Civic Center proposal mirrors last one

The civic-center proposal on April 23 ballots in Mountlake Terrace will look just like the one that missed passing by 124 votes in the August 2012 primary.

City officials were encouraged to try the proposal again after the 2012 proposal got 57 percent of the vote, just short of the required 60 percent for a bond measure but far better than the 47 percent that a larger, more expensive bond measure got in 2010.

The civic campus proposed in the November 2010 election would have cost $37.5 million. After its defeat, city officials scaled it back to $25 million. After the close defeat last year, they decided to try the same proposal again.

The city has been using rented space for a city hall.

City officials say that if the April proposition fails, they will have to ask voters for a levy to continue to pay for continued rent.

City Manager John Caulfield said last week that the city was able to reduce the cost of the first project by one-third primarily by relocating the Emergency Operations Center, storage, records archive and additional floor space for the operations facility.

“A new Civic Center will return city services to the heart of the downtown for convenient, one-stop shopping in our community coupled with improvements to the library and increase the efficiency of service to the public,” Caufield said.

Caulfield said that the plan includes an expanded and improved police station to enhance public safety and meet the demands of today’s law enforcement standards, as the city’s police department has outgrown its current building. The police department now provides services that did not exist in the past including animal control, electronic home monitoring, code enforcement and other programs.

He said that the community would further benefit from proposed Civic Center’s public meeting rooms, a banquet facility for community rentals and opportunities for special events like the art show and farmers’ market.

“It will serve as a gathering place and bring people into our downtown which helps the local economy,” Caulfield said. “A park-like setting will invite visitors to sitting areas for people to gather and create excitement in our Town Center. The green open space will link to Veterans Memorial Park and a natural amphitheater is proposed for outdoor music and arts events.”

Caulfield said that the City Council had voted to put the measure on the ballot after hearing testimony from nine people at a January Council meeting. All nine spoke in favor of the bond proposition.

The city manager emphasized that the downtown is beginning to rebuild and the benefit of owning versus renting will save citizens at least $18 million over the life of the Civic Center building.

If voters approve the measure on the April ballot, the city will issue bonds to pay for the Civic Center project over 30 years.

City officials say that if voters don’t approve the measure, the City Council will need to ask voters for a property tax increase to continue renting the interim city hall, cut essential services to afford rent payments, or a combination of both beginning in 2014.

Mountlake Terrace Proposition 1 probably will be the only item on the April ballot in South Snohomish County. The deadline for cities, school districts and special-purpose districts to submit measures for the April ballot is Friday, March 8.

Evan Smith can be reached at schsmith@frontier.com

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