They faced long odds in January, but supporters of a Spokane Valley community center complex are likely to get $1.5 million in state start-up money.
Lawmakers also say that’s all the Mirabeau Point project will get, and the remaining $8.5 million still needed for the $35 million project will have to be raised privately.
“The monkey is really on our backs now,” said Denny Ashlock, chairman of Mirabeau Point Inc., a nonprofit organization planning the facility.
The multiuse education and entertainment complex will be located west of the new Spokane Valley Mall. Plans call for an ice arena, classrooms, an aquatics center, a planetarium and an amphitheater.
On Monday both houses passed a capital budget proposal that had been negotiated by a House and Senate conference committee. The budget now goes to Gov. Gary Locke, who could choose to delete some projects.
The budget also contains $17.5 million for a legal offender unit at Eastern State Hospital, $1.9 million for planning of an addition to the Cheney Cowles Museum, and more than $500,000 for planning of an Eastern Washington Archives Building. The Joint Center for Higher Education received almost $1.4 million and Spokane Community College received almost $700,000, both for new health sciences facilities.
But the Mirabeau Point project was a surprise, mostly because it didn’t run the process similar projects do. Prior to the conference committee, Mirabeau Point wasn’t included in any House budget, while senators put it in their supplemental budget.
Lawmakers normally want projects that aren’t of statewide significance, such as Mirabeau Point, to undergo a competitive process overseen by the state’s Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development.
But Ashlock said he was unaware of the process. Barry Sehlin, an Oak Harbor Republican and chairman of the House Capital Budget Committee, said he didn’t even receive a proposal to consider and has only known of the project for about a month.
The project was kept alive in the Senate by Bob McCaslin, R-Spokane Valley, who has said he wouldn’t vote for the operating and capital budgets unless Mirabeau Point was included.
Spokane’s Jim West, the Senate’s top budget-writer, said that isn’t why he provided the planning money.
“Every project has to rise and fall on its merits,” West said. “It would be a shame to lose the project because it hadn’t been properly processed.”
Sehlin had mixed feelings about giving money to the project but said he was eventually convinced of its importance.
Though the budget states there will be no further state money for Mirabeau Point, Ashlock said he may ask anyway.
“We’d like to leave the door open for that,” he said.
Ashlock believes lawmakers will better understand the project as it takes shape.
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