State capital budget allocates funds for Vashon-Maury projects

After a long delay, the Washington State Legislature passed a capital budget late last month, providing $4 billion to projects statewide and allocating more than $5 million for projects on Vashon and Maury Islands.

The Legislature adjourned last summer without passing a capital budget — something that has not occurred in recent times — and Democrats, who now control the House and Senate, made it a priority to pass it in this legislative session. They did so on Jan. 18. Afterward, Senate Democratic leader Sharon Nelson (D-Maury Island), released a statement about the budget’s importance.

“The capital budget represents one of the greatest investments we can make in Washington and in Washingtonians,” she said. “Thousands of family wage jobs, school construction, affordable housing, environmental improvements, mental health enhancements and investments will now finally be delivered to communities across our state.”

On Vashon, the capital budget provides $3 million for Neighborcare Health to renovate the existing clinic or build a new one, $2 million for remediation at the Maury Island Open Space (the former Glacier site), $250,000 for the Mukai Farm and Garden restoration efforts and $100,000 to clean up a former gas station site on the west side of the island.

For some of the projects, planning is in early stages, including at Neighborcare, where Director of Marketing Communications Mary Schilder said that the agency requested the funds to improve patients’ experience at the Vashon clinic and better serve the community.

“We are currently considering the best options for using the funds, and whether that would be renovation or supporting new construction,” she said last week.

Joseph Sparacio, Neighborcare Health’s chief development officer, noted that agency’s process will focus on the best space possible to serve patients and ensure long-term success.

“With the good news of this funding, we have one more opportunity to consider in our overall planning for how to best serve Vashon and all the communities served by Neighborcare Health, he said in an emailed statement.

He added as those involved develop a process and plan, they will keep islanders informed.

Last fall, Neighborcare CEO Michael Erickson discussed these capital budget funds and said that $3 million would not be sufficient for a new clinic, and that if the decision is made to build instead of renovate, a capital campaign is possible. He also said that if a new building is planned and Vashon has not hit Neighborcare’s target number of patients — 7,500 — a clinic could be designed to expand as island needs grow.

At King County’ Department of Natural Resources and Parks, planning is underway for the Maury Island Open Space, sometimes referred to as the former Glacier site, according to spokesman Doug Williams.

“Our work plan for this year includes finalizing our approach to a site remediation plan with state Department of Ecology, then moving forward with implementing the public notice work of that plan, including creating the necessary documents, establishing a public comment period, and other public engagement,” he said.

He added that all of that work was in the planning process before the department learned about the appropriation and called it “great news” that the funding is available for remediation.

King County purchased this 250-acre site in 2010, after CalPortland agreed to sell the land instead of establish a gravel mine there. The county intends to restore and preserve the site, which was contaminated with lead and arsenic from the historic Tacoma Smelter Plume.

At the Mukai Home and Garden, plans for capital project dollars are firmly in place. Friends of Mukai President Kay Longhi said that most of the $250,000 will go toward repairing and restoring the pond on the historic property, as that work is essential to address before some other important work can take place.

After a long legal battle with the former owner of the property, the Friends group took control of the home and garden in April of 2016. They have developed a five-year, three-phase plan for repair and renovation of the property and have been tending to many infrastructure needs, such as irrigation, basement repairs and asbestos abatement.

She said that the Friends involved are excited to move forward with their efforts at the home and garden — and to see results.

“This has been a frustrating time of needing to do ground and pond infrastructure work before the fun stuff, which is plants and trees,” she said.

When B.D Mukai and his second wife Kuni lived in the home, the property included an extensive Japanese garden Kuni designed, including 18 flowering cherry trees, shrubs native to Japan, ornate stonework, a meandering pond — now soon to be restored — and a waterfall. Only three of the cherry trees remain — in various stages of health — and the Friends plan to plant new trees in the places Kuni had them, beginning with five at a March 3 event. Longhi added that the trees will not be seedlings, but good-sized trees that “you don’t have to squint to see.”

“Many of us are senior citizens and are not going to live long enough to see seedlings get big,” she said with a laugh.

Finally, the capital budget also allocated funds for what is known at the Department of Ecology (DOE) as the Coldeen Property Old Gas Station. On Vashon, many people know it better as the old Colvos store. Now, a private home and King County Historic Landmark, it has been on the state’s list of contaminated sites for several years, according to Larry Altose at the Department of Ecology. State records show that that a 700-gallon gas tank was discovered at the property in 1994, as part of real estate activities. The tank was removed at that time, and soil tests determined gasoline, benzene and xylene were present beyond the state’s cleanup threshold. Following that tank’s removal more contaminated soil was removed.

With the funds allocated by the state, ongoing contamination will be assessed and if needed, further steps will be developed, including for choosing the most suitable cleanup strategy, doing the cleanup work and additional monitoring if necessary, Altose said. He added that The $100,000 enables his department to begin this process. Officials there are reaching out to the property owner to offer assistance and arrange access to test soil and groundwater.

In Nelson’s statement about the capital budget, she said she is proud of the new majority and how members acted to pass this important legislation.

“This is the right way to do business,” she said. “Let’s work together, negotiate through our differences and truly put people first in all the work we do,” she said.

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