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$82M replacement of GA Building looks like hard sell in Senate

Post by Brad Shannon / The Olympian on April 11, 2013 at 3:41 pm | No Comments »
April 11, 2013 3:41 pm
Sen. Jim Honeyford
Sen. Jim Honeyford
Sen. Karen Fraser
Sen. Karen Fraser

The Senate’s capital budget author Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, says that a House plan to replace the state General Administration building with a new structure next door is a no-go for him – at least this year. But he also said it could be a topic for negotiation when the House and Senate start talks to reconcile their rival $3.6 billion capital-construction budgets in the next week.

“For me I think it’s a nonstarter until we have a full plan for what to do with the State Library and the Archives,’’ Honeyford said before today’s Senate Ways and Means Committee meeting at which the Senate version of the capital budget [Senate Bill 5435]passed on a voice vote.

Honeyford said he understands there are concerns about the building, which a former governor called a legal liability, and he said he had not been inside it for a few years.

Democratic Sen. Karen Fraser of Thurston County said she was encouraged to hear of Honeyford’s continuing interest in the State Library and Archives, which she had sought to incorporate several years ago into a new Heritage Center project at the site of the existing GA Building.

“I think that makes a lot of sense,’’ she said of the GA replacement proposal outlined Wednesday by House Capital Budget Committee chairman Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish. “The GA building is basically falling apart and studies show it would cost more to fix it up than replace it.’’

The Heritage project is dead for now but knocking down the GA structure would open a place for it.

As outlined by Dunshee, the replacement building would go in the adjacent block now housing a two-story building and parking garage, both of which are in disrepair, at 1063 Capitol Way. The State Patrol and other GA tenants would move into the new structure allowing demolition of GA.

Fraser said the existing GA structure is a “lousy work environment” and lighting is bad. She declined to commit to a hard push to get the replacement funded this year but said “the basic concept is good.” Fraser said that expanding state buildings on the north side or downtown side of the Capitol Campus is also good for business in the down town.

Like the House, the Senate apparently has concern about the 1063 building, which used to house a children’s museum. Its roof is reported to have leaks and the Senate budget includes $100,000 of “predesign” money to assess what would be needed to rehabilitate the existing structure. But that is far short of the $18 million in bonds the House would allocate for the $82 million project.

“It’s all going to come down to negotiations,’’ Honeyford said. He said that after its passage in committee he expected SB 5435 will sit – until the House and Senate can hash out an agreed-to compromise.

The vote on SB 5435 today drew 12 senators signing in to recommend the Senate pass it, and nine more who signed in to forward it to the Senate without recommendation – most of them Democrats.

Although our past posts have listed many projects in the House or Senate versions of the capital budget, we overlooked a few.

Among them:

–$241,000 is in both budgets for the Olympia-based Safeplace women’s domestic violence program, which is building a new facility.

–$1.285 million is in the Senate plan for water projects for the Thurston Public Utilities District.

— The House has $1 million to help the non-profit Behavioral Health Resources agency to secure new space near its Martin Way complex. The Senate has just $163,000 – contrary to our previous report that the Senate did not appear to fund it.

–Both budgets have millions of dollars for various Capitol Campus repairs, including some funds for a new key card system for employees to get into buildings.

–The Senate has $6.7 million for facilities preservation at The Evergreen State College and $4.95 million for each of two campus projects.

–The Senate has more than$1.5 million for repairs and preservation projects at South Puget Sound Community college, while the House allows $5 million for renovation of the new Lacey campus buildings the college recently won approval to buy.

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