The Dollar$ and Sense of a new Civic Center for Mountlake Terrace: Part 1 — Costs

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

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series of articles examining the City of Mountlake Terrace’s 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.

Story and photos by Doug Petrowski

Drive by the corner of 58th Avenue West and 232nd Street Southwest in Mountlake Terrace and you will see a library, a fire station, a police station, parking lots … and a large empty lot. The land is owned by the City of Mountlake Terrace, and city officials have ideas of what to do with that space. But it will take money. How much money? Well, that’s not an easy question to answer.

The city has placed a $25-million capital bond issue on the Aug. 7 primary election ballot, titled Proposition 1. If the measure receives a 60-percent yes vote, the city will be authorized to raise funds through the sale of municipal bonds in order to design and build a new city hall and community/senior center, a remodeled and enlarged police station, some roof upgrades to the library building, and outdoor campus space for community performances and gatherings. The bonds will be paid back by an increase in the property taxes of Mountlake Terrace homeowners.

Opponents say that given the current economic struggles many property owners are facing, the timing is wrong for such a measure. They argue that officials have proposed a large-scale project that includes many extras that go beyond simply building a new City Hall to replace the building that the city razed after a ceiling collapsed in the Council Chambers in 2008, exposing asbestos.

If Proposition 1 passes, the median Mountlake Terrace homeowner will see a property tax increase of approximately $7.42 per month in 2014, and $11.59 per month in years 2015-2042. (The city is collecting tax funds to cover interest only on the bonds in 2014, then interest and principal starting in 2015.)

City officials say they are optimistic that the final cost of the Civic Center project could be less than projected. City Manger John Caulfield told the Mountlake Terrace City Council in April that he believes $25 million” is still somewhat conservative.”

Civic Center Cost Estimates:

The biggest component of the Mountlake Terrace Civic Center project cost will be the construction of two new buildings and a remodeled police station, comprising 31,000 square feet and estimated by the city to be $12.9 million of the $25 million total price tag. Building construction is likely to be where the city could find cost savings, Caulfield said at a community forum in May.

Kenmore City Hall

He pointed to the recently-built Kenmore City Hall as an example of a public project completed for less than it was originally budgeted for. Kenmore city officials first estimated their 36,930 square-foot facility could be built for $12.9 million in November, 2007; construction was completed in 2010 for a cost of $9.4 million.

Caulfield also cited recent street improvement projects in Mountlake Terrace that came in under original budget estimates. In 2010, reconstruction of 230th Street Southwest between I-5 and 56th Avenue West ended up costing less than $2 million after initial estimates budgeted the project at $2.5 million, Caulfield said. In 2009, 52nd Avenue West between 212th and 220th Streets Southwest received similar upgrades; the final cost was $890,000 after original estimates put it at $2.1 million.

If voters approve Proposition 1, project design will start right away. The tentative timeline puts the opening of construction bidding in October 2013. There is also hope that repayment of the bonds could cost less than projected if interest rates drop.

At $6.8 million, the cost of site development represents the second-most-costly aspect of the Civic Center plan. The work is estimated to be about $6 million in today’s dollars; if construction costs don’t escalate in the next two years as much as anticipated, then savings could result. City officials aren’t as optimistic about this possibility though, since the stormwater and environmental improvements needed at the site “are significant given proximity of the project to McAleer Creek and Veteran’s Memorial Park.” Caulfield noted.

In Part 2,  we will look at the cost of projects underway this summer throughout the region and how they compare to the proposed Mountlake Terrace Civic Center.

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