Opponents of failed MLT civic campus campaign say City wasn’t honest with citizens; officials defend information

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — Opponents of a measure to build a new civic center that fell short of the required 60 percent majority in the April 23 election say voters turned it down because they believed that city officials weren’t honest in presenting comparisons of the costs of construction with costs of continuing to rent space for a city hall.

City officials say that the information was based on reasonable assumptions.

Opponents Stephen Barnes and Leonard French both said recently that the city misled people with statements about the city’s saving money by building and owning a city hall instead of renting space.

Opponents have said that the city had presented comparisons of renting versus owning over different time periods and had included maintenance and operations as part of the cost of renting space but not as part of the cost of building its own civic center.

City officials say that maintenance and operations costs would drop significantly for a new building,

The opponents said that people saw that costs for the proposed civic campus were presented for a 30-year period, while costs for continuing to pay rent for a city hall were presented for a 50-year period.

Mountlake Terrace City Manager John Caulfield said Monday that the city had used 50-year costs in the information it presented because, while the city would pay for the new building over 30 years, its expected life would be 50 to 100 years; so the comparison was to the cost of renting for the short end of that time span,

Caulfield said that while he couldn’t get involved in the political dispute, he could explain some of the information.

Caulfield said that the city’s information about the bond measure had presented costs for maintenance and operations of a new civic center that would be significantly lower “given the new technology and improvements not only in a new facility, but also because of the improvements to the existing police station and library. The improvements and expansion of the police station and library improvements that were proposed as part of the civic center bond proposal would have addressed all of these issues, meaning there would not be a need for ongoing maintenance and repair issues that these facilities currently and will continue to experience.”

He said that, in addition, new revenue would be generated from some activities and programs at the senior/community center similar to the Recreation Pavilion.

Caulfield said, “This program covers all city facilities; civic center/interim city hall, police station, fire station, library, operations facility (formerly the public works shop), recreation pavilion, clubhouse and several park facilities such as restroom facilities at Evergreen Playfield and Ballinger Playfield”

The final percentage of “yes” votes was 53.40 percent when Snohomish County officials certified results Tuesday after it had dropped to 54.34 percent in an April 26 count from 53.41 percent two days earlier, with both figures slightly higher than the 53.18 percent posted Election Night, but all counts have been far lower than the 57 percent that a similar measure got in the August election.

The Committee for a Mountlake Terrace Civic Center reported raising $10,151 and spending $8,035 to no money raised or spent by the opposing Citizens Against Prop. 1.

The measure would have authorized $25 million in bonds to pay for the new civic campus.

Evan Smith can be reached at schsmith@frontier.com.

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