Feds forgive Enumclaw debt

Enumclaw has dodged a financial bullet that could have blasted a hole in city coffers.

Specifically, a potential debt of nearly $600,000 to the federal government has been forgiven and wiped clean from the city slate.

Mayor Liz Reynolds made the announcement – “great news,” she called it – during a short, Feb. 23 session of the Enumclaw City Council.

At issue was money the city spent while planning for a multi-use Welcome Center. The proposed facility floated on the periphery of city government for 14 years, taking different shapes as it was addressed by three different mayors and several roster turnovers of the seven-member council.

Finally, buy a 4-3 voted taken in August 2014, the council pulled the plug.

As plans for the Welcome Center moved along, year by year, the city had received grant money to do the work, eventually spending well in excess of a half-million dollars.

When the vote was taken to scrap the project, city leaders were fully aware federal authorities could ask that $582,952 be repaid. It also was noted at the time that City Hall would fight to have the debt erased.

Efforts were positive and a letter from the Washington State Department of Transportation formally absolved Enumclaw of any portion of the debt. The three paragraphs of economic salvation noted “the original scope of work consisted of planning for the preliminary site design and engineering” and admitted the city “has shown a good faith effort throughout the process to continue to move this project forward.”

And, with that, the Federal Highway Administration determined the city is off the hook.

In other action during a meeting that officially lasted 19 minutes, 32 seconds, the council:

• received a positive report about the recent Wine and Chocolate Festival from Scott Gray, manager of the Enumclaw Expo Center.After calculating expenses and revenues, the event posted a $26,000 profit, Gray said, adding that was the best showing for the event in five years.Looking ahead to next year, Gray said food vendors will be added and – to accommodate the tastes of a broader audience – at least one beer vendor will be added to the mix.

• took action stemming from a 2012 restructuring project within the Enumclaw Police Department. Chief Jim Zoll told council members of a “housekeeping measure” that would do two things: add a captain’s position and change the term “patrolman” to “police officer.”

It was the first reading for the ordinance, so no action was taken. It will appear again on a coming agenda for council action.