Pick a site or lose UW branch, Gregoire says

LYNNWOOD — Snohomish County lawmakers must forge consensus on where to build a new four-year university or it might not happen at all, Gov. Chris Gregoire said Monday.

“I’ve put the money in to begin the process of offering classes to students next fall,” Gregoire said Monday in an interview with The Herald.

“But I’m not going to be able to get the Legislature to be willing to do that if we haven’t got a solution about where it’s going to be located,” she said.

Agreement on a location won’t be coming quickly.

Monday, Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, filed a bill intended to make Everett Station the future home of the University of Washington branch campus.

“We have to bring the franchise home,” he said.

When informed of the move, state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, said she’d do the same for her preferred location — a 369-acre property in Marysville.

“If he’s going to file a bill, I will file a bill, too,” she said.

Dunshee’s legislation is expected to be formally introduced when lawmakers begin the 2008 session this coming Monday.

A state-hired consultant ranked Everett Station, a 27-acre property including the existing transit center, highest of four sites in a report issued in November. The Marysville land finished second followed by former Kimberly-Clark property near the Snohomish River in Everett and land in the Cavalero Hill area in Lake Stevens.

“It was important to go with the preferred site,” said Dunshee, who worked on the bill with Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett. “We spent a million dollars on a study. We need to follow through. That’s our best shot to succeed with our colleagues.”

Gregoire said she’s not picking sides — yet.

“My only preference is I want a university here,” Gregoire said.

She said her goal is to prevent the division from becoming a stumbling block to achieving the goal of a new college.

“I hope we get it. My major concern is if there’s not consensus, especially in a short legislative session, nothing will get done,” she said.

The campus likely will cost as much as $1 billion, she said. Costs likely will vary depending on location.

“I’m willing to try to bring the legislators together and see if we can’t reach consensus,” Gregoire said.

Dunshee is confident lawmakers can sort it out.

We’ll come to an agreement,” he said.

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