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Committee nixes city hall review

POULSBO — In light of searing criticism of the city’s plans to build a municipal campus on 10th Avenue, Councilman Ed Stern floated a trial balloon before the council’s public works committee Wednesday night.

Reading from an e-mail he sent to various community leaders, Stern said he was willing to explore more than the Creekside Center on 7th Avenue as possible alternatives.

“After listening and talking to many, many people about the city hall project, I need to communicate to you that if alternatives are to be taken up by the council, or at least by me separately in any event, I need both the existing city hall site plus King Olaf parking lot and possibly a Martha & Mary boundary line adjustment in conjunction together, along with a reexamination of our Morris property site all put back on the table,” Stern told fellow committee members Councilmen Mike Regis and Jeff McGinty.

If the council was to consider examining other sites, Stern said he would like to reinvest in a multiple-solutions approach that includes a visioning component, parking solution and city hall solution.

“This does not mean I am decided against 10th Ave site but am willing to explore more than just 7th Avenue,” he said.

However, the public should know that any delays to the current municipal campus project could potentially cost $1 million, he said.

“I just don’t want to preclude larger public discussion,” Stern said.

McGinty said he was surprised by the recent public criticism of the 10th Avenue site.

“When I’m out in town, everybody is telling me to stick by your guns and I don’t think we’re going to get an ‘apples to apples’ comparison,” he said.

When comparing a remodel proposal to new construction, there is a lot of information that can’t be put into one brochure, he said, alluding to the publication being prepared by Mayor Kathryn Quade’s blue ribbon committee to provide information on the municipal project.

“I believe we did what was best for the public and their benefit, not mine,” McGinty said. “I would like people to stand up and support this project and tell us.”

Regis said there are issues beyond just the Creekside Center building itself that must be factored into any comparison of the two sites of which the public is currently unaware.

“The mayor’s office needs to gather in the information that is readily available but often overlooked,” he said. “It’s more than a building issue, they didn’t look at some of the ancillary costs.”

The council did its proper due diligence before purchasing the 10th Avenue property and it has an obligation to keep the project moving forward, Regis added.

“I’m not just representing the community at this time, I’m representing the community 50 years from now,” Regis said.

Stern replied that while he knows the council did its due diligence on the 10th Avenue site, it wasn’t transparent to the citizenry and many residents feel there wasn’t enough public participation.

“My concern is when in life can you be right and end up being wrong,” Stern asked.

Finance Director Nanci Lien said the issue is getting the correct information out to the public. She added there has been a significant number of public meetings about the municipal campus.

“Since the July meeting when you officially said go forward, there have been 19 meetings discussing the municipal campus project in 2005,” Lien said, noting the irony that many of the critics of the project supported it in July.

Former public works director Jeff Lincoln, who was also in attendance March 22, reminded the councilmen that the due diligence process began in November 2004.

“The staff did a tremendous amount of work and looked at at least 10 different locations,” Lincoln said.

These locations were included in the due diligence study that was prepared by BLRB Architects of Tacoma, he said.

“If people had concerns about the recommendation of the council, there was plenty of time for that input,” Lincoln said.

Regis said the public needs to be reminded of that as the discussion continues.

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