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Council sets $7.5 million bond issue for Civic Center

bond issue by Jeff Switzer
City of Woodinville residents will be looking at a $7.5 million bond issue on May 21 that will serve as the first step towards a downtown civic and community center.
   The Woodinville City Council last week approved 7-0 the first reading of the ordinance setting the amount of the bond issue it will put before voters for the purchase of the Old Woodinville Schoolhouse, the Sorenson buildings, the adjacent ball fields, and an additional three acres for parking.
   The $7.5 million bond would secure the purchase of the 13.5 acres of land and existing buildings with minimal improvements. It would cost taxpayers $0.62 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or $124 on a $200,000 home.
   The Northshore School district officially declared the Sorenson School surplus last week and also held a public hearing on the merits of selling the property, where no speakers came forward either supporting or opposing the possible sale.
   The city and the school district are finalizing a buy-sell agreement which would have built in flexibility, allowing the city to buy the Sorenson property from the school district until Dec. 31, 1997, all contingent on council action.

Higher bond amount considered realistic
   The Citizen Advisory Panel (CAP) for the project recommended on Feb. 5 that the council set the bond amount at $7 million, allowing the city to secure the Sorenson School site and buildings, as well as an additional three acres to the south, all with the intent of developing the site as a Community Civic Center.
   "Based on comparable sales in the area, the $7.5 million is more realistic for what we're going to pay for the property and minimal improvements to the property," said Councilmember Lucy DeYoung.
   Mayor Bob Miller said the two main goals of the CAP were the acquisition of the property and to keep the costs to the homeowner and the city at a low level. "I think that if the structure of the debt is set up the way Councilmember DeYoung indicated, the cost to the homeowner would be less each year," Miller said.
   As for the future civic center, "I don't consider it an amenity, I consider it a necessity to the quality of life," Miller said. "The CAP made it perfectly clear that if nothing else happened, the window of opportunity is here and the property could be acquired as a civic campus and government center open for the public."
   Council discussions to date have revolved around what financial resources are available to help fund various improvements to the existing buildings and site. Councilmanic bonds would incur $85,000 to $87,000 per year in debt service costs for every $1 million issued.
   The preferred option for funding improvements at the moment is the $1.6 million in the real estate excise tax (REET) fund. Staff has indicated that this money is available without impacting the city's six-year capital improvements projects, since several projects, such as the grid roads, will not be completed even by 1997. The $1.6 million is tentatively planned to go toward bringing the Old Woodinville Schoolhouse up to code and construct a parking lot on the three acres to the south.
   Second reading and adoption of the ordinance is scheduled for Mar. 25; Apr. 5 is the deadline for notifying King County elections for the May 21 election.
   The CAP's Master Plan totals $14.5 million and recommends that the Old Woodinville Schoolhouse serve as the center for city government, Historical Society Museum, and Chamber of Commerce, with space for senior, adult day and youth centers, plus multi-use meeting rooms. It also calls for a trail link with the Jerry Wilmot Green Gateway park.