Terrace Civic Center measure falling short of 60% it needs

  • Wed Aug 8th, 2012 8:09pm
  • News

By Ashley Stewart For The Herald

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — The city still has the same problems.

For years, city leaders have talked about a need to replace its City Hall, find more space for the police station and get a new roof for the library.

A ballot measure would have allowed the city to borrow $25 million and build a new Civic Center to house city government and the police station as well as a senior center. It also would have paid for improvements to the library.

A majority of voters approved the measure, but it needs to pass by 60 percent. As of Wednesday evening, 56 percent of the people voted in favor of the measure.

The day after the election some were still holding out hope that the measure could get the votes it needs to pass. Others were assessing what could be done if it fails.

When the measure first failed in 2010, city officials said they got the message and reduced the price tag from $37.5 million to $25 million.

If the current measure doesn’t receive the 60 percent it needs to pass, Mayor Pro Tem Laura Sonmore said it’s unlikely that council members will consider floating a new bond measure.

If the council does decide to come back to voters with a reduced bond measure, it would require a complete change in the scope of the project, said John Caulfield, Mountlake Terrace city manager.

Drafting a new plan would cost the city more time and money, he said.

If the measure fails, the council will explore options to pay rent for interim city hall in the Redstone Building, which the city is currently renting under a five-year, $2.2 million lease, and make upgrades to the police station and library.

The city can either deduct funds from the services it provides to residents or consider a property tax levy lid raise, which would allow the city to raise property taxes to fund the projects — but it’s too early to predict how much they’d increase.

Four years ago, the ceiling of the City Council chambers collapsed, revealing a layer of asbestos and prompting city employees to abandon the crumbling building.

The police station is bursting at the seams, and has a leaking roof and safety issues.

The library also needs a new roof and upgrades for its heating and air-conditioning system.

Since the station was built in 1991, and the library was built in 1988, the city has only made “Band-Aid” improvements, Caulfield explained.

“Time (for both buildings) is almost up,” he said.

A lid lift would not address expansion of the police department, but could provide funds for a new roof and basic security improvements as well as some improvements to the library.

It would also allow the city to pay rent for its interim city hall.

If put on the ballot, a lid lift would need to pass by a simple majority rather than the 60 percent threshold the civic center needs now, councilmember Doug McCardle explained.