Two major Methow Valley projects are included in the biennial budget for capital projects adopted last weekend by the state Legislature.
The planned new civic building in Twisp is earmarked for $1.29 million, and the new Winthrop public library is included for $2 million in funding when available.
In addition, the Town of Winthrop is slotted to receive $488,000 for park open space acquisition through the Washington Wildlife Recreation Grants program, which also includes $427,000 for Twisp uplands conservation easements.
State Rep. Mike Steele, R-Chelan, who represents the 12th Legislative District including the Methow Valley, said in a press release that the statewide “brick-and-mortar” construction budget proposes to spend $4.9 billion. Steele is assistant ranking member on the House Capital Budget Committee.
The capital budget makes appropriations for many infrastructure projects across the state including schools, public buildings, parks, low-income housing, water infrastructure and habitat.
Shannon Polson, chair of the nonprofit group Friends of the Winthrop Library (FOWL), which is now in the facilities planning, design and fundraising stages of the project, said in an email that “Friends of the Winthrop Library is deeply grateful to Rep. Steele and Sen. [Brad] Hawkins for advocating for a new library for our community in the state budget. This would not have been possible without the support of the Town of Winthrop and our broader community which have been early and ardent supporters of the past two-and-a half years of careful assessments and ongoing planning.”
Polson added a note of caution: “The recently approved budget increases the probability that state funding might be available for the future Winthrop library, though many steps remain. We will continue to work with Rep. Steele and Sen. Hawkins to explore what’s possible. Any state dollars that could magnify the generosity of local donors and grants would be welcome and will be a tailwind for the ongoing work to build a new Winthrop Library.”
FOWL will raise private funds for and oversee construction of the library on property purchased by the Town of Winthrop at the intersection of White Avenue and Norfolk Road. The building will then be turned over to the town.
The North Central Regional Library (NCRL) system, of which the Winthrop library is a part, will provide all the furnishing and equipment for the new building, as well as maintenance. Construction is projected to begin in spring 2020 with completion about a year later. Since early 2017, FOWL has been promoting construction of a new library to replace the overcrowded, outdated building on Highway 20.
Planning for the new civic building in Twisp has been underway for several years. Inclusion in the capital budget comes at a critical time for the project. In a recent “My Turn” column in the Methow Valley News, Twisp Mayor Soo Ing-Moody said she had recently traveled to Olympia to request funding to enable the construction of the civic building, which will include and emergency operations center.
She noted that an expected federal grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture fell through. “What is more distressing is the fact that state funding awarded by a competitive CDBG grant and a capital appropriation from 2017 totaling $1.5 million, which the town worked so hard to procure, was now at risk to expire if the final $1.25-million funding gap, previously anticipated from federal funds, did not materialize.”
The capital budget allocation closes that gap. “This final appropriation would leverage previous state commitments together with the town’s portion of over $600,000,” Ing-Moody said earlier. She cited the support of both Steele and the 12th District’s other state representative, Keith Goehner.
The Washington Wildlife Recreation grant to Winthrop is earmarked for the purchase a 146-acre property in the Heckendorn neighborhood that was acquired by the Methow Conservation in 2018 to assure that the majority of it will remain as open space.