nwnews-now : local news in your e-mail box as it happens

Front Page

First step towards Civic Center on May 21 ballot

$7.5 million question goes to voters next week

city hall

The 23,947-square-foot Woodinville School was built in 1936. The Sorenson complex, built in 1973, is 39,218 square feet.

Civic Center by Jeff Switzer
WOODINVILLE--Voters here will be asked next Tuesday to approve general obligation (GO) bonds in the amount of $7.5 million to pay for the first step in the larger vision of transforming the Old Woodinville Schoolhouse and Sorenson complex into a Civic and Community Center.
   If approved, the GO bonds would purchase the Old Woodinville Schoolhouse, the sports fields, the Sorenson complex, and the 10.5 acres of land on which they are located, as well as three acres to the south for parking.
   Three criteria must be met for passage of the GO bonds: a minimum turnout of 912 voters, a minimum 547 "yes" votes, and 60 percent approval overall.
   Local polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., though as many as 953 voters in Woodinville could vote by absentee ballot.
   If the issue is approved, City of Woodinville residents would see a $0.62 per $1,000 increase in property taxes for the next 20 years. For a $200,000 home, this translates into a $124 increase each year.
   The $7.5 million includes $5.8 million in a purchase agreement signed by the city with the Northshore School District for the Sorenson school campus. The agreement has built-in flexibility allowing the city to buy until Dec. 31, 1997, all contingent on council action. After Aug. 18, 1996, the price goes up 2.2 percent of the purchase price divided by 365, or $349.59 for each day between Aug. 18 and the closing date.
   The buy-sell agreement with the school district is reflected in the City Council's reasoning behind going for a special election. Also, the cost of a special election is less than the additional cost of waiting until the fall, as the purchase price goes up roughly $10,000 each month after Aug. 18.
   The remaining $1.7 million in bonds is earmarked for acquisition of three acres to the south for parking. Any difference between the purchase price for the three acres and the $1.7 million is to go toward parking-type improvements, such as paving, and toward code improvements to bring the buildings up to today's safety standards.
   The cost to the city for the special election is $5,600.

Holding onto Woodinville's history
   "I think this is a monumental time for us as a city," Councilmember Lucy DeYoung has said. "When we talk about growth management, we talk about these old town communities that are user friendly. I think Woodinville has a tremendous opportunity to do all of those things."
   DeYoung pointed out Woodinville's "compact" downtown. "There are theaters in the works which could make our community more active at night, and the Woodinville School has such a rich history. The Civic Center will provide a good place for our youth, senior citizens, and city council to 'hang out,'" she said.
   Deputy Mayor Don Brocha has said the civic center, coupled with the Jerry Wilmot Green Gateway Park, will be a great amenity for the city, making them the "Jewel of Woodinville."
   Mayor Bob Miller went even further. "I don't consider it an amenity, I consider it a necessity to the quality of life," Miller has said. "The CAP (Citizen Advisory Panel) 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."

The proposed Master Plan: $14,546,000
   The price tag for the entire CAP Master Plan runs $14,546,000, including future land acquisition, significant site improvements, such as trails and streetscapes, and significant building improvements.
   Included in the Master Plan are meandering trails, long greenhouse structures for the Farmers' Market, a renovated Old Woodinville School to house city government and the historic museum, plenty of parking, and tree-lined boulevards.
   The Master Plan is designed to be implemented over a long period of time, and funding sources beyond acquisition of Sorenson have yet to be determined.
   The CAP recommended that the Old Woodinville Schoolhouse serve as the center for city government, Historic Society Museum and the Chamber of Commerce; that space be allocated for a senior center, adult day center, and a youth center, plus multi-use meeting rooms; and that a trail be built to link with the Jerry Wilmot Green Gateway park.
   The consultants and the CAP considered other sites in the area, including the 44 acres of the proposed TRF downtown retail center, but it was found that it would cost $21.2 million to relocate City Hall and accomplish what the city can get out of the Sorenson site for $14.5 million.

Council has spoken of 'doing their share'
   Currently, there are two main funding sources under consideration for the $14.5 million project: general obligation (GO) bonds, which are voted on by the residents of Woodinville; and Councilmanic Bonds, which are approved by the City Council by pledging city revenue sources towards the payment of loans.
   The council has discussed councilmanic bonds to help pay for improvements to the buildings and site, and 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 as several projects, such as the grid roads, will not be completed even by 1997.
   The city also has the option of coming back to voters in the future for another bond issue to pay for user improvements to the civic center.

Current users of the complex
   The city currently pays Northshore about $35,000 per year for use of the old schoolhouse building and Council Chambers.
   The YMCA leases the gymnasium and the pool; Bellevue Christian leases the equivalent of six rooms, or 5,000 square feet; one room is leased by the Northshore Co-op Pre-school; and 20,000 square feet is leased for the Earlier Childhood Program for handicapped pre-school children, and Headstart.
   A partial leaseback agreement with the school district was approved for three years for its special needs program, with extension rights up to two additional years if needed.