Backers of a proposed community center in the Spokane Valley hope to get some financial help next year from the Legislature, but may again walk away with empty pockets.
The $27 million Mirabeau Point project is planned for the former Walk in the Wild Zoo site. The community center would include an ice-skating rink, nature trails and a multi-use building. The YMCA also plans to build on the site.
Supporters of the project were turned away at the Legislature this year. They had requested $275,000 for planning and design work, but the proposal never made it as far as a vote.
“They just came too late in the process this time,” Sen. Bob McCaslin said. The funding proposal was not floated until mid-February, about halfway through the short, 60-day legislative session.
But Mirabeau Point also ran up against a Republican-controlled state House that approved no money for similar local projects statewide.
“We knew going over over that it was going to be hard to get the money this year,” said Denny Ashlock, a Valley insurance agent who has taken a leadership role on the project.
Other Spokane projects, such as expansion of the convention center the Cheney Cowles Museum, were also left wanting when the Legislature passed its supplemental budget.
Ashlock said of the more than $20 million required to construct the project, over half the money is expected to come from private donations. But, the other half of the funds will have to come from the public sector.
Ashlock said the group is working now to figure out how much money it will need from the state. As soon as that number is derived, Ashlock said he will attempt to have the project included in the governor’s proposed budget for next year.
McCaslin said he will make getting funding for the project a major priority next session. “I’ll make every effort to get them funding,” McCaslin said. “It’s a great opportunity for the Valley.” McCaslin said that with money spent by the state to build a stadium for the Seattle Mariners and a convention center in King County, it’s about time for Spokane County taxpayers to get their fair share.
“How about Spokane County, don’t we deserve something?” McCaslin said. “Let’s balance this out.”
But the two House members from the Valley feel differently about the state providing money for the project.
Rep. Mark Sterk, R-Spokane Valley, said he would closely examine the project and ask why state money should pay for it before he signed on.
“If there’s money being spent, Spokane should get its fair share, but the days of bringing home pork are over,” Sterk said.
Rep. Larry Crouse, R-Spokane Valley, said he does not believe the state should help fund local projects such as Mirabeau Point.
“I’d like to see the state not be a player in this,” Crouse said. “I’d like to see us do it ourselves.
“It’s hard to say no to the projects from other districts when you bring home your own.”
Crouse said all the money required could be raised locally.
“If we need to float local bonds for this, let the people vote on it,” Crouse said. “The project would benefit our district but not the rest of the state, we should pay for it with local money.”
County Commissioner Steve Hasson said the county will be ready to ante up money for the project when the time comes, but he said he would not ask for state funds.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Drawing
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