Civic Center goes back to voters

  • Tue Mar 27th, 2012 7:08pm

By Katie Murdoch Herald writer

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — City officials are going back to the voters with a 30-year capital bond to pay for a Civic Center during the August primary.

The $25 million project would cost the average homeowner $11.59 per month. However, competitive construction bids could bring that price lower, city officials said. The $25 million includes the building, design and construction costs and is two-thirds the cost of a larger bond proposal voters rejected in 2010.

“I’m pleased we’re finally done talking about what we want to do,” Councilwoman Michelle Robles said.

During the March 19 meeting, the council asked staff to come back with a bond measure ordinance. The council is scheduled to discuss the ordinance during the March 29 work session and adopt it during the April 2 meeting.

Acting now means taking advantage of the bond market and creating partnerships through investing in downtown, Robles said. “Both of which the public has asked for, for decades,” she said.

The ballot measure requires 60 percent voter approval to pass. If approved in August, the Civic Center design work would begin by the end of the year.

Officials are required to form a “yes” campaign for the voters and are considering holding “Civic Center 101” presentations, similar to the “Finance 101” presentations held last fall, to discuss the need for the project.

The city’s other option was to continue renting space in the city’s interim City Hall. The city pays roughly $500,000 per year to rent space and will run out of revenue in 2014. To pay rent, the city could go to the voters with a six-year property tax levy lid lift, requiring 50 percent approval.

“We’re losing $500,000 per year,” Mayor Jerry Smith said.

The interim City Hall is an expensive building and would require spending more money to attract tenants, City Manager John Caulfield said. “This building is not full and it’s not generating revenue,” Caulfield said.

Councilwoman Kyoko Matsumoto Wright said the question for voters is whether to rent or buy. In this economy, with the competitive climate, it’s wise to buy, she said.

Nearly two years ago, voters rejected a Civic Center ballot measure. Since, then the $37.5 million price tag was scaled down by one-third after city leaders removed an Emergency Operations Center from the project scope. The EOC has since been built in another city-owned facility with help from grant funding.