City council supports smaller city hall for November ballot, plus police station funding

From left, Councilmember Doug McCardle, City Manager Scott Hugill and Councilmember Laura Sonmore put city hall options on the white board prior to Thursday night’s council meeting.

The Mountlake Terrace City Council Thursday night signaled its intention to place a $10.99 million, 18,082-square-foot city hall project on the Nov. 7 general election ballot, and to use funds from retired bond debt to cover the $1.8 million cost of the police station expansion, which would be built at the same time.

If approved, the measure would cost homeowners 24.3 cents per $1,000 of the home’s assessed value.

After an hour of discussing the pros and cons of four separate options for a new City Hall bullding — including an $11.6 million plan proposed by the City Hall Advisory Committee following months of meetings and study — a majority of councilmembers said they favored what became known as Option 3, recommended by City Manager Scott Hugill. That option further reduced the square footage — and as a result the total cost — of the advisory committee’s original proposal for a 19,210-square-foot city hall.

The advisory committee had also recommended not including the police station on the November ballot, fearing that the estimated $13.4 million to complete both projects would not gain the 60 percent voter approval necessary for capital projects. Instead, the committee had suggested that the police station expansion be included on the February 2018 ballot for $1.8 million, contingent on the city hall measure passing in November.

But during recent discussions on the issue, all seven councilmembers favored finding a way to also build the police station, noting strong feedback from community members who supported completing both projects at the same time. At their July 1 meeting, councilmembers asked Hugill if it were possible to further reduce the square footage, and also asked whether the city could use allocations from paid-off bond debt to offset the Nov. 7 “ask” of voters.

In response to the council’s request, Hugill proposed trimming the advisory committee’s city hall proposal by 1,128 square feet: First, by combining the City Council Chambers queuing area with the lobby space (thus eliminating 750 square feet), and second, by cutting 378 square feet of space dedicated to file cabinets currently used by two departments. That space would then be consolidated with space allocated for future employees. Over the next few years, the city would look for alternatives to digitize and/or store those records, the city manager said.

As a result, the total building cost would be $10,998,820.

As for using retired bond debt, Hugill noted that city does have some debt that will be paid off in 2020 and would have dollars available in 2021 that could be put toward the city hall project. Until then, the city would have to cover $100,000 annually in 2018, 2019 and 2020, until those retired debt dollars are available.

The City of Mountlake Terrace has been renting its City Hall space at the Redstone building off 220th Street Southwest for years – at a cost of $40,000 per month – following a ceiling collapse in 2008 that made the old City Hall unsafe for employees. Three previous ballot measures – one for $37.5 million in 2010 and two more for $25 million in 2012 and 2013 – failed to reach the required 60 percent necessary for approval.

“If we want to get support from the citizens, from the voters, we have to show that we’re being exceptionally cost-conscious and watching every dollar and making every decision based on a recognition of how it is affecting their — our — pocketbooks,” said Councilmember Bryan Wahl. “If we want to get to 60 percent, I believe we are going to have to pay very close attention to…those folks who have had concerns about costs in the past and have been sharing those concerns again this time.”

The next step is for bond counsel to prepare a Proposition 1 ordinance draft, which will be officially considered during a special city council meeting Thursday, July 20 at 7 p.m. Both the ordinance, and appointment of Pro and Con committees, are due to Snohomish County by Aug. 1 to ensure placement on the November general election ballot.

Also on the July 13 meeting agenda, the council:

— Reviewed an agreement establishing a Snohomish County Interagency Child Abduction Response Team (ICART)

— Reviewed the city’s 2018-2023 Six-Year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) ordinance. The council will hold a public hearing on that ordinance during its Monday, July 17 business meeting.

— Reviewed City Council subcommittee recommendation for  Ruchi Aggarwa to serve as an interim Recreation & Parks Advisory Commissioner

— Received a legislative update from the city’s lobbyists.

— By Teresa Wippel

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