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Everett recommended for UW branch campus
MARYSVILLE Citing what they see as numerous inaccuracies in the selection committee report, city leaders say the effort to bring home a branch campus of the University of Washington is far from over.
Choosing from among four locations, a state sponsored site selection committee last week said a spot in Everett near that citys transportation hub is their first choice for the location of a new campus.
Covering 349 acres near the Arlington border, the Marysville location came in second.
I guess Im just frustrated because some of the things were seeing in their report just arent accurate, said Marysville Chief Administrative Officer Mary Swenson.
I was not very happy, Marysville Mayor Dennis Kendall said of the initial reports coming from state-hired consultants NBBJ of Seattle, who did not return a phone call requesting comment.
I was actually quite disappointed, Kendall continued. We have provided information on several different occasions.
Kendall said NBBJs preliminary report compared the possibility of campus construction to construction that took place three miles away from the potential University of Washington location and, more importantly from his point of view, happened 15 years ago.
Kendall made his comments prior to the release of the official site recommendation. He could not be reached for comment following the formal announcement.
Charla Neuman is a spokeswoman for Strategies 360, a consultant hired by the city to help land the branch campus. She said she wasnt surprised by the site committees recommendation, saying NBBJ representatives had sent signals they favored the Everett location. Like Swenson and Kendall, she believes there are numerous problems with the site committees report.
Were pretty confident the state legislature will do a better job than the consultants, Neuman said.
The legislature has the final word on where the campus ultimately lands.
Marysville may or may not have some support from among its representatives in Olympia. Fortunately or unfortunately, the city is cut into four state legislative districts.
Im disappointed its not the Marysville site, said State Rep. John McCoy, D-38. But he also added hell support the project wherever the campus ends up landing.
Like McCoy, State Sen. Jean Berkey, D-38, said the key is to get a campus built in the northern part of the state. Berkey may be someone backers of the Marysville location want to woo, as she sits on the state education committee that ultimately will make a recommendation to the full Washington State Senate. But Berkey represents parts of both Marysville and Everett. Admitting that was in the back of her mind, she stopped short of endorsing any one location.
I plan to study the (consultants) report very carefully, Berkey said.
Berkey wants the legislature to act quickly in regard to the campus when their next session begins in mid-January. Following the timeline laid out by the selection committee, that at the very least means purchasing any needed property.
Several local representatives did not return phone calls. Those include State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-10, who was set to sponsor a Nov. 19 tour of all four possible campus locations. McCoy and Berkey were among those scheduled to take that tour, according to Neuman.
If legislative support is up for grabs, Marysville still is getting plenty of backing from its northern neighbors.
I think the jury is still out, said Arlington Mayor Margaret Larson. We cant forget that who we are going to serve here are students in Snohomish, Skagit and Island (counties).
Larson believes the Marysville location would better benefit those students, at the very least saving them a commute into an already traffic-congested Everett.
Executive Director of the Arlington-Smokey Point Chamber of Commerce, Jennifer Shaw said the Marysville location easily could compete with Everett in terms of off campus learning opportunities for students. If Everett has the Boeing plant, Arlington still has the second most number of aerospace companies of any area community, Shaw said.
Business location and internship opportunities for students repeatedly were cited as key by members of the site selection committee at a Town Hall meeting held in Marysville late in October. Aerospace companies could play an important role in that, as currently planned, the campus will focus on engineering, science, math and technology.
Even before the site selection committee made its recommendation, Swenson had sent letters to NBBJ outlining what she feels are errors in the organizations study of the potential Marysville site. Last week, Swenson argued the biggest inaccuracy has to do with the amount of landfill NBBJ feels would be required to make the location work.
In its report, the selection committee stated the Marysville property would need to rise three to five feet because of excessive ground water.
That just calls into question the competency of the overall report, Swenson argued. There is no need for that much fill, its just bogus.
According to Swenson, city officials have taken extensive and costly steps to deal with what they agree are high ground water levels at the location. In order to encourage development in the area, Swenson said the city first needed to declare it an urban growth area and eventually annex it to the city. Almost immediately following those steps, she said Marysville moved to develop a pond system to control the local ground water.
The first pond already is in place, Swenson added, with design work beginning on the second.
Both Swenson and Neuman pointed to the Lakewood Crossing shopping plaza as proof development can occur in what is now northern Marysville. The plaza features both a Target and a Costco store, major retailers Neuman said would not have moved into the spot if building there were impractical or overly costly.
Marysville backers plan to dispute several other points made by the selection committee. For whatever reason, the consultants argued a sewer pump station would be needed to take wastewater into Arlington. Swenson said there is no reason any campus wastewater couldnt head downhill into Marysville.
Speaking before City Council Nov. 12, Swenson particularly was bothered by references from NBBJ concerning dead cows and possibly contaminated barrels supposedly found on the site some time ago. According to Swenson, NBBJ seemed to indicate the cows might have died because of water contamination at the site.
Thats just outrageous, she said, arguing those claims were totally unsubstantiated.