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City needs more than Kilworth
Open letter to the Federal Way City Council:
As communicated to you at the last council meeting, the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors voted unanimously to oppose the citys potential purchase of Camp Kilworth. That was clearly a vote in support of downtown revitalization, not a vote against parks. In round numbers, the cost of acquisition is $3 million and the cost of bringing the facility to code for public use is $500,000. Beyond that is the ongoing maintenance obligation for the city and law enforcement obligation for the police.
There is a perception among citizens that Camp Kilworth can be financed with grant funding. It is imperative the council communicate clearly to taxpayers exactly how the purchase will be consummated if the decision is made to purchase the land. It has been suggested that $1.2 million be financed with cash on hand, $1 million be paid (plus interest) in one year and $800,000 be paid (plus interest) at the end of two years. The final two installments would purportedly be financed with grant funds, though no grant request has been written to date and no guarantee of funding can be made.
There has been no public discussion as to a source of funds for the $500,000 required for bringing the facility to code for public use. And the park cannot be opened to public use without that expenditure. How does that expense get covered in an already tight budget?
No city funds should diverted from councils declared work plan for downtown redevelopment and revitalization. In reality, grant funds may not materialize (or restrict use such that citizens cannot even use the property and facilities as envisioned, eg. open space-type grant funding), so the $1.8 million (plus interest) advanced may never be returned to city reserves. So conceivably, $3 million may be diverted from downtown and business development opportunities. That is unacceptable to our business community.
The council commissioned the Leland Group (at considerable expense) to develop recommendations for downtown redevelopment. That report identifies initiatives and opportunities requiring several million dollars to successfully complete.
Beyond lifestyle center ideas and green-space considerations, the following additional opportunities for $3.5 million should be explored (as opposed to Camp Kilworth):
Provide $500,000 to $1 million in partnership with the King County Library District to build a new library downtown instead of on the current South 320th site.
Provide $500,000 to $1 million in partnership with Highline Community College to relocate their current facility from First Ave to downtown (current lease expires within two years)
Provide $500,000 to $1 million in partnership with Federal Way Public Schools to locate the proposed performing arts center in the downtown core rather than on the Federal Way High School campus.
Provide $500,000 to $1 million in partnership with the school district to locate the proposed administration facility in the downtown core or frame.
All of these initiatives have the potential to jump-start downtown redevelopment. One need look no further than Puyallup and Tacoma to understand the vital role public investment plays in attracting quality private investment.
Simply put, serious and sustained efforts to build our tax base and support our business community must be undertaken. The Leland Group has provided an excellent planning tool. I am looking to the council to focus on implementing a shared vision.