Despite being snubbed by Gov. Gary Locke this week, leaders of the effort to secure $1.8 million in state money to pay for Mirabeau Point design work are not discouraged.
“We believe as the budget goes through the rest of the Legislature we may very well be considered,” said Denny Ashlock, the Valley insurance agent who is chairman of Mirabeau Point, Inc., the non-profit corporation planning the multi-purpose community center complex on the old Walk in the Wild zoo site.
Locke announced his capital budget proposal for the 1997-99 biennium Tuesday. Mirabeau Point was the only significant Spokane area project that was excluded.
“There’s a lot of the process left,” Ashlock said Thursday. “I have yet to see a governor’s budget that doesn’t get modified.”
The Senate is expected to propose its version of the state budget March 24. The House will unveil its proposal soon after that.
Sen. Bob McCaslin, R-Spokane Valley, has been among Mirabeau Point’s backers in Olympia. Like Ashlock, McCaslin was not discouraged by Locke’s decision and planned to continue searching for money for Mirabeau Point.
“I don’t look at anything as a setback,” McCaslin said. “We have a long session ahead of us. Not all is lost.”
Rep. Larry Crouse, R-Spokane Valley, who prefers finding tax exemptions for Mirabeau Point rather than pumping state money into the project, echoed McCaslin’s sentiments.
“We’re the ones that vote on the budget,” Crouse said. “(Locke) can propose anything he wants. We’re the ones that set the agenda around here.”
McCaslin said he is going to send Locke a letter asking him to reconsider including Mirabeau Point in the budget.
Attractions at the proposed 70-acre community center complex could include an aquatics center, an ice arena, play fields, community meeting rooms, a nature trail, planetarium and amphitheater. The project is expected to cost $33 million.
Mirabeau Point backers tried to sell the project as a regional draw during a January trip to Olympia. However, time limitations forced them to target legislators and may have hurt their chances with Locke, Ashlock said. Mirabeau Point, Inc. is run by volunteers and has not been back to the capital.
Ashlock hopes to set up a meeting during the next several weeks with Dick Thompson, whom Locke appointed as director of the state’s office of financial management, to discuss the project.
“They need to really see the vision about what we’re talking about,” Ashlock said.
That vision has slowly begun to take shape. Spokane County commissioners have already agreed to spend $1 million on infrastructure work at the site. Commissioners also have pledged $1.5 million toward construction of a senior center.
The YMCA has raised $2.2 million toward their $6 million facility planned at the Mirabeau Point complex. And, the Ice House at Mirabeau, a for-profit ice skating rink, is operating in a temporary building on the site with plans to build a new arena, also on the site.
The community complex is the only portion not funded, Ashlock said. Mirabeau Point, Inc. plans to seek $6.5 million in the next biennium for the community complex.
“Mirabeau is alive and well, and it’s going to be a neat project when it’s done,” Ashlock said.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Brian Coddington Staff writer Staff writer Chris Mulick contributed to this report.
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