Plan for new Lake Stevens civic center resurfaces

LAKE STEVENS — Plans to build a new civic center here are getting back on track after being derailed by the economic recession seven years ago.

The center would include a new, bigger City Hall and library, and possibly a new fire station. There is no firm timeline for the project. However, a feasibility study underway now could cement location and cost.

The Lake Stevens City Council in April approved an agreement with Sno-Isle Libraries to split the expense for studying city-owned property on Grade Road. The study is to determine whether the city and Sno-Isle could build there and how much it would cost.

Research should be done by the end of the month, and Sno-Isle expects to have the results shortly after, spokesman Ken Harvey said.

The site in question is about 12.5 acres on the east side of Grade Road, north of Hartford Drive. Currently, it’s an open field with Catherine Creek cutting through the east side of the property.

The city started looking at options for putting a new civic center there in the early 2000s. Staff held public meetings, surveys and work groups. In 2006, they adopted the Grade Road Master Plan. In 2008, the city purchased property for a civic center.

The City Hall and library currently are located on the North Cove Park property in downtown Lake Stevens. A new civic center on Grade Road would let the city open up more space at the popular lake park.

“When the economy declined, the master plan was put on hold,” city administrator Jan Berg said in an email. “But the Grade Road Master Plan is still the plan in place to site the future civic center.”

The plan encompasses about 40 acres, a triangle of land wedged at the junction of Grade Road and Hartford Drive. Most of that is owned by the city. The 12 acres being studied for a civic center are at the north end of the planning area.

The study will map the floodplain, critical areas like wetlands and the configuration of sewer manholes. The city and Sno-Isle agreed to split the price of the study equally, up to $9,000 apiece. The contract is with Buffalo Design and subcontractor David Evans and Associates Inc., for an estimated $16,725.

The city also agreed to negotiate a fair property sale or transfer if the library district determines it can build and lands the public funding to do so.

“All of that is basically looking toward a future date, still to be determined, when the community asks the library to put something in front of voters,” Harvey said.

Lake Stevens voters would need to approve a bond to build a new library. They voted to annex into the Sno-Isle Library District in 2008, paving the way for a bond measure. The service and taxing area follows the same boundaries as the Lake Stevens School District.

The 2,400-square-foot library had 108,683 visits in 2014, and people checked out about 217,000 items. Activities and presentations often spill into the community center next door.

“We hear from people quite often that it’s way too small and they wish something could be different,” Harvey said.

The city and Sno-Isle had planned to put a bond measure for a new library building on the ballot shortly after voters approved the 2008 annexation.

“Then the Great Recession hit, and leaders decided it wasn’t the right time for that,” Harvey said.

Before deciding on the right time, they need to know whether their vision for the Grade Road property is realistic, Harvey said.

The library district is driving the effort for now, but the city remains interested in learning more about their options for a new City Hall, Berg said.

“The city is partnering with the library district to share in this cost because the information the library is gathering will also include information the city needs for the civic center project,” Berg said.

A new City Hall is something that has been on leaders’ to-do lists for more than a decade but wasn’t a spending priority during the recession. The City Council would decide whether to move forward now with the City Hall project at a council meeting, Berg said. Aside from the study, nothing like that is on the agenda yet.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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