City hall restoration continues; council prepares to buy CO2 allowances

Gas bills are going to going way up this November.

Amongst the myriad business the Enumclaw City Council tackled last week, elected officials moved forward with continuing to restore city hall and an ordinance changing local code to account for new state laws on natural gas and carbon emissions.

City hall celebrated its 100th anniversary earlier this year, but just like with people, time leaves its mark, and the building is in need of various repairs and touchups if it wants to last another century.

The council was hoping to tackle restoration all at once, and put $125,000 in the 2021 budget for such a project.

It was quickly determined that was not nearly enough funding when an estimate for restoring all of city hall come back at $500,000.

The estimate was so high, former Public Works Director Jeff Lincoln said, because the budget failed to take into consideration historical preservation — keeping the building more-or-less the same, even through repairs. This is especially important, as city hall was designated a King County historical landmark last June, and to stay so, it must continue to remain the way it is.

So instead, the council decided to restore city hall piecemeal, starting with the south facing side (a.k.a the main entrance), which included the pavers leading up to the front door, repainting the columns and windows, and brickwork repairs.

That project alone ended up costing around $215,000, in large part because the pavers at city hall are no longer manufactured, and to retain the historical look, the mortar used to set the pavers had to be chemically matched to what was used 100 years ago.

Luckily, the city found recycled pavers to use, and the stairs were officially repaired by Sept. 21, 2021.

The city now plans to repair other brickwork, window, and fixtures, replace a skylight, repoint cast stone windowsills, install a new roof scupper and downspout, and replace siding and trim.

The project is estimated to cost nearly $260,000, but won’t come out of the city’s budget. Instead, funding is being provided by a Local Community Project grant of more than $280,000, offered by the Department of Commerce.

The grant was awarded to the city last April, and the city council executed a contract to accept the grant during the Sept. 12 meeting.

Bids for construction have yet to be advertised, so there is no current construction timeline, but City Administrator Chris Searcy said the city anticipates work to be done this spring.


The city council also updated local code regarding new changes to how the state of Washington is handling the sale of natural gas.

The code change is made necessary by the state’s 2021 Climate Commitment Act, which, in short, is attempting to limit carbon emissions by having utilities and businesses — including the city of Enumclaw — “buy” how much CO2 they can emit. Over time, these carbon emission allowances will become more expensive, and in turn, encourage the use of more green energy.

The cost of those carbon emission allowances, at least in Enumclaw’s case, is being passed to the customer, and as previously reported, those who use the city’s natural gas utility can expect a 23% increase in their annual bill come Nov. 1 in order for the city to afford to buy its CO2 allowances starting next year.

For those who don’t want to do the math, a 23% increase to the average annual bill comes out to be about $131. Low-income and senior households see a slightly higher increase of about $135.

And as those CO2 allowances get more expensive, bills are expected to continue increasing around 0.9% for at least the next seven years; the total average annual bill could exceed $1,000 by 2030.