MLT voters have a say on Civic Campus Nov. 2

  • Tue Oct 12th, 2010 7:59pm

By Katie Murdoch Enterprise editor

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — Voters will have their say on the future of a proposed Civic Campus in Mountlake Terrace, a project city officials say will help transform downtown.

City Manager John Caulfield said residents will get a campus that brings all civic functions together in one stop.

“It will be the anchor for the redevelopment of downtown Mountlake Terrace,” Caulfield said.

The Civic Campus will cost an estimated $37.5 million and would be paid for by a 30-year capital bond if approved by voters on the Nov. 2 general election ballot.

Caulfield said city leaders have a history of going to the voters to ask for funding for such projects, including the city’s Evergreen Playfield.

“It’s part of this community’s culture to go to the vote of the people,” he said.

The owner of a $256,300 home would pay nothing in 2011, $3.48 per month in 2012 and $19.27 per month from 2013 to 2040. Qualified homeowners may apply for a senior exemption.

Caulfield said the City Council wanted to alleviate the financial impact of the project on residents.

“The council was very sensitive to that when building a financial structure,” he said.

Additionally, Caulfield said there’s a good chance the amount paid by taxpayers will drop with the lower bidding climate and new construction and redevelopment projects as additional property owners of redeveloped property would pay into the pot.

“I’m not promising redevelopment and construction; but if it happens, it will bring the rate down,” he said.

Caulfield said the $37.5 million price tag is a conservative estimate as construction costs could come in lower.

Within the last few years, projects have been coming in 20 percent to 43 percent under budgeted costs, a side effect of the recession and the blows it has dealt the construction industry, Caulfield added.

“I’m pretty confident (the Civic Campus) will come in under bid,” he said. “The only good thing about this economic recession is (that) public projects are coming in at favorable costs.”

If approved, officials will begin the year-long design phase in 2011. Construction could start in 2012 and a grand opening would occur in 2013.

The proposed Civic Campus would include space for a senior center, a larger police station and a venue for year-round activities such as a farmers market or art festivals.

Councilwoman Kyoko Matsumoto Wright said there is never a truly good time to go the voters with a proposed bond — there will always be financial worries. But the time is right, she said.

“The economy isn’t that great right now, but the cost of doing business to build is low,” she said. “The costs could be double once the economy recovers.”

Additionally the city is wasting money by renting space for the city’s interim City Hall and the city isn’t collecting revenues for the property of where the former Civic Center sat, she said.

“The last one was built for 30 years and we made it last for 50,” Matsumoto Wright said.

The project has been on the radar of a number of City Councils since the 1980s. Reports from the 1980s showed the former building had structural issues. During the 1990s consultants recommended replacing the building. In July 2008, the roof collapsed, making the building unusable.

Caulfield said the current City Council realized not doing something about the former Civic Center was not an option.

“The only reason we’re in an interim facility is because nothing was done for 20 years and the roof collapsed,” he said. “It was this council that got it going.”

In 2008, the council appointed an 11-member Citizen Task Force to form a fresh perspective and recommendations for the city’s aging public facilities. Late in 2008, following six months of public input, the Citizen Task Force recommended a new Civic Campus should be built on the existing site with council seeking voter approval for the construction. In a 2008 community survey, 67 percent of residents said they would approve a bond measure to finance a new Civic Campus. In March 2009, the City Council adopted a resolution accepting the recommendation of the Task Force.

“It will be the start of having something good happen in Mountlake Terrace,” Matsumoto Wright said.

For more information about the Civic Campus proposal, call 425-744-6208 or visit www.civiccampus.com.

Mina Williams contributed to this report.