Capital construction projects in Edmonds left in limbo

EDMONDS — A new community center is one of three construction projects here left in limbo due to an impasse in Olympia blocking passage of a capital budget.

The biggest city project is a new $11 million waterfront community center, which is planned on the site of the current Edmonds Senior Center on Railroad Avenue.

The state construction budget had queued up $2.25 million for it, but even that isn’t the whole story, said Farrell Fleming, the senior center’s executive director.

“The reality is even larger,” he said.

In part that’s because the project had been promised a $1.25 million state grant for the budget year ending June 30. But the money wasn’t spent. Typically that’s rolled over into the new budget, meaning the project was hoping to get a total of $3.5 million in state money, he said.

The money wasn’t spent because the state money is used to reimburse local projects. Until the money is actually spent for part of the project, no state money is received, Fleming said.

“Projects take a while and they take a while to get other funding sources in place,” he said. In May, backers said $5.1 million had been raised.

Once the legislative impasse over state money is resolved, Fleming said he hopes to begin construction in the summer of 2018.

“The worst case it puts it off a year,” he said. “Prices go up.”

A general contractor has just been hired to provide a more up-to-date estimate of buildings costs, Fleming said.

Lawmakers left town last month without passing the $4.2 billion construction budget due to a disagreement over how to respond to a state Supreme Court decision.

That ruling said counties must determine whether there’s enough water available for a new well. Each county must come up with its own system for predicting the impact on water flowing to nearby streams or available to existing wells.

No fix could be found before the end of the longest legislative session in state history, so construction projects statewide are on hold.

“We’re in this no man’s land. It’s never happened before,” said Carrie Hite, Edmonds Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services director.

The city had planned to get underway with a beach restoration project near the senior center next year with $500,000 in state money.

Now, she said, that won’t happen.

The project calls for reconstructing the parking lot adjacent to the senior center, part of which rests on a creosote pier, which will be removed. More beach habitat would be added in the area, along with reconnecting a walkway that now stops short of the senior center.

A rain garden would be added to help cleanse runoff from the new parking lot. Now runoff goes into a storm drain and directly into Puget Sound, she said.

The timing of getting the state money is critical because construction must occur between July and September to prevent conflicts with fisheries and other habitat issues.

The only thing that would prevent the project being delayed from 2018 to 2019 is if the Legislature approves the money early in its next session, which begins in January, she said.

Of the three projects in Edmonds awaiting state money, Mayor Dave Earling said $390,000 for a new roof on the Frances Anderson Center, a recreation and arts center, is the least expensive but nonetheless critical.

Its roof is leaking. “Even though we keep making repairs, we’ve had extensive damage in the electrical system,” he said. “It needs to be taken care of.”

Meanwhile, construction of three news schools in the Edmonds School District won’t be slowed due to the budget issues in Olympia, although $17.7 million in state money is designated for the projects.

Construction work will proceed on Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace elementary schools and Madrona, a school for kindergarten through 8th grade students, said Stewart Mhyre, the district’s executive director of business and operations.

Current projects won’t be affected because the district pays for construction with 2014 bond funds and then is reimbursed for a portion of those costs by the state.

All three schools are scheduled to open in September 2018.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

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