Build community center with dollars and sense
October 2, 2013
Last week the Sammamish City Council showed a lot of good sense surrounding the community center’s potential $4 million cost overrun, and some seemingly contradictory opinions are correct.
Councilmen Ramiro Valderrama and Tom Odell were right when they said it would be disingenuous to remove the cost of the parking lot and ring road from the project budget.
Just because Congress pays for wars by shifting costs to different budgets doesn’t mean Sammamish needs to get any similar ideas for shell games. Paying for the needed improvements out of a different budget doesn’t save any money, it only serves to obscure the true cost of the project.
Engaging in such shenanigans erodes public trust. It’s all taxpayer money – whether it comes from the left or right pocket. Leave the parking structure in the budget.
Councilwoman Nancy Whitten was right when she said the city should pay the extra money and complete the whole center the right way. The money is there. Every piece removed from the center means another group of people who won’t be as interested in using it.
For the center to be successful, it must appeal to a broad base of residents. This is not the time to be choosing whether to fund a slide for the pool. Adding extras later will inevitably cost more than putting them in the first time around.
As Whitten said, the city only gets one chance at this, and nickel and diming it is not productive.
She was only right up to a point, though.
Valderrama suggested the council needs to have a discussion about how high the costs can go before the council pulls the plug on the project. He’s right about that, but the council needs to be cautious.
If the council does set a firm number, then that number effectively becomes the community center’s new budget — and big projects have a way of using all the money allocated to them.
In the end, it will come down to what’s more important, the amenities or the money. The city has the money. Why not use it for the dream community center that was promised?