Whoa, there! Council presses ‘pause’ on city hall

POULSBO — Poulsbo’s city council solidified a list Wednesday night of criteria that must be met before bonding and construction begin on a new city hall.

All approved to “pause” the project “until such time the city can verify favorable bond interest rates, coupled with confirmation of actual revenues — realized from sales tax, sale of property, and real estate excise tax — which assures the city’s ability to pay off the bonds.”

(Council Member Kim Crowder was absent.)

The council will also be looking for a final cost estimate.

“The project team is going nowhere until we come back and make a case to the council that we are ready to go under this criteria,” said Council Member Dale Rudolph, adding it puts the council “all on the same page.”

He said it could be at least three months before the project goes forward.

Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade said the decision outlines the project team’s aim in writing, and confirms it through the full council.

She also confirmed both the city and Harrison Medical Center have signed a letter of intent for the sale of land on 10th Avenue to be used as a new cancer care campus.

A purchase and sale agreement is now being reviewed by Harrison’s attorneys.

The sale was a component of the city hall process as well; the council previously tagged it as necessary to complete before bonding and construction. The city also plans on selling the undeveloped Mitchusson Park property and its current civic center pad to help offset the new city hall’s $16.9 million projected price tag.

“I support (the pause) because I think we absolutely must be prudent right now,” said Council Member Connie Lord.

Council Member Ed Stern noted the pause affords the city a chance to take a second look at building designs and the possibility of fitting Poulsbo’s police department into the structure.

Then, the current department site at Hostmark and Front streets could be sold, taking down the financial impact of building another notch and potentially extending the walkable commercial corridor of downtown.

“My idea is to pay for the darn thing by being as effective as possible,” Stern said, noting the project team is looking to decrease the amount of bonds needed from $9.5 million to $7.5 million. The police’s situation in a new city hall would most likely be temporary.

The council agreed to plan a feasibility study on the city hall’s potential to house police; a dollar amount hasn’t been determined but Stern said he guesstimates spending between $20,000 and $40,000. Even if the study nixes the option, he said it will still have been worthwhile.

“If it doesn’t work then we know we’ve turned every stone over to get as wise and an efficient use as possible,” he said.

Additionally, “If we could sell that property, one year of applying that money and reducing the amount of bonds we’re issuing would more than pay off the study.”

Council Member Becky Erickson said she’d like to see a reduction in the amount of debt the city takes on, as well as the creation of an “urban campus,” consolidating all city services in one location.

The police department is currently sited in an old medical clinic. It recently went underwent a renovation.

Local developer David Smith encouraged the council not to abandon its project, and likened the city hall’s revitalization effect on downtown to the federal government’s Wall Street bailout plan. He said it is up to the city to lead Poulsbo away from economic depression.

“If they’re afraid to embark on the future and continue and invest and improve our community, why is anybody else going to?” he asked. “We’ve got to ivest in our downtown redevelopment program to save it. City hall is key to that.”

Smith has played a key role in the development of the Poulsbo Place neighborhood, near downtown.

“We need to lead and move forward and show that we’re convinced that there is a future for downtown Poulsbo,” he said. “The best way to do that is step right up to the plate and get that thing built.”

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