New partnership will distribute funding for human services in Thurston County

The OlympianFebruary 11, 2014 

The Olympia City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to enter an agreement that would help address needs for basic health and human services in the region.

Under the proposed Community Investment Partnership, participating cities will pool their money. Starting this spring, an appointed committee will field applications from social service agencies before deciding where to distribute the combined funding.

The collaboration involves Thurston County, the United Way of Thurston County, and the cities of Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater. Representatives from each entity will comprise the partnership’s steering committee, which is expected to focus on more regional projects.

Councilman Jim Cooper began working on plans for the partnership more than two years ago before joining the council. Cooper and other council members said the partnership will increase efficiency and accountability when doling out money to non-profit organizations.

“For me, the beauty of this is at the end, maybe we’ll be able to tell what we’ve done with the money,” Cooper said Tuesday.

The trial partnership will last two years. United Way is expected to match the total contribution of about $220,000 that comes from the three cities plus the county, said Olympia City Manager Steve Hall.

According to the agreement, cities are expected to contribute a minimum of one-half of 1 percent of general sales tax revenue from the previous year. For Olympia, this equates to roughly $75,000, Hall said.

Councilman Steve Langer supports the partnership because it encourages collaboration among service agencies while reducing competition for money.

“There is such limited funding that competition in this instance is very wasteful,” Langer said.

In other council news, Parks Director Paul Simmons provided an update on projects for the downtown isthmus, a strip of land between Capitol Lake and West Bay. The city is searching for funding to remove asbestos and demolish a pair of vacant buildings on the site.

Total cost of asbestos removal is estimated at $517,000, with demolition expected to cost an additional $478,000. To help cover the demolition, the city is seeking a $200,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. Crews would get to work in August or September if city receives the grant.

Another option on the table is to work with a battalion from Joint Base Lewis-McChord to demolish one of the buildings as a training exercise. That arrangement could save the city up to $100,000 off the demolition costs. However, the asbestos must be removed before demolition.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869 or ahobbs@theolympian.com

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