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Clock ticking on $3 million grant for stalled community center

Members of the Auburn City Council on March 3 said no, for now, to building a community center in Les Gove Park.

The "for now" part left at least one big question hanging in mid air: the fate of the $3 million grant the State of Washington provided last year for the center.

Specifically, by what date does the City of Auburn have to commit the time-sensitive grant money to its intended purpose before the state takes it back?

Councilman Rich Wagner, chair of the Les Gove Community Campus Committee and the center's champion for years, answered that question at Monday's City Council meeting.

"If we have not signed contracts for that project by June 2015, that grant will disappear," Wagner said.

Wagner also noted the possibility that lawmakers in Olympia might choose between now and then just to eliminate the grant as part of budget negotiations.

"It's probably pretty safe from that potential," Wagner said.

The March 3 decision shelved plans to start construction on the $9 million project this July.

Councilmembers on Monday, March 3, worried that the project would not come in under the $9 million — $6 million in City funding and the $3 million grant from the state Legislature — that had been set aside.

What councilmembers actually decided on that date was that it was not the time to advertise for bids to build the multi-million dollar structure long planned for the southeast corner of the Les Gove Community Campus.

Councilman Wayne Osborne said then that the City may not have had all the money it needed at that moment to build the center and disliked the idea of spending $83,000 — "a significant amount of money" — to put a project out to bid only to find out later that it could not be built.

Councilmembers Largo Wales and Wagner were the lone yes votes.

According to City officials, the center's purpose would be educational, cultural, recreation and social activities and large community and trade events. Also, to answer a significant need for the southeast King County area, where there are no multi-service, community gathering spaces.

A significant number of people, however, responded to the council's March 2 decision with letters to the Auburn Reporter calling the center "a want, and not a need," and declaring that the City should not build it at all.

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