MARCH 10, 1997

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Local News

Northshore asks city's intentions

Is Woodinville serious about buying Sorenson?

Sorenson complex by Jeff Switzer, senior staff reporter
WOODINVILLE--In light of two failed bond issues and the need to repair a snow-damaged roof, the Northshore School District wants to know just how serious the City of Woodinville is about buying the Sorenson complex and Old Woodinville School and has invited them to sit down and discuss the issue.
   The City Council was briefed on the subject last week, and while the city has a purchase/sale agreement through Dec. 31, 1997 and budgeted funds for a community survey on the matter, the timeline requested by the district means the surveying begins this week and needs to be completed within a month's time.
   Joe Meneghini, Woodinville's city manager, said the issue can pivot on whether to provide a community center or just a city hall for city business. He and the council share the hope that the community input will give them a better sense of the options, he said.
   According to a staff report to the council Mar. 10, the school district "continues to be committed to completely vacating the Sorenson facility within the next 18 months," but has to decide whether to spend insurance and district dollars to repair damages in anticipation of the city proceeding with the purchase agreement by the end of the year. The other option would be to make only minor repairs to accommodate current programs with the idea that the buildings will be "demolished by a developer who purchases the property because the city did not."
   City department heads, the civic center architects and consultants from the 1995 process met last week with Dan Vaught, Steve Young, and Ty Heim from the school district. City staff, which comprise the Community Center Team, will be evaluating whether to move city functions to another building within the city and how to pay for such a move; or whether to continue to work with the Northshore School District to repair the current buildings and pursue ways to finance the purchase and development of the currently optioned property. Financial options are expected at the council's Mar. 17 meeting.
   The city has a lease with the school district until August 1999 and had plans to expand the police and parks and recreation departments into additional space in the Sorenson complex. That move has been put on hold because the school district needed the extra space to continue existing uses after the heavy snowstorm damaged the roof in the back of the complex, and will remain on hold until the issue of repairs to the damage with insurance funds is resolved.
   "They're dealing with the insurance company's timeline and will be making decisions as to what type of repairs, if any, they would be doing over here," Meneghini said. "At the same time, we need to look at what other options there are for the city. It may mean being somewhere else than here. It's a big issue for the district and the city, and in the interest of the community at large, there is the expectation to work together."
   Meneghini said the city will continue to evaluate whether there is another way to preserve the land as public land for the future, exploring partnerships with the school district and private parties for public-private partnerships.
   "If there isn't a consensus, we need to know it," he said. "These are public facilities and have been open to the public for 75 years-plus. We have to see if we can put something together with the school district and maybe other private parties to make this work."