The Centralia City Council approved a $4 million bond package that will fund a $1 million grant for restorations at the Fox Theatre and another $3 million in streetscaping at its regular meeting Tuesday.
“I struggled with this and I still struggle with this,” said councilor Peter Abbarno, during the discussion. “I don’t struggle with the $1 million to the Fox Theatre, because we have a dedicated revenue source through the LTAC and that’s how that is going to get paid back. I hear comments every single day about how bad our roads are and how bad our streets are. ... I wish this money was going to extend sewers for residential and commercial building, but I think there is a significant benefit to the streetscape.”
The second reading for the ordinance authorizing the issuance of Limited Tax General Obligation Bonds passed Tuesday, with only councilor Joyce Barnes opposing.
“Myself, again, I am not going to vote for this — I think it’s premature,” Barnes said. “If the Fred Meyer and center and all of that was still going in, I would feel differently about it. I think it’s sort of putting the cart before the horse on this, so I will be voting no.”
According to previous Chronicle reporting, Community Development Director Emil Pierson and City Manager Rob Hill proposed about 3.5 miles of streetscape work on six stretches of roads at a November 2018 Centralia City Council meeting. The streetscape will take place on the main roadways connecting downtown Centralia to Interstate 5.
“The thinking is that if we do some new construction and invest, we will … create more economic activity, which will generate more revenue which brings in other taxes that we can use for all these other things,” Hill said. “In this particular project, we are kind of at the eleventh hour here. We have been working on this and we were told to pretty much get with it and that’s what we have been doing.”
The city council approved a $67,470 contract with the SCJ Alliance for the design and planning phase of the project in February of this year, according to previous Chronicle reporting. Design and planning will take place over the next six months, with multiple community workshops and open houses to gather feedback from citizens.
Hill said during Tuesday’s meeting that the first meeting with SCJ was scheduled for Wednesday.
Abbarno noted that Harrison Avenue, Main and Mellen streets are not Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible. He said he believes the streetscape is an opportunity to fix that, and add bike lanes.
Councilor Susan Luond expressed concern for extending infrastructure and making the city accessible for developers to build homes.
“We have 350 jobs coming here in about three months,” said Luond, in reference to the UNFI grocery distribution center. “... some of them will commute in — some of them will, but a whole heck of a lot of them want to move into this area. We want them in our area, we want them shopping at our local areas, we want their support in our schools, we need them as our citizens so that they buy into what we’re offering.”
However, Luond voted in favor of the $4 million bond package to fund the $1 million grant for restorations at the Fox Theatre and the streetscaping, which is expected to cost approximately $3 million.
“I think as everyone knew, I’m not really that much for it, because there are so many other things that Centralia needs,” Luond said. “But, in saying that, the council voted to go that way and so I will support it because the council has made a decision. That’s the way they would like to see the city go.”
Councilor and mayor pro-tempore Max Vogt spoke in favor of the streetscape.
“I’m not worried about building and infrastructure,” Vogt said. “I believe the market is going to take care of that when the builders show up, and they want to build, and they’re demanding the land, and we have their commitment to spend money here.”