Visitor center to go it alone Snohomish plans unfazed by vote

By LESLIE MORIARTY

Herald Writer

SNOHOMISH – When city leaders decided not to put the riverfront trail issue on the ballot again until 2001, they threw a monkey wrench in plans for the Visitors Information Center.

And they added $50,000 to the center’s price tag, which is expected to cost more than $340,000.

But that’s not discouraging the center’s supporters from going ahead with the idea.

"They are very dedicated to this project," said Brad Nelson, director of support services for the city of Snohomish. "They want to see it built and the sooner the better."

A $2 million riverfront trail bond issue failed in an election in February. The trail was planned to go under the First Street bridge and wrap around an area at First Street and Avenue D, where the visitors center is planned.

But when the bond issue failed, trail supporters scaled back the project, and it is no longer planned to go under the bridge.

That means that an additional $50,000 to $60,000 will be added to the costs of the center because the survey and land preparation work necessary for the center was going to be done as a part of the trail work.

"The center will now have to be responsible on its own for the permitting and the prep costs," Nelson said. "But most of the people involved are business people and they know that location is critical to success.

"They feel the First Street and Avenue D site is still the right site for the visitors center."

The center is planned to be a 30-by-30-foot building. The center has $104,000 in the city’s year 2000 budget. Of that amount, $4,000 has been spent on consulting fees to learn about applying for grant funding.

The remaining $100,000 is expected to be covered by higher business license fees that were increased $17 this year by the city council.

The project is a public-private partnership among the city and the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau, chamber of commerce, historical society, garden club and other civic groups.

The city hopes to apply for state and federal grants for the building. But Nelson said that can be competitive.

"When Sultan did its center, they applied three times before they got their funding," he said.

To be more competitive, supporters plan to show how they will be able to staff the center and cover its operational costs once it is built.

The center is planned as a place where visitors to the city, known for its many antique stores, will be able to find out about businesses, primarily those in the Historic Downtown Business District. It will also provide information about historic sites in the city.

Costs of the center may go higher, depending on environmental protection steps that will have to be taken.

"This is a public building, built near a salmon-bearing river," Nelson said. "It will be built so that it is environmentally friendly – despite the costs."

To gather support for the project, the city plans a public information session on the center at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Waltz Building, 116 Ave. B.

The city council is expected to have an official public hearing on the center Aug. 1. If the council decides that city participation will continue, Nelson expects the city to be applying for grants by Aug. 15.

Miranda Harris, spokeswoman for the tourism bureau, said anytime a city can add a visitors information center it’s a good idea.

"Especially in a city as cute as Snohomish," she said. "It’s a place where people can go to get information. It helps promote business.

"And it will also give the county a boost because the center in Snohomish will be able to give out information on other places to visit in Snohomish County," Harris said.

You can call Herald Writer Leslie Moriarty at 425-339-3436 or send e-mail to

moriarty@heraldnet.com.

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