News

Sticker shock: $22 million for biggest center

By ERICA HALL

Staff writer

City Council members were somewhat shocked by the latest cost estimates to build a Federal Way community center, senior center and pool, but all have said they’re still excited about the project and just want to see some tighter numbers before moving forward.

At the latest community center project update last Tuesday, staff members and consultants presented figures to council members that put the cost of a 65,000-square-foot facility at $18.6 million and an 83,000-square-foot facility at $22.2 million.

It’s a big jump from the $13 million budgeted last December and from the $15 million recommended by the community center advisory group earlier this year.

“I’m concerned with the cost of the project as a whole,” Councilman Dean McColgan said Tuesday night. “The $22 million kind of blew me away.”

“We’re astounded, as well,” said Keith Hayes, the Barker Ringer Seacat consultant hired by the city to help with the process. He attributed the higher dollar figure with the fact that “it just costs more to build here.”

Still, council members don’t want to shortchange the project only to come up with a facility no one would use.

“It’s important to look at that very seriously,” Mayor Jeanne Burbidge said. “The decision will require a very thorough review and consideration.”

Councilman Mike Park, who had questions about the funding sources he wanted answered by the next meeting, said the city should seriously consider the 83,000-square-foot option and “see if it’s adequate to serve this community.”

“If we can do it, let’s go for it,” he said. “The matter of financing is a council decision.”

Because the 1 percent utility tax allocated for the center won’t be enough to cover the anticipated cost of construction on an 83,000-square-foot facility, officials presented other financing options that could be available for the council to consider.

City finance director Iwen Wang told council members the city could reduce the size of the facility or the scope of programs to make the project fit within a smaller budget.

She also suggested arterial street funding or other capital funds to pay the $1 million needed to build a road to the facility.

There’s about $1.4 million in unallocated general fund money Wang said city officials don’t anticipate needing, and she said the city received more money than anticipated in real estate excise taxes.

She added the city could use money from the potential sale of the existing city hall, since the city won’t need that money for a new municipal facility. But that money won’t be available until the building is sold or leased.

And the city could continue the .5 percent utility tax designated for a public safety facility to leverage bond money after 2012.

While council members wanted more information on funding options, expenditures and potential revenue generators for an 83,000-square-foot facility, they haven’t committed to continuing with the project at that size until they know more.

“We want to make sure we do it right the first time,” McColgan said. “The research will ensure the numbers are right. We want to make sure the numbers are tight –– a little conservative, but not overly conservative.”

The project plan presented last Tuesday includes construction of a road in Celebration Park, expected to cost about $1 million, and $2.4 million in site construction costs, such as bringing sewer lines to the site and wetlands mitigation.

The new budget projections estimate $13.5 million for the larger proposed building, which would include a larger leisure pool, a three-court gym and a larger community space, which council members said the city has been lacking for decades.

Also included are a café and juice bar, a larger senior lounge, a childcare area, a medium classroom and an arts and crafts room.

Council members foresee families and people of all ages using the facility, and they’re particularly interested in the idea of the party rooms, which parents would be able to rent for birthdays and where kids could eat pizza and then go swimming or use the gymnasium.

The facility also is anticipated to include a fitness room and a jogging track.

Council members will continue working on a financing plan, but all the programming developed by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department will continue to be funded out of the city’s general fund at the current level, parks director Jennifer Shroder said.

While council members are concerned about the cost of building the center, none expressed an interest in calling off the project altogether for now.

“I’m quite excited about it,” Councilwoman Linda Kochmar said. “I’m hoping to build something reasonable that all our citizens will use.”

Councilwoman Mary Gates said she was pleased with the information the council received at the Tuesday update.

“This was the first blush,” she said. “It was preliminary, but everything starts preliminarily.”

At the next council meeting, scheduled for Sept. 2, council members will further consider what programs to include in the center, how big to build it, how to pay for it and what programs could provide some revenue.

A study session has been scheduled prior to the meeting, which is open to the public. Federal Way residents who attend the study session can stay for the council meeting at 7 p.m. and offer their thoughts or opinions during the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting.

“This is the beginning of the final review,” Burbidge said. “We may still very well make some compromises on what kind of components we include and the sizes of those components. It’s such an important decision to make. We’re not likely to build another community center any time soon, so we want to do it right.”

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, ehall@fedwaymirror.com

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Aug 22 edition online now. Browse the archives.