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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Plenty of projects vie for state money

Richard Roesler Staff writer

OLYMPIA – Among the many things state lawmakers do – changing laws, writing a budget, helping people with government-related problems – is this: They hand out money.

Every two years, the state allocates hundreds of millions of dollars for building or renovating schools, college buildings, museums, community centers, parks and ball fields. The most recent version of the new list – the one drawn up last month by former Gov. Gary Locke – proposed about $2.9 billion in projects.

Spokane-area groups and colleges have come up with their own wish list, which seeks hundreds of millions of dollars for construction work. Some projects have already begun with donations or previous government grants.

Inevitably, that list will be pared down by state lawmakers, warned Rep. Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane, vice chairman of the House committee that deals with construction-budget requests.

“We’ve got folks clamoring for smaller government. We’ve got a spending limit. It’s a situation where folks have to prioritize what they want to do,” he said.

Ormsby said it helps, however, if a project is a boost to the state’s soft economy.

“I think that’s the first test,” he said. Local support – letters, e-mails or calls to lawmakers – also improve a project’s odds of making the final cut.

Here are some of the local projects vying for government dollars this year:

Community projects

The Emmanuel Center: $400,000 toward the construction of 17,000-square-foot center to help connect families with social services and to help them work toward financial self-sufficiency, according to proponent Lonnie Mitchell, pastor of Spokane’s Bethel AME Church.

Fox Theater: $4.5 million to complete construction work and reopen the 1931 art deco theater by 2006.

West Central Community Center: $500,000 to help build a 10,000-square-foot expansion and remodel another 5,000 square feet. The work would allow the center to provide child care, early childhood education, women’s health care and job preparation programs for low-income families.

Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture: $250,000 for restoration including chimney, painting, sewer and sandstone work on the historic Campbell House. Also seeking $156,000 to renovate museum space to accommodate visiting school groups and improve access to American Indian exhibits.

Inland Northwest Science and Technology Center: $1.5 million for design work on the regional science center, which would cover about 80,000 square feet and include an IMAX theater at city property across the Spokane River from Riverfront Park.

Chewelah Peak Learning Center: $2.85 million for construction of a second 100-bed student dorm and a lab and classroom building at the environmental learning center, which opened a little more than a year ago.

Great Spokane River Gorge Project: $425,000 for design and construction work on a whitewater park on the river. The local nonprofit group Friends of the Falls says such a park could draw kayakers and floating and raft trips through the scenic area.

Sports complexes: New Spokane County Commissioner Todd Mielke – a former Olympia lobbyist – is trying to get money for infrastructure work at Avista Stadium, in an amount yet to be determined. And the Playfair Regional Sports Complex is also seeking money for a 50-acre, multiple-sport complex at the former Playfair Racetrack site recently purchased by the city of Spokane.

Armed Forces and Aerospace Museum: $2 million for construction of a nearly 24,000-square-foot building on the West Plains to house the nonprofit museum’s collection of 50,000 military documents and 7,000 artifacts including uniforms, medals, models and photographs.

Washington State University

Biotechnology Life Sciences Building: $57 million to build a new biotechnology center in Pullman, where students and researchers would study genes, proteins, bioengineering and cellular and molecular processes.

Tri-Cities bioproducts building: $13 million toward construction of a 57,000-square-foot lab and teaching building at WSU’s Tri-Cities campus. It would help come up with ways to convert crops and agricultural byproducts into more valuable consumer products such as making human insulin from barley.

Riverpoint Nursing Center: $31.6 million to build an 81,000-square-foot nursing school center at WSU’s Riverpoint campus. If this happens, the Community Colleges of Spokane wants to take over the current Intercollegiate School of Nursing building near Spokane Falls Community College.

Preservation and program work: $82 million for repairs and renovations. Among them: fixing roofs, remodeling classrooms, upgrading computer networks and repairing sidewalks. WSU says it has a $400 million backlog of such projects.

Eastern Washington University

Restoration work: $7 million to design work on Hargreaves Hall, the campus’s main walkways, Cheney Hall and other renovation work.

Patterson Hall: $2 million for design work to increase the capacity and flexibility of classroom space at one of Eastern’s largest academic buildings.

Preservation and program work: $26 million for renovations, including upgrading buildings to modern building codes.

Campus security: $2 million to “begin the installation of access controls and security equipment.”

Washington Street Boulevard: $5 million for design and construction work on the major car-and-pedestrian path that serves as the main north-south spine of Eastern’s campus.

Computer network upgrade: $1.5 million.

Community Colleges of Spokane

Business and social sciences building: $18.5 million to replace three 1967 buildings on the Spokane Falls Community College campus.

The new building will cover 67,000 square feet.

West wing of Old Main: $22.1 million to replace the vocational wing of Spokane Community College’s Old Main Building, built in 1955.

It houses the welding, machining, sheet metal, electrical and other technical teaching areas, and the college says it’s old, cramped and ill-suited for new technology.

New classroom/early learning center: $100,000 for predesign work on a new classroom building and an early learning center at Spokane Falls Community College.