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Community Center bond issue failing--again

bond issue by Jeff Switzer
WOODINVILLE--Voters here are apparently rejecting the $6 million bond issue put forward by the city for the purchase of the Old Woodinville Schoolhouse and the Sorenson complex, and it is unclear whether the city will be seeking other ways to obtain the 10 acres of property for a community center.
   At last count, which included 100 percent of the precincts and 25 percent of the absentees, there were 790 votes for and 665 votes against, representing 54.3 percent approval of the general obligation bonds. But the money issue needs 60 percent to pass.
   More than 1,000 absentee ballots were issued to the 4,874 registered voters in the City of Woodinville, and in the tradition of recent elections, the absentees may decide the measure. Those votes won't be counted until Monday afternoon.
   "I think we had an excellent group of volunteers who worked very hard," said Mark Jessup, former city councilmember and chair of Citizens for a Woodinville Community Center.
   Jessup says he believes those who voted against the bond had a conviction that they didn't want to spend the money, because people are, for the most part, supportive of the idea of a community center.
   He added that a "no" vote was fine, because those people were expressing themselves. "What bothers me the most is the two-thirds who stayed at home and did nothing," he said. The turnout numbers showed 1,489 ballots cast at the 12 precincts in the city.
   If approved by the voters, residents will pay approximately $100 each year for a $200,000 home towards payment of the bonds.
   The property and buildings are owned by the Northshore School District, which declared them surplus earlier this year. The whole property is for sale and is zoned half commercial, half multi-family.
   For the 10-acre parcel, the city negotiated a price of $5.8 million and has an agreement to purchase it through Dec. 31, 1997, with a rough increase of $10,000 each month after Aug. 18, 1996.
   Absent from the proposal were the three acres to the south belonging to Brittany Park and LeisureCare, previously part of the May $7.5 million question, which was also rejected, but by a margin of less than 100 votes. That proposal would have bumped taxes up $0.62 per $1,000, translating to $124 annually or $8.33 each month on a $200,000 home.
   Bond opponent Bob Dixon, also a former councilmember, opposes the cost and the project, as it involves renovating what he believes are out-of-date buildings.
   Dixon favors two alternatives which will provide the city with a city hall: Buying the three acres for sale from Brittany Park and building a state-of-the-art city hall there; or buying property to the east of the Old Woodinville Schoolhouse and tearing down the school for parking.
   "It has no historical significance," he said. "It's not a historical landmark, it's an old building that is a dangerous building to work in."
   Speculation has begun on whether the City Council will choose another way to purchase the complex, including their option to go for councilmanic bonds, which do not require voter approval.
   "I think that the City Council is going to try to buy it anyway," said Dixon. "They're jeopardizing their re-election chances and can be assured I'll remind them of that next year."