How does a government project go from costing $75 million to $162 million? When Democrats are in control and you’re in Snohomish County, quite easily.
Snohomish County Councilmember Ken Klein, a Republican serving his first term, wrote an op-ed piece in the Everett Herald outlining the history of a project originally meant to remodel a courthouse. Due to the project’s debacle, Klein urges “the council to obtain the services of an independent third party to provide a true estimate of what the cost to remodel/expand the current building would be so that council can make an informed decision in the best interests of Snohomish County.”
The mess all started innocently enough. In November 2012, the County Council approved a budget that financed a $75 million remodel and four-story expansion of the existing courthouse. Fast forward to February 2013 when then county Executive Aaron Reardon, who later resigned in scandal, asked the facilities director to “present the council with a plan that would build a new courthouse for $75 million.” Klein writes, “When offered a plan for a new building on the existing county campus at the previously approved cost, council logically decided to move forward.”
Fair enough. But, like most projects run by Democrats, it didn’t end up being that simple. Klein,
“From June to October 2013 the price of the new courthouse jumped from $75 million, to $80 million, to $109 million, to $120 million to $130 million. Each time it was the deputy executive who came before council to explain the increase in costs and advocated for moving forward. The escalation in costs culminated when the deputy executive recommended that the county build the new courthouse across the street and utilize eminent domain to condemn surrounding properties. The cost of this proposal was originally estimated at $145 million to $155 million. In October 2013 the Council ruled out the location across the street because it was too expensive. In November the parking lot location proposal was put back on the table and subsequently the council voted to approve the current $162 million proposal (253,000 square feet representing a more than 50 percent increase in size). Sometime in 2014 the City of Everett became convinced by someone in the executive’s office that a 300-stall parking garage would be included as part of the courthouse project.”
Klein writes that he began researching the project prior to his term as councilmember, and what he found troubled him. Ultimately, he “came to the conclusion that the remodel/expansion project that was initially proposed was never properly vetted.” Information associated with the project was “often lacking and not forthcoming” though he worked “seven months to obtain a good faith analysis of the remodel/expansion concept.” Klein,
“After the revelation that the Everett parking requirement had the potential to shut down the project, the facilities director finally provided me with an analysis. This analysis showed that the remodel/expansion plan from November 2012 would cost $146 million to $156 million… Was the facilities director wrong in his analysis of the remodel/expansion concept in late 2012? Or is his analysis wrong now?”
Answers appear to be in short supply, but that hasn’t stopped Snohomish County Democrats from pushing the project despite the rapidly escalating costs. There truly is something in the water in Snohomish County.