The push for a new courthouse in Thurston County is likely to get a boost from the state Capitol.
The Senate passed a bill Thursday that gives the county more time to collect money for construction bonds to replace the 39-year-old courthouse, should voters approve a property tax hike.
Officials say the change helps avoid a sharp tax increase to fund a possible new project. Thurston County Manager Ramiro Chavez has said the current facility is outdated with leaky roofs and security issues.
Under current law, the county has only a nine-year window to increase levies to pay off bonds. House Bill 1344, sponsored by Olympia state Rep. Laurie Dolan, would change that to 25 years.
Chavez said Friday that’s key to giving the county “a little more flexibility” in paying its bills on the project.
The House passed the measure in late February, so Dolan’s bill now heads to the governor’s desk.
Jaime Smith, a spokeswoman for Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, said Thursday she wasn’t aware of any concerns the governor has with the bill, but said his office hasn’t formally reviewed it yet.
Chavez said he’s sending a letter to Inslee, urging him to sign the legislation.
Even with the bill, construction on a courthouse would still be far away.
A project manager is presenting ideas on how to select a site to county commissioners on Wednesday, Chavez said. At the earliest, voters could see a ballot measure on the topic in 2018.
A new courthouse is estimated to cost between $175 million and $200 million.
Still, Chavez said the bill is progress. “We’re moving forward,” he said.