Letter to the Editor: Vote Yes on Prop 1 for a modest City Hall

Dear Editor:

After three failed Mountlake Terrace City Hall ballot measures in 2010, 2012 and 2013, the community went back to the drawing board. An advisory committee made of both proponents and opponents of past measures was created. The committee worked through most of 2017 and organized dozens of committee meetings and informal meetings throughout the community to gather feedback from MLT residents.

What the committee heard, loud and clear, was that previous proposals were too big and too expensive. The community wants a modest and affordable City Hall, not a Taj Mahal.

The plan the community came up with is half the cost of the 2012 and 2013 proposals and one third the cost of the 2010 proposal. We’ve trimmed the fat and the result is only what we need, not a list of wants. At $12.5 million, we’re able to build a facility to house our essential city services and provide a modest and needed expansion to our Police Station.

We’re currently paying nearly half a million in rent every year for Interim City Hall. Proposition 1 will allow us to stop wasting money and start investing in our own facility on our own land. Please vote yes on Mountlake Terrace Proposition 1 for a modest and affordable City Hall and Police Station expansion.

Dustin DeKoekkoek
Mountlake Terrace

  1. If this ‘modest’ proposal was presented in 2010 we would have our city hall and saved some of the rent we have had to put out over the last 7 years. Finally something I can vote for.

  2. Proposition 1 is bringing our “City Hall” back where it belongs. It means “No” more wasted rent on a building we don’t own. It means investing in our future. It means a group of very different minded people were able to come together after 3 failed ballot measures to come up with a solution that would work across the board for everyone. It means supporting our police by getting them the extra 3000 square feet they need to operate safely everyday. By bringing our City Hall back to our downtown it shows developer’s we are ready to go to work and move forward with our downtown core. It says we are a proud city and we take pride in our community. It means “Progress”!

  3. Being a new resident to MLT, and this being a fairly large project for a small town, I looked around for some basic documents related to this proposal – things like a Statement of Need, a Cost-Benefit Analysis, or even an Alternatives Exercise that could justify a project of this size as compared to a community of this size. Haven’t found anything other than what some would unfairly call sales brochures. I’m open to the concept of this project, but I can’t find much in terms of a down-to-earth, numbers-crunching justification for it. A little help?

      1. Thanks Dustin.
        I’ve looked at that, but what I was looking for was an apples-to-apples comparison regarding what the old city hall had, what the current rental has, and what the proposed city hall offers in terms of an understandable metric like services per capita, or something similar. The best I’ve found is an architect’s estimate of space needed in an old MLTnews article.
        I work for the City of Edmonds (but I live in MLT). Edmonds’ population is roughly double MLT’s. Yet Edmonds’ City Hall is only 50% larger what the Terrace proposes. And Edmonds still has empty offices in the building. So you’ll understand the nature of my inquiry. Thanks!

  4. This 4th try has no more credible metrics demonstrating need with it than did the first three. Its principal advantages over the previous three are that it is 50% of the second and third ones, 33% of the first and comes highly recommended by a hand-picked citizen group. None of that provides any of the sensible metrics suggested by the Mr. Sibrel’s inquiry, whose nature concerning the volume of space in the city hall component being over-sized is precisely the one which the citizen group, including Mr. DeKoekkoek, willfully refused to address as their work was drawing to a close.

    If it passes, it will not be on demonstrated merit, but rather a product of voter exhaustion.

    1. My comments are an effort to address some of the queries by Mr. Sibrel and to more bluntly refute those by Mr. French.

      Mr. Sibrel, a Statement of Need is probably unnecessary when one considers that rent is being paid for space nowhere near the center of the city and nowhere near the police station, while meanwhile land owned by the city and intended for a City Hall sits unused. Costs to maintain that large unused plot of land are not zero – there are property taxes, insurance, and maintenance. Meanwhile, rents increase over time and are climbing fairly rapidly as the region’s economy expands. I suspect that alternative methods to address the other analyses you mentioned have been performed already but I’m not sufficiently plugged in to know this with any certainty. I do see that this web site on June 6th published a piece that mentions a space needs assessment conducted by the City with an architect and another consultant.

      If you look at the space calculations in this document


      you will see that calculations were made for city population of 21,000 at present, and for future populations of 23,000 and 26,000 people. Please note that while the space requirements do increase as the city is projected to grow, those increases are not proportional to the projected increases in the size of the population. So if you were to extrapolate further, to a theoretic future population of 42,000, or twice the number currently in MLT, you wouldn’t need nearly a doubling of future City Hall square footage to accommodate that growth. One does not double the number of staircases, elevators, and Council chambers space, and hallways do not double in width. Hopefully this explains why Edmonds has twice the population but only 50% more City Hall area, compared with MLT.

      Mr. French, perhaps the reason the Committee ‘willfully refused to address’ City Hall space as its ‘work was drawing to a close’ is because the Committee addressed it in very substantial detail back in early April. Disagreements were voiced, votes cast, and decisions passed on as a result of the analysis. You may be comforted to know that some on the Committee shared your opinion, but were outvoted. A dissenting opinion was even produced at the time of the report’s issuance, and the opinion was described in some detail here:


      The ‘hand-picked’ Committee of MLT citizens voted by a slim majority of 5-4 to recommend a plan, after spending many hours tackling its assigned task. The Committee was not paid for members’ time and its role was strictly advisory – you will note that the Committee did not recommend the expansion of the police station as part of its report. That expansion was added later, by the City Council.

      You have every right to voice your opinion and disapproval of the Committee’s results, Mr. French. What should not be permitted without retort is your insinuation that the Committee did not do its job in a thorough manner. The fact that you are unhappy with space allocations chosen by the Committee does not require the Committee to do its work twice.

      Of course, you can always make your opinion heard by voting ‘No’ on November 7th, and by encouraging others to do the same.

      1. Robert, thanks for your considered reply. But cities to not typically pay property taxes on land they own within their own boundaries, and insurance rates are determined by the AWC, and are not ordinarily dependent on how much vacant land a city has. The only cost left is basically that of keeping a vacant lot mowed.

        You mentioned space calculations, though, and that gets a little nearer to the issue: I’ve looked at them…those calculations had to be based on _something_, right? The architect ARC, must have based it on some measure of need, so what’s that measure? If we’re not measuring up currently, what’s the deficit? What level of service can be expected to improve?

  5. Mr. Sibrel clarifies in few words what Mr. Kramer takes paragraphs trying to confuse. I was at the CHAC meetings where the refusals to address industry standards for building sizes occurred and stand by my comments.

    Almost always cloaked in the gauze of “progress”, few appreciate it is towards apathy and indifference to waste of what are becoming increasingly precious tax dollars. Even at $12.5 million, this project is too expensive. Period.

    1. “It appears that if you guys are at $12.5 [million}, and I do the math, that means you are going to be pretty close to where Stan Lake was suggesting in his minority report for the size of City Hall…

      Generally speaking I’m encouraged and I’m not negative about what you’re doing and if you can get it down to $12.5 million and assure us that the police department is going to be well represented in your final proposal I’d have to say I’m for it.“

      1. I voted no in the past, I voted yes this time, mainly to stop further wasting money on rent, but why do I have the feeling that if this 12.5 million proposal fails that next the council will find a way to live with a $10 million option?

        Just think if the council would have proposed a $10 mil option originally, instead of shooting for the moon at $37 mil how much rent money would have been saved. By the time the new city hall is available for use the wasted rent cost will be about half the cost of the facility. How many people lost their jobs for their roles in wasting so much of the communities resources?

          1. Len’s comment was made when the $12.5 million included a bigger expansion for the police station. They have since had to cut their asking amount from $3 million to $1.8 million, which is a 40% reduction to the police department’s portion. I believe his issue now is that the police department is no longer well represented in the final total, as they really needed the full amount. I for one was absolutely appalled when I read about the crammed conditions they are working under, with such a lack of space.

          2. Right on page one, bottom paragraph – Len is against a $10.9 million city hall, but not a combined $12.5 that includes the police station (which was asking for $3 million at the time). I spoke with Len a while back and he said that industry standards indicated a city hall that was just under $10 million for a city our size. He would have supported the $12.5 million if the cut had been made to the city hall, but not the police station.

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