Nearly $40 million in funding has been provided to organizations and local governments in the 20th Legislative District as part of the long-awaited passage of the state capital budget on Thursday.
Democrats and Republicans finally came to an agreement after the budget stalled in the previous legislative session, and now dozens of local groups are set to benefit from an infusion of state funding.
That budget includes $4.8 million for a major renovation at the Centralia’s National Guard Readiness Center, $299,000 for the Centralia Fox Theatre renovation, $618,000 for a Southwest Washington agricultural business park near Tenino, $1.03 million for the Discover! Children’s Museum in Chehalis, $1 million for Valley View Health Centers, $1.5 million for industrial infrastructure development in Winlock, $200,000 for the Boys and Girls Club of Chehalis, $26,000 for the Rochester Boys and Girls Club, $283,000 for the White Pass Country Historical Museum, $80,000 for an Onalaska Fire District building, $401,000 for development of a safe, multi-use crossing for the Willapa Trail on state Route 6, $4.3 million for 128 new beds at the Maple Lane correctional center in Grand Mound and $3.3 million for security upgrades and building improvements at Green Hill School, among several other projects.
The $299,000 provided to the Centralia Fox Theatre will be used for the next phase of exterior restoration. It will fund repairs to the east, north and west exterior walls of the building and will also pay for the restored entrance plaza to the theater.
“That’s the really exciting part,” Scott White, with Fox Theatre restorations, said. “We’ll have a beautiful entrance plaza under the marquee to sort of finish the look for the restored front of the theater.”
The Fox received about $250,000 in a previous supplemental budget that allowed the group to repair one of the walls and the roof and install a HVAC system. The project will be completed during the spring prior to the start of the next phase.
The improvements overall will cost about $620,000, so White said the group will pursue a private foundation grant for the remainder of the money. He thanked Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, who he said was instrumental in securing the funding.
“It’s just exciting to see the community support and the support of the Legislature,” White said. “Richard DeBolt was very instrumental for getting that money for us and I think a lot of the other dollars in our areas, so we are thankful to him and the other local legislators who are helping and supporting the Fox Theatre.”
As for the Boys and Girls Club of Chehalis, the organization received $200,000 through the capital budget, which will go toward the construction cost of the $1.3 million facility that was completed last year.
The club, which opened in September 2017, currently has 200 members and 140 kids on the waiting list. On average, it serves around 94 kids a day.
“Politics has gotten really crazy over the last 18 months,” Chris Sampson, executive director of the club, said. “The fact they were able to meet in the middle of the aisle and work that out so organizations like us that have money in the budget have access to that, we are just thankful for that.”
The budget also includes $60 million for the Office of the Chehalis River Basin, which is spearheading efforts to mitigate flooding and enhance aquatic species habitat in the second-largest river basin in the state.
The $4.2 billion capital budget includes projects across the state focused on infrastructure and community projects.
“Everyone in our community knows far too well the devastating toll major flooding events have on personal safety, property and our local economy,” said Braun, R-Centralia. “I’m pleased we were able to secure $60 million toward advancing our long-term strategy to reduce the impacts of flood damage in the Chehalis River basin.”
According to a press release from Braun, the biggest ticket item includes $1 billion toward the state’s School Construction Assistance Program, “the largest investment in state history.” The fund is aimed at building new schools or improving existing ones.
“Providing more classrooms will help schools implement our investments in reducing the class size for students in kindergarten through third grade,” said Braun. “While we’ve allocated money to pay for the operational costs, it’s clear some districts need assistance building new schools or expanding existing buildings.”
For the Chehalis School District, the delay in a capital budget pushed back the construction time and increased costs for one of two new elementary schools.
The district is now expected to receive $24,195,579 in School Construction Assistance Program funds through the capital budget, which includes $12,491,175 for James Lintot Elementary and $11.704,404 for the Orin Smith Elementary.
The delay led to a $600,000 increase for the construction of one OF the schools.
Superintendent Ed Rothlin stated the Orin Smith intermediate school that will house grades three through five now has a mid-year or early spring move-in date.
Originally, the move-in date was scheduled for this summer to correspond with the James Lintott primary school that will house preschool through second grade.
“It’s a relief we can get started,” Rothlin said. “We’ve been very anxious and honestly we anticipated this. We were prepared and we are out to bid today. All of our ducks are in a row and we wanted to be the first ones out in line.”
Since the capital budget was delayed, Rothlin said the process is “more of a startover than a person would think,” but he said the district found some advantages as well.
“It’s good though because we are building of course two elementaries and they’re mirror images of one another, so over time we found things that need to be corrected and that can now be inserted into these drawings and bid process,” Rothlin said.
The James Lintott Elementary School is currently on schedule. A move-in date is tentatively planned toward the end of June.
Changes focus more so on the structural components of the school like vents, electrical and plumbing.
Now with Orin Smith Elementary School out to bid, the district will open the bids it receives on Feb. 15. From there, a contract will be awarded once the company’s construction background and experience is evaluated.
Because of increased construction costs, several items may be included as alternatives, such as a soccer field behind the schools and various upgrades to the heating and cooling systems.
Through the proposed bid alternative the projects would only be included if enough funding is available.
DeBolt, who was involved in negotiating the capital budget, said in a press release he was happy with the finished product.
“We hammered out a good agenda in 2017 with well thought out priorities and financing for the state’s infrastructure needs,” DeBolt said in a news release. “The real challenge with the delay on the approval was to ensure everything stayed in place. We made heavy investments in education and boosted our mental health care net. With the exception of a few minor changes, I’m happy to say we were able to keep this list for the state’s infrastructure priorities in place. It’s a good plan for Washington.”
Look in upcoming editions of The Chronicle for stories on the major projects funded by the capital budget. The Chronicle will also seek to include a list of 19th Legislative District projects in Tuesday’s edition.