Comment sought on county plan

capital facilities: Give opinion today on projects

November 16, 2010 

A public hearing scheduled for today will allow people to comment on the county’s forecast to spend a possible $180 million on roads, buildings and other infrastructure needed to support growth.

The Thurston County Commission will take public comment at 3 p.m. on its proposed six-year capital facilities plan, a forecast that peeks into the future of county projects.

The 2011-2016 capital facilities plan is part of the county’s annual amendment to the comprehensive plan and provides a forecast for what departments and the commission feel are necessary projects and also how much those projects could cost, said Mark Swartout, the county’s capital facilities plan coordinator.

However, just because a project finds its way on the plan doesn’t mean it will come to fruition.

Forecasted projects generally have not been approved by the commission and often lack funding, Swartout said. Projects slated to begin or continue into 2011 gain financial footing when the commission adopts next year’s budget.

The plan “does allow us to prioritize projects so we can seek funding to get them,” Swartout said.

More than $60 million is identified in public works’ six-year plan, including $5.8 million for the Yelm Highway project and $3.9 million for upgrades to Rich Road between the Deschutes River and 89th Avenue Southeast.

Many of the projects also cite state or federal grant funding as its revenue source – money that may not be secured.

One strategy the county uses is to put projects on the upcoming budget year in the event funding becomes available.

“A capital project cannot be implemented unless it’s in the capital facilities plan,” Swartout said.

In rare cases, the commission can adopt emergency projects, but departments are highly discouraged from proposing those, Swartout said.

Many projects are still years down the road must still go through SEPA or other processes, Swartout added.

About $47 million is estimated for county building projects, including $3 million to purchase additional buildings and nearly $13 million over the next two years for new buildings at the Tilley Road campus.

Building improvements aimed at energy efficiency are also included.

Plans to upgrade the heating, venting and cooling system and other energy upgrades in several county buildings could cost $8.3 million – money that will come from a federal grant, reserves and service fees.

The amendment is about $45 million less than the 2009-14 plan, the result of a bleak economy that brought in less revenue, and thus less funding for county projects.

Nate Hulings: 360-754-5476 nhulings@theolympian.com

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