Twin Cities Projects Get Millions in State Capital Budget


The much anticipated renovations at Penny Playground and other aspects of Recreation Park in Chehalis appear to have the green light following the passage of the 2019-2021 state capital budget which includes a total of $1.1 million in funding for the project.

Chehalis applied for and received a $500,000 grant via the Local Parks arm of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. State Rep Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, inserted and advocated for a $258,000 request for the effort into the capital budget itself.

The city also received $350,000 in the form of a Youth Athletic Facilities grant by the state Recreation and Conservation Office. City staff were not optimistic their application for the latter program had ranked high enough going into the budget process to receive funding.

“The credit on that project getting funded should to go (Chehalis Recreation Manager) Lilly Wall,” DeBolt said. “She came up to Olympia, testified and worked hard on it. When you have someone willing to be that kind of leader on a project, it makes it a lot easier, and I thought she was excellent.”

City staff and the Chehalis Foundation have partnered on a plan to update the park, which includes Penny Playground, a number of ballfields and miles of pedestrian pathways. Plans call for the construction of a new, more durable and inclusive playground, installation of turf infields on the baseball and softball diamonds, and upgrades to the lighting, play surfaces and drainage systems.

A commemorative ceremony is planned for noon on May 19, where community members and stakeholders will open a time capsule buried when the original playground was constructed in 1994. The Centralia Coal Transition Boards of TransAlta recently awarded a combined $350,000 to the project for lighting and the creation of American Disabilities Act-compliant walkways. City Manager Jill Anderson said Monday that there are lingering concerns about when an anticipated $500,000 in federal funding will be made available, but the extra $350,000 from the state will help offset such a delay.

Centralia City Council members recently expressed support for the city taking out a loan of $750,000 or so in order to cover the gap between secured funds and additional monies yet to be raised.

“I do believe this news allows us to confirm we can start construction this summer,” Anderson said. We’ll have to figure out what components, if any, need their timing adjusted until we get the commitment of the federal dollars. We’ll bring an update to the (city) council soon with loan documents as we’re able to fully digest the budget and understand if there’s any adjustments needed to the timing. We should be able to account and adjust for those appropriately.”

Both of the Twin Cities will make out about as well as expected when the new biennial budget takes effect July 1. Other Chehalis entities to receive capital funding include the Veterans Memorial Museum ($123,000), the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds ($103,000) and the Southwest Washington Dance Center ($62,000).

Centralia’s largest recipients of capital funding include the nonprofit spearheading restoration of the Fox Theatre, which received $1 million toward the final stages of the reconstruction slated to finish in 2020, and $493,000 for restoration work and safety upgrades to Greenwood Memorial Park. 

Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill last week allowing a public body such as the City of Centralia to apply for permission to enter an abandoned cemetery for the purpose of facilitating normal operations such as visitation and maintenance work. City Manager Rob Hill had hoped for a last-minute amendment to the current budget, set to expire at the end of June, to unlock a portion of those funds for use prior to Memorial Day. He stated his thanks and appreciation for the work of DeBolt and state Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, in successfully pushing for a solution to a long-running problem.

Hill added that he’s been getting a deluge of calls and emails from residents asking how to volunteer or contribute to community efforts to rehabilitate the dilapidated burial ground.

“We’ve all been so focused on getting the legislation passed, so now we need to determine what comes next,” Hill said. “We need to have a plan I can bring back to the city council on May 14 and get the council’s recommendation as to how to proceed. It’s all been informal — we’ve been nodding our heads and they’ve been supportive as we’ve kept them up to date, but there’s never been a formal action taken as to what we’re committing to.”

One request that received funding, but which is unlikely to become visible to Centralia residents in the near future, is a $750,000 ask by state Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, and Cascade Mental Health. Braun and the nonprofit sought funding for preliminary site and design work on an inpatient and detox facility for persons with substance abuse issues.

Braun said the money would be used to fund exploration of different sites, study potential partnerships between local agencies and other behind the scenes work that would need to take place before concrete plans are formed.

“I would liken it to the treatment center just finished by Cascade Mental Health,” Braun said. “That took awhile, but it’s a similar process. I think it’s a good thing and I advocated for it strongly, because I think it’s important we have that sort of facility so that folks with those challenges can get the treatments they need while still being close to family, friends, their own doctors, and the like.”