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AUGUST 18, 1997

Local News

Resident worries about loss of services if city buys school

  by Andrew Walgamott, Staff Reporter
   WOODINVILLE--Opposition to Woodinville's purchase of the C.O. Sorenson complex from the Northshore School District for a city hall and community center surfaced at last week's city council meeting.
   Hossein Barahimi of Kingsgate expressed concern in a letter and during public comment that purchase of the downtown site would leave city programs vulnerable to funding cuts in the future.
   "In my opinion, purchasing a community center that is a luxury at the expense of community services such as police protection, parks, transportation and future capital improvement program money is not a wise decision," Barahimi wrote in a letter dated July 30.
   Why should Barahimi care about infrastructure? He is a transportation planner with King County Department of Transportation, as well as a city sponsored graduate of the Leadership Institute.
   Several weeks ago, city staff outlined a proposal that would put $1.75 million down for purchase of the $6 million, 10.5 acre property, with a balance of $4.25 million plus interest.
   So far, two major road projects have been put off this year, including improvements to the intersection near 7-11 as well as State Route 202 and 127th Pl. N.E. near McCorry's, while the city council searches for ways to fund the purchase.
   Buying Sorenson won't be a simple matter of plunking down the cash and financing the balance either. A 1996 study by The Granger Group showed it would cost $2.1 million to bring mechanical, electrical, structural and environmental elements of the old schoolhouse and other structures up to current building codes.
   Barahimi's alternative to Sorenson; the three acres the city bought for $1.65 million from Brittany Park last year.
   "They need a City Hall; there's no doubt about that," Barahimi said.
   Failure of bonds vs. telepoll results
   Late last week, Barahimi wondered if the community center was really what city residents wanted. He pointed to two bond issues presented to voters last year.
   "If the voters agreed to pay for it, it would've been a great opportunity for the city because the money would've come from the general fund. It wouldn't hurt [Capital Improvement Project] funds," Barahimi said.
   Both bond issues failed to get the required 60 percent for approval. Barahimi points out that even though the bond votes were approved by over 50 percent of voters, not all registered voters went to the polls on the issue.
   In fact, during the October, 1996 bond vote only 1,455 of 4,874 (29.8 percent) registered voters cared enough to say yeah or nay.
   Touchˇ, says Councilmember Lucy DeYoung, pointing out the results of a March telephone poll of city residents in which 51 percent of 403 people polled supported the city purchasing Sorenson and bringing it up to code without raising taxes.
   In the survey, 66 percent said Woodinville needed a community center, and 45 percent said Sorenson was the place. Over half said Sorenson should be the permanent city hall, though an equal percentage said the city's 3 acres behind the school would do just fine as well.
   Will the council listen to Barahimi?
   "I believe that Hossein brought up valid points that we will take into consideration," DeYoung said.
   She added that she believed very strongly the city should buy Sorenson as it represented a future community center, park as well as for the historical perspective.
   As for Barahimi's city services concerns, "It's my goal that we have both. We can have a community center and city hall. And we can have good roads and services for the community," DeYoung said.