Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Observations and Speculations, by Claire Olsovsky

Or My Mental Musings While Sitting in Lynnwood Traffic.

Development of a brownfield is not an impossible undertaking; it’s just a costly one. I have been contemplating what economic incentives would compel the current District leadership into purchasing a brownfield, especially since two previous Superintendents and School Boards considered the exact same property in 1991 and in 1998 and rejected the proposal. What has changed?

As I write, the District moves forward with its “early site grading package.” But does that include the installation of sewer line I observed? I have never heard of laying pipe referred to being part of site grading. Maybe it falls under the “other site preparation” activities Marla alluded to in her email.

But what if the District and the City of Lynnwood entered into an Interlocal Agreement to install the sewer? Not unheard of, and not a bad deal. The City’s budget is impacted, not the District’s, and they can recoup the costs from taxing tenants on the District’s ground-leased properties. But does the cost of the sewer line mitigate the increased costs of the purchase price of the property and its subsequent pricey development? Probably not. In the end, City of Lynnwood dollars are still tax dollars, so overall there are no savings for the public.

There is still the issue of the fill on the property. Even if it is within regulatory levels for chemical contamination, building on it will incur added costs. Pin piles can be driven into the ground to support the foundation of the building, but what about the parking lot? Digging out all the debris, testing each load to ensure proper disposal, then backfilling with substantial material to support the load of a 100+ buses rated over 10,000 pounds each is expensive. Maybe that is part of the “other site preparation” activities occurring right now. There is an awful lot of excavated soils stockpiled on the property and staged backfill material.

The District “protected” itself by purchasing additional insurance to pay to mitigate any soil contamination found on the site during construction. But what are their premiums over the next three years and what are the terms of the policy? No insurer would knowingly go into a contract with known contaminated land without a loop hole. After all, they must make money. For most pollution contracts they’ll pay out for one event. Will the insurance company only respond to one claim and restrict it to a specific encounter on the site?

The District has a new funding strategy. It plans to ground-lease the Maintenance and Transportation site along with LHS to fund the remaining phases of the New Administration site. But how many successful ground leases have they executed at this time? None. Not even their most valuable property right next to the mall.

Perhaps prospective tenants realize the ground water problem at LHS is not going to go away. Even if they build on the wooded area, they may not be able to optimally use the site. It is a given that an exceptional drainage system is needed to manage the ground and surface waters where the current buildings sit.

Then there is the cost for the clean up of the Transportation Site so they can vacate and ground-lease it. After all, the whole purpose of the new property is to consolidate District operations and move Transportation and Maintenance to the New Administration site. Who knows what it will cost and how many years it will take to get this old property ready for lease? Just when will all the rent money come rolling in to pay for the rest of the New Administration Site?

None of these observations and speculations bolsters the argument that the purchase of the New Administration site is a wise one. It makes me wonder about the capability of the current Board. Are they so different from the previous leadership? They seem just as bright and articulate as their predecessors.

I think the change may be a cavalier attitude in spending tax money. One has to ask, if the Board members and Marla were going to buy a property for their own business, would they have purchased the property?

I do not think so. I wouldn’t. Would you?


Anonymous said...

You're right Claire, it's hard to understand why so much of the public's resources were spent on such an overpriced, contaminated piece of property. I've got an idea, let's ask! Say Nick, why was this done? How could this happen?

I suggest we not hold our breath for an answer.

Anonymous said...

Claire, I'm glad you're mind is on this matter. I hate to think what things would be like if you had been won over by the Dark Side. Darth Miller must have underestimated the good in you.