MLT Civic Center: making sense of it all

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By Nick Fiorillo, Editor-in-Chief

Absence of funds, out-of-date facilities and the fact that the city of Mountlake Terrace doesn’t own its city hall are all reasons why Propositon 1 is back on the ballot. The city is again trying to pass Proposition 1 to provide funding for a new Civic Center. The vote will take place early next month.

The Civic Center Proposition would create a new city hall, an extension of the police station, and a community center for citizens to use.

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This is the third time the city has tried to pass the bond measure – this time asking for $25 million. In the last vote, the proposition received a 57 percent approval, but failed to get the required 60 percent approval to pass under state law. The total cost to taxpayers, the city predicts, would be $43 million. It will eventually be paid off in the year 2063. This would make city property owners’ taxes raise by an average of $10.13 per month.

The opponents of Proposition 1 think the cost to tax payers it far too much, given these tough economic times.

In a letter to the editor sent to MLTnews.com, Proposition 1 Opponent Margaret Loiseau said, “the Civic Center proposal has twice failed at the polls because it is yet another property tax increase and because it is far larger than necessary.”

If the bond measure fails, two things could happen. Given that the city will run out of funding to continue to rent the interim city hall beginning in 2014, the city will need to find a different source of funds.

The first option is to pass a property tax levy. This would need 50 percent of voter approval and would raise property taxes by $4.20 per month.

The city makes the case that this option would cost more than the Civic Center. By the end of the time it takes to pay off the Civic Center, the city estimates the rent payments would cost $61 million, $18 million more than the cost of the civic center.

The other option, if Proposition 1 failed, would be to cut services in order to raise enough funds to continue to rent the interim city hall. The city said these cuts would be drastic. Severe cuts would be placed on the police dept., parks and recreation, maintenance and funding for city events.

However, neither of these two alternatives to the Civic Center fully addresses the city’s problems. Funding is not the only problem with the current situation.

Several city facilities are not able to meet the growing demands of the city. The Civic Center would create many renovations and improvements to the city’s facilities. The other two options would not.

One of the facilities in the poorest condition is MLT’s 22 year-old police station. The police department (MTPD) has simply outgrown its current home.

Due to lack of space for offices, police officers have had to take some drastic measures. Officers are working in places that would not be considered a “good work environment.”

Previously, the police department had two holding cells for suspects. One of the two had to be transformed into an office. Several patrol officers are now using the former cell to process evidence.

The entire detectives’ wing has been essentially pushed into a closet. The four detectives all work in one confined space.

Terrace police said that their facilities have resulted in many problems for the department. The main concern is safety issues. The police department has had to change certain arrangements that have resulted in a less safe facility.

One of these is the how prisoners are transferred. The current facility does not allow for this process to be as safe as the department would like.

Several of the MTPD detectives said privacy is also a large issue. In a place where confidentiality is key, privacy is absent. Private conversations are nearly impossible to have, since so many individuals are trying to work in such a small space. The civic center issue is one that has strong voices of support from both sides.

Whatever the outcome, the election will have a significant impact on Mountlake Terrace.

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