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Enumclaw welcome center down to the wire

Efforts to build an Enumclaw Welcome Center have followed a twisted and sometimes tortuous path, so it was perhaps no surprise that another roadblock popped up last week.

After waiting nine weeks for a definitive answer from the United States Forest Service, city officials were told Aug. 26 that the agency had a maximum of $750,000 to contribute to the project.

That’s not enough to cover what had been considered the USFS share of the total cost, putting the entire project at risk of landing on the scrap heap.

The Welcome Center concept has been a drawn-out affair, floating around City Hall in the planning stages for the past 13 years.

Proposed has been a two-story structure – located between the Enumclaw Expo Center fieldhouse and the city-owned golf course – that would be home to the Forest Service and National Park Service, with a city presence as well. Initially, the Chamber of Commerce was a partner, but the chamber dropped out a couple of years ago.

The total cost is pegged at $3.5 million. Federal grants have been expected to pay the bulk of the cost, roughly $2.6 million. The city’s share is $319,000 with the Forest Service expected to pick up the rest of the tab. The federal money was allocated during the course of five years, with 20 percent doled out each year between 2005 and 2009.

Now, the decision by the Forest Service has threatened to halt plans. The $750,000 maximum won’t pay for the entire second floor as was initially planned, so plans are quickly being re-evaluated in efforts to slice the cost.

Interim City Administrator Chris Searcy said meetings with architects are hastily being planned, with the goal to arrive at cost reductions that do not involve significant design changes.

The biggest problem is that the federal money goes away if everything isn’t squared away and approved by Sept. 13. Members of the City Council will address the issue again during their Sept. 9 meeting.

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