Enumclaw delays bond vote for proposed community center

Elected officials are also looking to form a Citizens Advocacy Committee to gather public opinion and promote the project.

Correction: A previous article, “Enumclaw council discusses preliminary community center designs”, published Nov. 23, 2022, reported soft construction costs were estimated at $14 million. While that figure was confirmed by both city staff and elected officials via email after the recent council meeting, the actual estimated cost was closer to $20 million at that time.

There have been a few updates concerning the proposed Enumclaw Community Center – namely, that voting on a bond to fund the project is being put off until early 2024.

For those who haven’t followed the news, the city council is looking at building a new community center on Cole Street, on the west end of downtown. The center would replace the current senior center, Arts Alive! and the local Chamber of Commerce, as well as provide space for the city’s Park and Recreation Department.

Other amenities being floated includes a large common area and a full-sized gymnasium.

To fund this project, the city is looking to put a bond measure out to voters.

Mayor Jan Molinaro said last November that he hoped to get a bond on the April 2023 ballot, but elected officials appear to have tapped the breaks a bit in more recent discussions.

“The council consensus is to target the February 2024 special election,” City Administrator Chris Searcy said in a recent email interview. “This would allow adequate time (8-12 months) for public information and engagement.”

Delaying a bond vote, though, opens the project to increased costs.

When the city council received preliminary designs of the building last November, projected construction costs came in at around $20 million.

But with the general increases in materials coupled with the state of the economy, the construction could cost nearly $24 million or higher by next April, according to Cornerstone Architectural Group, which was hired by the city to design the community center.

“Inflation is going to continue being a wildcard,” said principal architect Mark Jenefsky during the Jan. 9 city council meeting.

The high estimated cost includes contingency funds in order to cover any unforeseen surprises.

“One of my biggest fears is that we get out in front of the voters and they approve something and then when we get there, we find out, uh oh, it’s going to take a little bit more [money],” Searcy said during the same meeting. “I’d rather it be a higher number that we can accomplish and account for those unforeseen things than to be too thin on things and not be able to deliver once we get there.”

Now that a potential bond measure is at least a year away, the city council will have more time to gather public opinion on what the building should look like and what amenities should be included.

“I just want to remind everybody that we are still fairly early in the process. So if you’re looking at these drawings saying, ‘If we pay up this money right now, we get exactly what’s in here’ — oh goodness no,” said Council member Beau Chevassus. “We still need to hear the public’s feedback, we need that special committee to go out and get people’s ideas on what the aesthetics look like… this is not entirely set set in stone.”

Another additional cost Council member Bobby Martinez wanted both elected officials and the public to consider is staffing and maintenance.

“If you’re going to be voting on something, you should know the future burden on the taxpayers,” he said.

Council member Tom Sauvageau responded that the finance ad hoc committee he is a part of will examine what those costs could be.

At the moment, the preliminary design presented to the council last fall is still what’s being considered, though a new 3D rendering of what the exterior of the building could look like has been completed.

None of those details are set in stone, however.

“There’s been talk that the building may be too institutional, may be too this, may be too that,” Jenefski said. “We have plenty of time to modify this.”

Molinaro said his goal is to have at least two public town halls where voters can learn more about the project and provide feedback; dates for these meetings are not yet set.

And in addition to town halls, the city council is looking to form a Citizens Advocacy Committee to both help with gathering public opinion and advocating for the community center, since the city as a government entity can’t lobby one way or the other on a bond measure.

If you would like to be involved in the Citizens Advocacy Committee, you can email Mayor Molinaro at JMolinaro@ci.enumclaw.wa.us.

Image courtesy Cornerstone Architectural Group

Image courtesy Cornerstone Architectural Group