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The time is right for a new Bothell City Hall | Letter
Letter to the editor
During my campaign for city council last year, I was often asked if I supported the effort for a new city hall for Bothell. My response now, as it was then, is yes. Just one look at our current city hall and the operational costs required to keep this 75-year-old building safe and viable tells us that it is time for our city to provide a better and safer environment for its employees, who are currently spread across multiple buildings, as well as provide a gathering point and city center for all of our citizens and visitors.
Therefore, I support the vote our city council took to move forward with this project. With that vote, however, there is still work for our council and city manager to do to make a new city center a reality that brings us together, and we need their ongoing leadership with innovative ideas to unite Bothell behind it. I would describe the need for their attention in two areas: cost and character.
Cost - We need their work to find the very lowest cost while still building the quality of structure that will serve Bothell for the remainder of the 21st century. Last year we spent more than $200,000 to repair leaks and mold in our existing city hall. Our city staff does not need to work in a ‘palace’ but we can and will do better. Let’s stop further operational costs like these spent on city buildings that are failing and instead make long-term investments in Bothell’s future. There have been eight years of meetings and much debate about our city center and further delay will increase construction and interest costs even more. With that said, we need our city manager and his staff to find ways to finance the project that will minimize long-term debt. We do not want our debt ratios and bond rating to be compromised.
Here are a few of my ideas and I’m sure there are many others:
Can we build a parking structure as part of this project that will serve visitors and citizens coming to downtown Bothell and also provide ongoing revenue?
Can we write leases for retail and office space that maximize current, potential revenue while giving flexibility and capacity as Bothell’s city staff grows in the coming decades?
Let’s encourage private investment in this project wherever possible and look for interesting new retail concepts on this site that will minimize capital costs, accelerate our growth and attract more visitors. Also, by making this decision now we increase the chance of maximizing the return on the sale of the Dawson Building and other city properties as we consolidate, to offset the initial cost of this new facility.
Character - We, as Bothell citizens, are proud of our city’s history, its leadership in education and technology, as well as its rural and unpretentious values. Our new city hall must reflect these values so that each citizen feels a sense of identity with it. Can we reduce cost and increase character through the re-use of bricks, lumber and other materials that might be available from the McMenamin’s, Six Oaks, the Village at Beardslee Crossing or other projects and use them in our city hall? Are there raw materials from park development or from Canyon Park to the north or Norway Hill to the south that could be included? From a design standpoint the building and site character must reflect Bothell’s past as well as its future and tie together the character and feel of other downtown buildings such as the Anderson and Public Safety buildings. We must avoid building a facility that is cold or pretentious. Its architecture must be inviting and warm in its appearance, as I know Bothell’s citizens are inviting and open in how we treat one another.
Bothell has successfully navigated its way through an incredibly difficult global economic downturn while embarking on our most ambitious city expansion. Let’s take the knowledge we have gained in the past five years and apply it to this important new project. Let’s be both courageous and wise in our approach. We all have benefited from this type of leadership that Bothell has had in the past and we can do it again on a new city hall and city center now.
Steve Booth, Bothell