Covington | Maple Valley Reporter
By Kris Hill
Families in Covington and Maple Valley can celebrate this week as the ink dries on the state budget thanks to several million dollars set aside for the Tahoma School District and parks projects.
As part of the state budget, Tahoma will get $4 million to go toward the purchase of 35 acres inside a King County-owned property in Maple Valley nicknamed the Donut Hole, which could be the future home of a brand new Tahoma High School.
Tahoma Superintendent Mike Maryanski thanked a number of people for help persuading legislators to approve adding the $4 million to the state’s capital budget in a post on his blog, “Seeking Shared Learning,” Monday morning. Maryanski thanked the Tahoma School Board, Maple Valley Mayor Bill Allison and City Manager David Johnston, as well as county staff members.
“Not knowing how exactly our request made it through the difficult interactions we have witnessed with two special sessions, I know that without the leadership and support of Senators (Mark) Mullet and (Joe) Fain and Representatives (Pat) Sullivan and Dunshee success would not have been possible. Also in the House, Representatives (Jay) Rodne and (Chad) Magendanz provided support in their caucus as did others we did not meet with.”
Fain told the Reporter in June that thanks to the lobbying Allison and Maple Valley city officials did to earn support for a bill which would allow the city to annex the Donut Hole property when it came time to garner support for the district’s capital allocation, every legislator was well-versed on the situation. The Donut Hole is 154 acres of unincorporated land within the urban growth boundary off Kent-Kangley Road Southeast and Southeast 228th Street that is home to nine holes of Elk Run Golf Course, a stand of trees and the county’s 13-acre roads maintenance facility.
King County Councilman Reagan Dunn, who represents Maple Valley, wrote a letter May 21 to State Sen. Andy Hill offering support for the allocation and urging the Senate — the House had included the money in its capital budget — to include the money for Tahoma.
“I would like to thank the Legislature for the capital appropriation which was included in the final budget,” Dunn said in a release Monday. “This appropriation will aid in the purchase from King County of property inside the Tahoma School District. This is win-win project for all involved and I look forward to working with the school district and the city of Maple Valley to see this project get underway.”
This is a significant step for the district, which is poised to put a construction bond measure on the November ballot. If approved the bond would help build a new high school, which Maryanski envisions as not just a state-of-the-art flagship building for the district in the heart of Maple Valley, but also as a regional learning center which could serve the entire community’s educational needs.
Considering that in February the district and the county amicably parted ways to end discussions of the property purchase, Maryanski wrote that it was a complex process which has led to a positive end result, one he wasn’t sure would happen just a few months ago.
“We can now move forward and answer the question in the minds of many,” Maryanski wrote on his blog. “Where will this school be built? In what we in our community have come to call the Donut Hole. So, I guess its time for even me to celebrate.”
While school funding was a significant part of the agenda for the legislature during the past six months, local parks projects were a priority for representatives from the 47th and 5th Districts, as well.
Also receiving money from the state legislature, according to Fain’s office, is the city of Covington, which will get $2.1 million for the second phase of Covington Community Park. Covington’s Parks and Recreation Director Scott Thomas wrote in an email that city staff was, “deeply appreciative of the support Covington residents and the surrounding community received from our 47th District legislators, Sen. Fain and Reps. Sullivan and Hargrove.”
Thomas said this funding allocation is a significant step toward accomplishing one of the city’s major goals — which was also identified during the citizen-driven Budget Priorities Advisory Committee process as a priority — of finding money to pay for the next phase of the park. City officials celebrated completion of the work of the first phase in June with the trails open and the soccer field nearly ready for use.
“The phase two project provides important local facilities including the community event stage, group picnic shelter, tennis courts, extended trail system and outdoor exercise stations, so families and youth don’t need to travel to neighboring cities for recreation,” Thomas wrote. “This funding, which will be managed as a grant through the Washington State Department of Commerce, is about 80 percent of the estimated project cost, so we will need to seek city matching funds and grants before we go to construction. Depending on how much city and additional grant funding we receive, we may be able to expand the project to include more elements such as a playground.”
Next up on the to do list for the second phase of the park is get the grant money under contract, Thomas wrote, find a landscape architect and begin design, raise the additional cash needed then proceed to construction with plans to start the design phase during the second half of this year then compete for grant funding in 2014 with design documents and cost estimates in hand. If Covington can raise the rest of the money it needs, construction could begin in 2015.
“Upon completing phase two we will set our sights toward finishing the park with phase three construction, which would include the lighted turf baseball and soccer fields, the Teen Zone and associated parking,” Thomas wrote. “Elements in the Teen Zone include a social plaza, basketball court, sand volleyball court, outdoor concrete ping pong tables, restrooms, and concessions.”
Families with children near Maple Valley also had something to celebrate as the budget came in as $650,000 was earmarked for Ravensdale Park.