Stanwood plans to move City Hall, police station to higher ground

STANWOOD — City leaders are looking to buy property outside of the Stillaguamish River floodplain to build a new City Hall and police station.

On Thursday, the City Council and employees met to talk about multiple local projects. One topic was the ongoing discussion of public services that are located in downtown Stanwood, all of which lies within the 100-year floodplain of the Stilly.

City Hall and the police station need to remain operational and accessible in case of an emergency, including a flood. Even if the buildings were overhauled and elevated so that flood waters would be unlikely to reach them, people would not be able to get to or from the buildings if streets flooded around them.

The city hopes to purchase at least an acre of property next to Church Creek Park, near the corner of Highway 532 and 72nd Avenue NW. That’s on the east side of Stanwood, uphill.

City Hall and the police station would share the same property. It’s too soon to know how they would be arranged, whether it would be one building or two. It’s important to make sure the design provides for people experiencing trauma who are talking to police, so they don’t feel as though they’re in the middle of day-to-day business, city administrator Deborah Knight said.

A contractor estimated that about 22,000 square feet is needed, and a property about 36,000 square feet or larger. Construction likely would cost about $7.2 million, though that number could change.

“We don’t want to raise taxes to do it,” Knight said. “That means we’d have to do it within our existing budget.”

Funding options could include grants, bonds, loans or a lease arrangement with a developer.

The city was awarded $300,000 by the state last year to purchase property and design a new City Hall and police building. The cost of the property near Church Creek Park is expected to be between $300,000 and $450,000. The city would use the state money plus dollars from the city’s building improvement fund.

In 2016, city employees met with local service clubs, chambers of commerce and businesses to talk about moving City Hall and the police station. There also was a public meeting in November.

The main concern that has been raised isn’t tied to the relocation of city services, according to a staff report. People are worried about what is being done to reduce the threat of flooding in downtown Stanwood.

Three projects are underway, Knight said. The first is a raised berm along Highway 532 that would create a barrier between flood waters and downtown streets. It would be topped with a pedestrian and bicycle path. The design is done, with permitting in the works.

The second project is a multimillion dollar effort to divert Stanwood’s stormwater from the flood-prone Irvine Slough, open the slough for floodwater management and make it easier for water to drain during and after a flood. The city is seeking money for additional planning.

The city also is working to acquire property at the confluence of the Stillaguamish River and Skagit Bay, northwest of town, so they have better access to manage the levee system there, Knight said. The city has an application in for funding.

Protecting downtown and minimizing the damage from flooding has been a city priority for years. This isn’t the first time leaders have looked at moving public services uphill or strengthening protections such as levees and berms.

The city currently is working on an extensive project to update parks and trails around Stanwood, and Knight expects to finish that before the City Hall and police station plans start taking shape. Under the city’s agreement for using state money to buy property, Stanwood has 10 years to build after purchasing land.

It’s unclear what would be done with the existing City Hall building, but the goal would be to have something public, such as a community theater or visitor center, Knight said.

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

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