May 4, 1998

Front Page

Bothell will remodel bank for courthouse

  by Andrew Walgamott
Staff reporter

   BOTHELL--The Bothell City Council scrapped plans last week to build a new courthouse. Instead, the council voted to remodel a bank building into a municipal court and build their new police station at a cost of $10.726 million. Both the court and station are part of the city's future public safety center. Previously, the city was going to build a new court alongside the police station, but earlier this year the council found it didn't have enough money to do so. Bothell Police Chief Mark Ericks, who is the staff lead on the project, was confident the center would take care of the community's needs for years to come.
   "Our charge now is to build what they instructed us to build with the numbers they gave us," he said. The project now costs $1 million more than a $9.7 million bond voters approved for it last year. The council identified $1 million in funding to pay for the overrun last week.
   While Mayor Debbie Treen was relieved the council didn't have to raise property taxes to pay for the project, Councilmember Terry Olsen said all the city was doing was passing costs off to a future council. He called remodeling a bad business decision. "At some point in the future a new building will have to be built," said councilman and developer Terry Olsen. "It was a poor economic decision to put that amount of money into that facility." It will cost about $360,000 to renovate the 38-year-old bank building, according to city figures. To build new would have cost $800,000.
   Olsen supported spending $12.2 million for a new court and station as well as buying two properties for parking. He argued that the city had a responsibility to replace parking the center would consume. But Mayor Debbie Treen said she was "overwhelmed with relief" the council didn't go for that option. "It had the potential to haunt us in the fall when we did the budget," Treen said. She said it would have required raising taxes.
   It took the council five votes before four members, the needed majority, agreed on the $10.7 million alternative. During discussion, Olsen suggested tabling the issue for another week but Councilman Mike Noblet later said the council could have easily talked about it for another meeting without resolution. Noblet had supported Olsen's plan, but led the council on the compromise to remodel the bank and buy property when it became available rather than assign funds for it that night. "We're hired to make the best decisions. Sometimes those aren't the ones you prefer," he said.
   But Olsen was appalled that the council voted on a plan without any drawings. He said keeping the bank will require significant design changes. "I think the council erred in making that decision without having a plan in front of them," Olsen said. "They did it on instinct." He said he has since changed his mind on the $9.53 million parks' bond which he had voted to put on the ballot."As a private citizen I have now cast my ballot against it. I believe we need to see our way clear of this project before we take on another ten million dollar project," Olsen said.
   Construction bids will be the next check point for how well the city has estimated costs to build the center. In comparison, bids for building Woodinville's Wilmot Park came in as much as $800,000 above consultant's estimates of $1.2 million. That was blamed partially on an overheated bidding market linked to the building boom in the area.
   "They're going to make it work," Noblet said confidently. "The assumption is it won't cost $2 million more." But the council may still be considering buying nearby lots for parking. Those were priced at about $600,000 to buy and develop. They have an executive session on land acquisition this Monday night.