on the other end of the spectrum, focus on building a new one in the next, say, four to five years, or a combination thereof, where we make some fixes that last four or five or ten years. Then wait a little bit longer term to build a replacement facility.”

The City Council will be studying the issue further. “That’s on our plate for this year,” Mayor Pro Temp Laura Sonmore said. “With our 2013-2014 budget we’ll be looking at whatever is financial feasible for the pavilion.”

No one at City Hall has formally proposed what to do with extra funds if savings are realized from an approved and completed Civic Center. City officials and supporters of the project are now waiting for the voters of Mountlake Terrace to decide on the project’s fate. A 60-percent yes vote is required for passage; we may know as early as Aug. 8 if voters believe Proposition 1 makes Dollar$ and Sense.

Part 1: Costs

Part 2: Who else is building right now?

Part 3: Owning vs. renting

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