Council to hold special meeting tonight to consider moving City Hall

February 7, 2011

By Tim Pfarr

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UPDATED — 4 p.m. Feb. 7, 2011

The City Council will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. today in Council Chambers, 13020 Newcastle Way, to consider moving City Hall to the second floor of the Newcastle Professional Center, 12835 Newcastle Way.

The meeting is open to the public, but there will be no opportunity for public comment.

The City Council voted 4-3 at its Feb. 1 meeting to allow City Manager Rob Wyman to sign a lease with the Newcastle Professional Center. If Wyman signs the lease, the city would need to move to the 7,500-quare-foot space by the end of the year. The move would cost about $250,000.

The city’s lease with current landlord Jim Denton expires at the end of the year.

At the Feb. 1 meeting, the council considered a spreadsheet detailing the costs of staying and moving, as well as a draft of the proposed lease with the Newcastle Professional Center.*

However, Denton sent a representative to the meeting who testified that the data presented to the council about the cost of renewing the existing lease was not accurate.

Although the council voted to allow Wyman to sign the lease agreement with the professional center, Wyman said he would call a special meeting if he received another offer from Denton.

Denton submitted a new written offer to the city Feb. 4, in which he offered to move his business, Newport Manufacturing, out of the building and allow the city to use both floors of the building. That would increase its square footage from 8,000 to 16,000 square feet. Denton also offered to assist with the cost of repairing the building and remodeling the bottom floor.

Wyman will proceed with signing the lease with the Newcastle Professional Center unless one who voted in favor of the Feb. 1 vote retracts his or her support of the move.

City staff recommended at the Feb. 1 meeting that City Hall make the move to the new building, and Wyman said it was the condition of the current facility that prompted the recommendation.

At the current location, the outside stairs need to be replaced, and people often trip on protruding nails, he said. Also, the wheelchair lift needs to be repaired or replaced.

Inside, a wall must be repaired or replaced, and tears in the carpet trip employees

“We have a significant number of people who almost face-plant around City Hall on a regular basis,” Wyman said.

It would cost about $100,000 to make the pertinent repairs to the building Wyman said; Denton offered to pay for half.

If City Hall makes the move, it would need to remodel part of its new home. Council Chambers would also be moved.

The new building would include “hot desks” at which any King County Sheriff’s deputy could file reports while in the area. The sheriff’s office would pay about $17,000 annually for the space.

The new City Hall would also be full service, meaning utilities and some operational costs — such as garbage collection and janitorial services — would be included in the monthly rent. The parking lot would include 27 spaces for employees and visitors during working hours, and as many as 63 spaces for after-hours City Council meetings.

Overflow parking would be at Valley Medical Center, 7203 129th Ave. S.E., which would provide about 20 more parking spaces.

City Hall now has 17 spaces in its parking lot and about 20 overflow spaces available at Precision Auto Craft east of City Hall.

Councilmen Rich Crispo and Bill Erxleben and Councilwoman Carol Simpson dissented in the Feb. 1 vote to allow Wyman to sign the lease.

Crispo said voting against the move was simply a matter of priorities. He said it would be more beneficial to residents to use the money it would for the move for things such as additional street maintenance.

Simpson said a $250,000 moving bill was simply too hard to swallow.

However, Deputy Mayor Steve Buri said it would be a good time to make the move, given the economy.

“Ultimately, it’s a question of whether it’s a sensible investment,” he said. “This is not just an additional expenditure.”

Councilwoman Lisa Jensen said that the new location would bring more people to City Hall, as Newcastle Dentistry patients would pass by it on their way to their appointments on the third floor.

Councilman Sonny Putter said the move would give the city a more professional look, as he said some have commented that City Hall looks temporary.

“For too long, we’ve felt like this city is a temporary city,” he said.

City staff also considered other alternatives to the city’s lease, such as constructing a new building, which it considered to be too expensive. Wyman said there was no other office space available in the city.

To pay for the $250,000 move, city staff brought forward two options. Both options call for a $25,000 draw from the city’s Surface Water Management capital projects fund. One calls for the remaining $225,000 to come from the Real Estate Excise Tax fund, and the other calls for it to come from the city’s cumulative reserve, which requires a supermajority of two-thirds of the council to use.

Excise taxes from home sales fund the REET fund. It is typically used to fund transportation projects, such as road maintenance and sidewalk construction. If the city were to use this money to pay for the move, the REET fund would run out of money in 2013, according to the city’s projections.

If the city were not to fund the project using the REET fund, the REET fund would dry up in 2014.

Wyman said the city’s projections are very conservative, but if the REET fund were to run out of money, the city would need to cut back on capital projects or transfer money to it from a different city fund.

The city’s cumulative reserve fund has $1.5 million. It is reserved for capital purchases or unforeseen operating costs. The city has never drawn money from the fund to pay for capital purchases.

*This story contains corrected information

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