The need became more apparent four years ago, when the ceiling of the City Council chambers collapsed, revealing a layer of asbestos and prompting city employees to abandon the crumbling building.
The City Council is asking voters to approve a measure allowing the city to borrow $25 million for up to 30 years to build a new civic center. It would be repaid with an increase in property taxes for the city that has a population about 20,000.
The measure already was on the ballot in 2010 but failed with 47 percent of the vote.
City officials said they got the message and reduced the price tag from $37.5 million to $25 million.
"What we found from residents was that they approved of the project but not the cost," assistant city manager Scott Hugill said.
If the measure is approved, an average homeowner in Mountlake Terrace will pay an extra $89 a year in property taxes in 2014, and an extra $139 starting in 2015, Hugill said.
He said the median home value this year was $208,600.
Not everyone in Mountlake Terrace thinks a civic center is the way to go in this economy.
"Even though sales activity at more reasonable prices is bringing some optimism here as elsewhere, many longtime residents are still suffering from the downturn of the economy and the housing market," said Leonard French, who is against the measure.
He said the city needs to find ways to further lower the cost.
Meanwhile, the city has made a temporary home in the Redstone building under a five-year, $2.2-million lease.
"The main idea is to get us all in the same building," Mayor Jerry Smith said. "Right now we are paying rent, and it's money that's going to someone else."
The civic center would house City Council chambers, the police department, a senior center and a meeting hall for public events.
These are much-needed updates, city officials said: The senior center is currently renting a space from a local church, and the police station is bursting at the seams.
The bonds also would cover improvements to the library, a spray fountain for kids and a garden.
If the measure passes, construction would start in about a year. The new building would be finished by the time the city's current lease expires in three years.
City Council passed an ordinance in April in support of the measure. Council members and city staff have since held a series of public meetings to answer questions and figure out where the voters stand.
"We are confident that the voters are going to support it," Smith said.
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