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Carnegie vote is step toward its restoration

SNOHOMISH — One more domino has toppled on the path to demolishing the 1968 add-on to the 1910 Carnegie Building, Snohomish’s oldest publicly owned property.
The City Council voted 5–2 to commission detailed building concept drawings and cost estimates at its March 6 meeting. Councilmen Steve Dana and Larry Countryman voted against taking this step now, saying they would prefer to re-evaluate the project direction and costs before proceeding.
The council scheduled an extra hour to hear public comments on the contentious plan and held the meeting at the Snohomish Senior Center to accommodate the crowd of approximately 125 people that attended.
The council was originally scheduled to vote for or against ordering the more complete drawings and construction cost estimates for a plan that would include demolishing the mid-century annex.
Pressure from the 105 Cedar Avenue Foundation caused an Option B to be put before the council as well.
Option B was to table the Carnegie renovations until the city and its new council members could further assess options for the site and possibly reprioritize it among other city projects. Councilmen Dana and Countryman supported taking this route.
Mayor John Kartak was not part of the vote, but expressed desire to keep the 1968 annex, while acknowledging the majority opinion to raze it was the path the city would progress on.
Keeping the annex intact was the minority opinion. During the public comment period, when one speaker asked all those who agreed with proceeding and demolishing the 1968 annex to stand up, approximately 95 percent of attendees did.
Sarah Dylan Jensen, the Snohomish farmers market manager, agreed. She envisioned more room for the market held nearby to expand outdoors, and for art displays and a kid’s club program.
More than one speaker noted that the mid-century annex would never pass modern design review board standards and agreed that erasing the “eyesore” from the landscape would be an improvement.
One young woman made her public speaking debut on the behalf of the Carnegie. Bernadette Utterback, 16, said a restored Carnegie would offer a safe, well lit space for teens to hang out, and that she wanted the historic library building restored to the days when her grandfather operated a pharmacy nearby and her dad would hang out there.
“Please tear the annex down and get this over with,” said John First, who appeared to speak for much of the crowd.
The annex had some supporters for its utility. Mary Hendrickson pointed out to the crowd that they lived in the Pacific Northwest, and indoor meeting spaces were a good thing.
Mike Coombs said he saw a lot of possible utility in the old annex and was concerned about the $2 million project cost. He was concerned about the plan to pay for the Carnegie project with utility revenues, rather have the utility funds spent on projects such as for water and sewer infrastructure.
Nearly $2 million at least is at stake in the decision, as the first phase of the project is estimated to cost $1.76 million and an optional second phase another $1.1 million.
A private funding plan became a city-funded plan, and a city grant request to the state for $1.95 million was reduced to a $500,000 request this year, a concerning financial flux for some community members.
The grant is packaged in the capital budget, which as of press time awaited Gov. Jay Inslee’s signature.
City project manager Denise Johns said if the grant was approved, the city would work with ARC Architects to complete as much of the project as possible in one round, rather than two phases.
Money for the first phase of the project is already in hand at the city: the funding source was already identified as $1.2 million in already collected real estate excise taxes and $450,000 in utility revenues.
Councilmembers in favor of Option A noted that the Carnegie project had already been under review for years, that construction costs would only rise and moving forward was necessary to get more accurate cost estimates to help determine whether to continue toward demolishing the annex.
After the council’s decision, ARC Architects will now be assigned with creating 30 percent design drawings and the city will obtain more price projections. The public will be invited to see more refined design drawings and more accurate cost estimates at the third scheduled meeting on the Carnegie in April.


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