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Legislators debate funds for Lake Sylvia, Mary’s River Lumber

The city of Montesano would receive $2 million to help shore up the erosion problems near Mary’s River Lumber along the Chehalis River, under capital budget proposals making its way through the state House and Senate.

However, the plan to take a loan from the state to continue to fix up downtown Montesano is looking dim, as it’s not survived any of the proposed budgets, despite receiving initial approval from the state.

Montesano Mayor Ken Estes says that the city had intended to start work in 2014 to do a massive road repair project and to generally spruce up downtown, relying on a combination of Trust Fund loans and city funds. The plan was to use $560,340 to reconstruct Church Street and its roadway, sidewalks and utilities from East Broadway Avenue to East Pioneer Avenue.

Montesano also intended to spend $371,320 to resurface Wynooche Avenue from South Main Street to South Sylvia Street and $745,660 to remove and replace a failed roadway at Pioneer Avenue from South Church Street to South Academy Street.

“It really doesn’t make sense,” Estes said. “We were looking to actually pay this money back. This was not a grant. It was a loan. But they strip away the money to allow the state to make loans?”

Estes stressed that work will continue on Main Street as planned this summer. Those designs are being worked on and will include bulb outs and other features. However, Estes was hoping for state funds to continue the work next year.

Meantime, the city of Elma looks like it will receive $670,000 to rehabilitate North 3rd Street in Elma. The city did qualify for a Public Works Trust Fund loans to do the project.

Although the House and Senate budgets have similar proposals, there are some differences and all spending plans must be approved by both chambers and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee before spending is approved.

Notable is in the House version, $181,000 has been allocated to repair the dam at Lake Sylvia State Park, but that’s not in the Senate version.

“This project will inspect and repair or replace the drainage valve and drain line for the Lake Sylvia Dam,” the project description states. “The valve provides a controlled draining of the lake during emergencies caused by extreme weather. Valve failure could cause spontaneous draining of the lake or extreme downstream residence flooding.”

There’s also $1 million to be allocated for the Port of Grays Harbor to fix up the 28th St. Landing. Those funds don’t exist in the Senate version.

The House would also give $525,000 to renovate the Levee Street Boat Launch in the city of Hoquiam. That’s not in the Senate version, either.

The House would allocate $750,000 for Fish & Wildlife to remove two fish passage barriers and replace two culverts with a bridge, restoring fish passage to 3.1 miles at Beaver Creek in the John’s River Wildlife Area. Fish & Wildlife would also get $100,000 to remove a culvert on a tributary to the Wynooche River.

Neither legislative budget is including funds to help the city of Aberdeen fix its sewer plant. Although the city had received a tentative approval of a $1.675 million loan, the funds were cut back in December and never restored.

Grays Harbor College is already moving forward with construction on its new building, which will house all the physical and life science, nursing, natural resources, mathematics and art programs. The college recently submitted its designs and plans to the city of Aberdeen to receive permit approval. At this point, the House has allocated nearly $43 million for the new building. The Senate, meantime, has allocated $40.1 million. And Inslee’s proposed budget had recommended $47.2 million for the project.

College President Ed Brewster said the true cost for the new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Building is closer to Inslee’s budget, noting it should cost $46.543 million, as provided to the college by professional estimators during their design process.

“The design for this building was finished two years ago, but construction was delayed, due to a lack of capacity at that time in the state capital budget,” Brewster said. “As a result of that delay, we have already spent thousands of additional dollars to update the estimates and plans. The Senate budget cuts our building funding by 14 percent and the House by 8 percent. In either funding scenario, we will need to redesign the building, possibly reducing the functional scope. That will result in delays in construction and will increase the design cost, leaving less for construction, and less of a building. Our community deserves full funding of our new building to prepare our workforce for the current and emerging STEM jobs with up to date labs and technology. Our science labs were built in the 1950s and need to be replaced. I hope that the legislature finds a way to support the STEM needs of our community by fully funding this building.”

The Chehalis Basin Flood Authority is slated to receive $28.202 million in both the Senate and House versions of the budget, although there was a brief scare on the Senate side, which had originally sought to cut the request by $4 million.

State Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, and state Sen.John Brain, R-Centralia, successfully pushed through an amendment last Thursday to restore the funds.

“I think it was a mistake to begin with,” Hatfield said. “We’ve noticed a few other things have been left out of the budget, as well.”

Flood Authority Chair Vickie Raines said she was hoping it would all work out. Raines has been meeting with legislators for months to ensure the Flood Authority received funding for its proposed projects, including erosion control for Mary’s River Lumber, repairs at Mill Creek Dam in Cosmopolis and elsewhere in the basin.

“I am so thrilled with the way things are looking,” Mayor Estes said. “It’s been a long time coming for all of us.”

Both budgets agreed to the following, which will likely move forward unless other cuts are proposed:

• $265,000 for repairs at Stafford Creek Prison

• $289,000 for a new “comfort station” at Westhaven State Park in Westport as well as parking improvements

• $529,000 for a new welcome center at Pacific Beach State Park

• $113,000 to do more work at Sam Benn Park in Aberdeen

• $400,000 to improve vehicle parking at the National Guard post near Montesano. There’s also unspecified funds to do roof repairs at the building there.

• Nearly $1.4 million for Grays Harbor College to repair its roof, make site repairs and do preservation work around its existing campus.

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