Burien City Council meeting Feb. 24

By Eric Mathison

With the Great Recession hopefully in the rear view mirror, city lawmakers are again discussing the idea of a new Burien community and recreation center. It has been talked about since 2000.

In a presentation Feb. 24 to council members, Parks director Michael Lafreniere dusted off plans from 2008 for a 66,000-square-foot recreation center costing $35-$44 million.

Mayor Lucy Krakowiak is the only lawmaker still on the council from 2008 when a task force recommended the city put on hold the plan to ask voters to approve a property tax to build the new center. The poor economy was cited as the reason.

The 2008 master plan called for a recreation center that is “financially feasible, affordable and sustainable.”

After a lengthy discussion, council members decided to seek lawmakers and residents to volunteer for an ad hoc committee to further study the issue.

Council members said they wanted representatives of lawmakers, youth, arts groups, seniors and others to serve on the committee.

Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz suggested Parks and Recreation Citizen Advisory Board members could serve as the committee but Deputy Mayor Bob Edgar said he wanted a wider range of people.

The new center would be built on the site of the current Burien Annex at South 144th Street and 4th Avenue Southwest. The site used to house Burien’s community center before it moved to the old Burien Library site on Southwest 146th Street and 6th Avenue Southwest. A number of groups including Burien Actors Theatre (BAT), The Hi-Liners and Transform Burien still use the annex.

Lafreniere said the former elementary school site is more than 50 years old and is in bad condition. A recent arson fire damaged the theatre used by BAT but it is being remodeled using funds from the city’s insurance policy.

“Like the old car your mom gave you, it must be eventually replaced,” Lafreniere, said of the annex.

The 2008 plans called for a multi-use recreation center with areas for teens, games, children, health screening, juice bar/deli, arts, fitness, dance, gymnasium, spray ground and indoor walking/jogging track.

The centerpiece would be a leisure pool unlike the standard lap pools built 20 years ago, according to Lafreniere.

The leisure pool would include a lazy river, water slides, children’s play area, a therapy area and spa.

In 2008, planners figured construction and property acquisition would cost $35 million if the center was built all at once.

If the community wing was built first the total costs for both parts was estimated at $44 million while if the pool and gymnasium portion is built first the total cost would be $40 million, Lafreniere noted.

He said costs may be less now. A bond using increased property taxes would fund about $25 million of the total cost. Burien voters would have to approve the bond.

Burien resident Chestine Edgar told council members the projected cost “is a ridiculous amount of money.” She noted the Matt Griffin YMCA in SeaTac cost $12 million to build.

Lafreniere added the original design could be redesigned to keep some programs at the current community center with others at the newly built annex site. He said the current center could also be used as a new city hall or an arts and culture center.

In other business, council members tentatively scheduled a public vote on hiring a new city manager for March 17. A special meeting could also be called if an earlier vote is needed.

The six finalists are scheduled to be interviewed in separate meetings by city council members, city officials and advisory board members on Saturday, March 1. The council is set to vote on their choice in an executive session March 3.

The finalists are former Damascus OR city manager Gregory Baker, Sammamish assistant city manager Kamuron D. Gurol, former North Las Vegas NV city manager Timothy Hacker, Mukilteo city administrator Joe Hanna, redevelopment project manager Michael Matthias and Milwaukie OR city manager William Monahan.

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