Ridgefield and Clark College, along with Battle Ground, feel like they missed out on key projects
RIDGEFIELD — The 2019 session of the Washington Legislature ended with a flurry of spending, including a $4.9 billion capital budget funding projects across the state.
But not everyone came away winners.
“We’re really devastated,” says Ridgefield Mayor Don Stose.
The city, along with officials of Clark College, were hoping to see funding come through to begin construction on the first building at the community college’s Boschma Farms campus.
Stose, along with Clark College President Bob Knight and several Ridgefield City Council members, made a number of trips to Olympia during the session to meet with legislators.
“The sense we were getting was that the funding was going to come through,” says Stose, “and I don’t know why that changed … Just didn’t happen.”
The Boschma Farms campus near the Ridgefield I-5 junction is seen as a linchpin to the city’s plans for high tech job growth. But Stose says there are already businesses, like AIG and Flowserve in town who would hire students straight out of the STEM program planned for the new campus.
“There are a lot of jobs available in Ridgefield and the surrounding area,” Stose says, “but we need Clark College to train those entry-level people.”
The state’s budget process happens every two years which means, barring some post-budget changes, it will be another two years before funding can become available.
“The only recourse that we have is circling back to our legislators and seeing if there’s a potential way that some money could be moved around in other areas of that budget to fund that first building,” says Stose.
Ridgefield didn’t come up empty in the capital projects fund, however. The legislature did approve $2 million to help build the Wisdom Ridge Corporate Center on 7.5 acres of land owned by the Port of Ridgefield within the Discovery Corridor.
People who live in Battle Ground will be happy to hear the legislature approved $500,000 to help with the long-running dream of bringing a YMCA to the growing city. But they likely won’t be thrilled to find out the legislature declined to fund traffic improvements at the busy intersection at SR-502 (Main Street) and SR-503.
The city had been asking for a $1.5 million inflationary adjustment for the project, which was previously funded under the 2016 Connecting Washington transportation package.
“We were told by all legislators there was not much transportation funding available,” Battle Ground Mayor Mike Dalesandro wrote in a Facebook post. “We knew the odds were against us. Yet at the last moment, funding appeared. Overnight, the I-5 bridge replacement project funding ballooned from $8M to $35. Obviously there was transportation funding available. Even with the state collecting 18% more in revenues, the citizens of Battle Ground and the 50,000 cars that travel through that intersection per day were left behind.”
Dalesandro says the lack of additional funding could significantly delay the SR-502/503 congestion relief project that began with the widening of 502 from Battle Ground out to I-5.
Ridgefield and Battle Ground both were disappointed to see that the legislature again declined to bump up funding for the 179th/I-5 interchange project. The project was also provided funding in 2016 as part of the Connection Washington package, but funds won’t be available until 2023. Despite the delay, the county is expected to move forward with plans to lift urban holding on much of the 179th Street area and improve area streets ahead of the freeway interchange project.
What did get funded?
The $4.9 billion capital budget includes $1 billion to build or refurbish K-12 schools throughout the state. It also includes $308 million for mental and behavioral health centers, $973 million in higher education facilities, $175 million in housing, and $125 million in the Public Works Assistance Account.
Some of the other projects being funded in Clark County include:
• $1.75 million for the Tenny Creek assisted living facility in Vancouver;
• $1.5 million for the Brezee Creek culvert replacement and East 4th St widening project in La Center;
• $994,000 for the Seaquest – Mt. St. Helen’s Visitor Center;
• $584,000 for the Schmid ballfields phase 3 in Washougal; and
• $75,000 Washougal River waterfront development.
Brandon Vick (R-Vancouver) called the capital budget a “strong, bipartisan budget” that addresses priorities and needs, while making local investments that benefit our region.
“The capital budget projects are a product of collaboration with our local governments and entities,” said Vick in a statement. “The partnerships strengthen our commitment to bring economic growth and vitality to our area.”
The capital budget was based by both the House and Senate, and is currently awaiting a signature from Washington Governor Jay Inslee.