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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Where Will Money Come From To Operate Mirabeau?

Next month, the organizers of Mirabeau Point will take folks from the Spokane Valley Senior Center on a tour of Mirabeau’s 70-acre campus, where a new senior center is to be built.

“I have a couple of places I want to show them,” said Denny Ashlock, Mirabeau founder. “That really is going to be kind of fun.”

It does sound like fun - especially compared to wrestling with an elephant of a decision that Ashlock and other project supporters face.

Where will the money come from to operate and maintain this ambitious civic complex?

Tax money? User fees? Grants? Some combination?

One county official cautions that the operating budget for the project could run more than $500,000 a year.

“The project is getting very close to becoming a public project,” Wyn Birkenthal told the county Parks Advisory Committee earlier this month.

Birkenthal is manager of the county Parks and Recreation Department; his annual maintenance budget for all county parks is $770,000.

Birkenthal said that maintaining three or four first-class buildings - the senior center, planetarium, performing arts center and community complex with classrooms - and the surrounding landscaping could run $700,000 a year.

A public role at Mirabeau seems inevitable. When the Legislature appropriated $1.5 million this past session for design and site development at Mirabeau Point, it couldn’t hand the money directly to the private, non-profit organization promoting the project. Instead, Spokane County was the legal recipient of that money.

“Look around,” said Birkenthal. “You don’t see projects like this except when they’re public ones.”

County commissioners have asked their attorney to research options on how the county’s role might evolve. There are at least three options, depending on how much involvement commissioners decide they want, said Jim Emacio, county attorney.

One of those would be to establish a public-private partnership, with county ownership of much of the complex.

Another option could be for the commissioners to take over the project, designing and building it themselves.

Third, they could create a public development authority to operate Mirabeau. Such a group could not raise tax money, but could sell bonds.

Mirabeau trustees must develop a master plan for the complex, Ashlock said.

Along with that, they must determine sources for maintenance and operating funds. He estimated that work will be done within the next four months.

, DataTimes

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