$50 million PAC: Wrong time, wrong plan

At the last Federal Way city council meeting on Dec. 2, there was an agenda item that called for making the proposed Performing Arts Center (PAC) the number-one legislative priority for the City of Federal Way in the upcoming Legislative session.

I believe this proposal is ill-timed, considering the global financial crisis in which we now find ourselves. Our nation has essentially nationalized entire segments of the economy and is still in the process of doing the same.

Here at home major employers are laying-off thousands of people, including Weyerhauser (1,500 jobs lost) and Washington Mutual (3,400 from the Seattle area). This state is expecting a $5 billion shortfall and King County has had to lay off people, cut back services and force all employees to take 10 days of unpaid leave each year.

This is a major financial crisis that affects every one of us. To be seriously considering a $50 million project at a time like this is beyond comprehension, when people in our community are worried about losing their homes and their jobs. When I run this by people I come across, they are perplexed and offended, as am I.

The plan calls for us to ask the state for $20 million, not all in one chunk but at $5 million increments.

Moreover, it also calls for the city to come up with $20 million and for private groups to provide $10 million. This plan is unworkable and not thoroughly considered. For one thing, these figures do not include the cost of the land and do not take into consideration the yearly cost of operating the proposed facility at approximately $260,000.

Furthermore, even if everything went according to plan, our yearly outlay for this facility would still be $1.2 million ($925,000 from Real Estate Excise Tax money to finance the bonds, plus the quarter-million for the operation of the facility). This would continue for years and years.

It should be noted that we face a projected shortfall during the next biennium of approximately $3.1 million.

Additionally, there is no contingency plan if either the state or the private groups, at some point, fail to fully fund their shares of this project. We would be on the hook for another $10 million or more.

There are some who will say, why not ask and see what we get? It is critical to understand that we, as a Council, have yet to decide whether to undertake this project. But yet, we are on the verge of approving a legislative agenda that includes this request — as our number one priority.

If this were to be approved and we were to receive any money from the state, we would arguably be morally obligated to go forward.

This agenda item effectively puts this city on record as being committed to this project.

Ask yourselves, would we ever seriously consider returning this money? I think not. Therefore, a vote for this measure, in essence, obligates us to this project, which has not been properly vetted amongst ourselves or our voting public.

Lastly, we should all be mindful of the fact that this city just completed its largest project in its history, namely, the $20 million community center. What started as the city being the “facilitator” to discuss the PAC has unfortunately devolved into the city being the primary sponsor.

I call upon my colleagues to table this matter for further discussion and study. Furthermore, I call upon my fellow citizens of Federal Way to let us on the council know how you feel about this issue. This will be back on the council agenda at the first meeting of the year, Jan. 6.

I hope to see you there, or hear from you before that time.

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