Municipal campus draws criticism

POULSBO — Mayor-elect Kathryn Quade and Councilwoman Connie Lord did not go gently into that good night as they stood alone in opposition to the proposed municipal campus plan that passed by a 5-2 vote Wednesday.

After a failed amendment by Quade to remove the architect selection and sale of surplus property from the original motion, Councilman Ed Stern gave the first approval nod before Councilman Dale Rudolph cast the clinching vote as the council pushed the project forward, 5-2.

With the vote, the council approved the purchase of the Olympic Resource Management property at the corner of 10th Avenue and Lincoln Road for $2.1 million; authorized BLRB Architects of Tacoma to move ahead with actual design and engineering work on the site for a $12.4 million city hall and site preparation for the new police station; issued $5.1 million in general obligation bonds; and began the process of selling the current city hall site and the Mitchusson Park property.

Councilman Jeff McGinty boiled the two hours of discussion into a few simple words before the vote.

“Sure there’s risk in any decision we make, but we have a lot of data and I don’t know what else to ask for,” McGinty said.

While McGinty represented the majority of the council, Quade and Lord weren’t alone as many residents seized the opportunity to voice their concerns about the $14.6 million package for the 10th Avenue site.

Before the council decided on the issue, Mayor Donna Jean Bruce opened the floor for public comment as she expressed her desire that people not repeat what others had already said.

Longtime council watchdog Muriel Williams voiced her support for the proposal before the flood of opposition filled the room.

“I urge the council to get the Poulsbo campus going as soon as possible,” Williams said.

Even though Williams and a handful of other residents were supportive of the entire proposal, others had their reservations.

“City hall is being built for the community and should be built by the community,” said Greater Poulsbo Chamber of Commerce President Pat McFadden as she read from a letter addressed to Bruce.

The chamber understands that given the magnitude of the project city officials may feel the project cannot be totally done by local professionals, McFadden said.

For that reason, the chamber asked the city to set a realistic goal of 20 percent of the total project budget being contracted with local professional services, engineers and contractors, she said.

“Making a commitment like many other jurisdictions and government agencies have made similarly in the past, you stand to build much greater goodwill versus simply having a contractor include us in their visioning process,” she said. “That does not translate into dollars invested and re-injected through our local economy.”

In addressing that concern, Councilman Rudolph noted that 18 percent of the architecture and engineering budget for the project will go to local architects.

“This is an opportunity to get on the team, and this is the best compromise I’ve seen to get local involvement,” Rudolph said.

The public works committee has worked with Public Works Director Jeff Lincoln to secure local architectural involvement in the project, which has now been added to the project, Rudolph said.

That answer didn’t satisfy Poulsbo architect Larry Craig, who said that a group of local architects has been meeting to discuss possible plans for a municipal campus.

“You should slow down the process enough to allow local teams to put together a proposal,” Craig told the council, noting that, once again, local architects were overlooked by the city.

Rudolph responded to that criticism by stating that BLRB Architects didn’t just come together for the municipal campus project like a team of local architects and has a proven track record of success.

“You can learn how to play like a team on somebody else’s, but not my nickel,” Rudolph said, as he encouraged local architects to be part of the team.

Quade also expressed her reservations about the selection of BLRB and said that she wished the council had given local architects the opportunity to present a plan.

However, her motion to remove the contract with BLRB from the proposal lost by the same 5-2 vote. Lord was the only council member joining in her opposition.

Before the final vote, Lord said she wished the council had received the information on the EDS building sooner, so it could have been given more through consideration as she echoed comments made earlier by Bill Austin.

Looking at the $14 million proposal, Austin said the city could have purchased the EDS building for $6.5 million and still had $7 million left for renovations.

“We could gut it and make it look like a town hall,” he told the council.

Austin also took aim at the perception that there aren’t enough architects in town to complete the project.

“Let me tell you something there are six architects from ONIX and they could do the entire project,” Austin said.

One of those architects, George Wittler expressed his concerns about the geo-technical conditions of the site that had been voiced by Quade earlier.

Wittler told the council that he had looked at the 10th Avenue site about 10 years ago for a project, but further investigation deemed the site unsuitable.

“It had extreme geotech problems and we were looking at $2 million in infrastructure,” he told the council as he urged members to investigate the site further.

Doug Maraist and Luis Barrantes both told the council to consider what leaving downtown could do to the businesses in the area that depend on city employees for a substantial part of their customer base.

“Downtown Poulsbo is the heart of the city,” Maraist said. “Downtown Poulsbo is the pride of our community.”

Cities like Bainbridge Island and Port Orchard have chosen to stay downtown and been successful in their efforts, Maraist said.

Barrantes then told the council that the downtown business owners have a different view of the plans to move out of downtown.

“It’s their livelihood and how many of you will be walking downtown once you move,” Barrantes asked.

At the end of the comment period, the votes were cast as council members brought an end to the 14-year foray into finding a new city hall with Quade and Lord left alone in their opposition.

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