Country Doctor will be unable to construct its new dental clinic in Capitol Hill without $1.8 million earmarked in the 2017-19 capital budget.
Country Doctor will be unable to construct its new dental clinic in Capitol Hill without $1.8 million earmarked in the 2017-19 capital budget.

The Washington Legislature’s failure to pass a two-year capital construction budget during a long-extended 2017 session has left many organizations, nonprofits and municipalities in limbo as to how to fund projects and services.

“Without the state money, the project doesn’t go forward,” said Linda McVeigh, Country Doctor Community Health Center director. “There’s no place you can easily raise $2 million.”

Country Doctor has spent several years working toward replacing the old Betty Lee Manor on 19th Avenue East with a dental facility and administrative office building.

The top-two floors of the four-story building are designed for eight apartments, which would provide a consistent revenue stream.

Country Doctor made a $2 million funding request to the Legislature through the Building Communities Fund, and was earmarked for $1.8 million in the stalled capital budget.

43rd District Rep. Nicole Macri said she isn’t optimistic the Legislature will be back in Olympia before the 2018 session.

“I think it’s really hard to predict that right now, but the chances, I think, are pretty slim,” Macri said, “and that is because the Republicans kind of took this all the way to the extreme by linking the Hirst water-rights agreement to the capital budget.”

The state Supreme Court found that Whatcom County didn’t provide enough protections for water resources when approving new wells. That has resulted in slowdowns in rural development as counties attempt to meet new requirements for ensuring water availability. The House Democrats proposed delaying the ruling for two years, while Republicans want to nix the ruling.

“The Senate Republicans decided to link together the water-rights issue with the capital budget,” Macri said, “despite the fact that they’re totally unrelated.”

Macri, who serves on the Capital Budget Committee, said the House passed a capital budget 92-1 on June 30, which it then tweaked with the Senate, and was met with approval by Gov. Jay Inslee.

“They had a handshake deal on the capital budget, which includes funding for Country Doc Clinic… and a number of other projects,” she said, “close to $200 million in the 43rd District alone.”

House Speaker Frank Chopp said he plans to continue discussing ways to resolve the impasse in the Senate next week.

“They’re more of an informal outreach to Senate Republicans,” he said.

Chopp said he feels the two-year allowance for well permits was a fair deal, and would provide the Legislature with time to draft a statewide water-rights policy.

“The actual permits that would be issued over the two years, that would be permanent for the property,” Chopp said, and replenishing what’s drawn from those wells wouldn’t be required. “It’s a free-and-clear right to draw water out.”

The stalled $4 billion capital budget also includes more than $15 million for water restoration, Chopp said.

If Senate Republicans agreed to a two-year rollback on the water-rights mandate, Chopp said a stakeholder task force could be formed.

“This capital budget should not be held up because there’s a disagreement about the water-rights policy,” he said.

The House Speaker said the Senate Republicans’ currently proposed legislation is a nonstarter.

“If we pass their bill the way it had passed out of the Senate, there would be an immediate lawsuit,” he said, “and it would be defeated in court.”

Chopp said he will remain optimistic for the time being, as discussions with Senate Republicans continue, but also believes water rights and the capital budget need to be treated separately.

“It’s not fair for the capital budget,” he said, “which benefits literally hundreds of thousands of people and creates 19,000 (temporary) jobs.”

Writers nonprofit Hugo House has been operating out of an auxiliary building belonging to the Frye Art Museum since vacating its old space on 11th Avenue, next to Cal Anderson Park, in May 2016.

The old Hugo House was demolished a month later, and a six-story mixed-use development is now under construction. The property ownership team has worked it out so Hugo House can purchase and develop 10,000 square feet in the ground floor.

The capital budget that didn’t pass had $1.032 million in recommended funding for Hugo House.

“We are looking at various timing options, and it’s obviously a very big problem for Hugo House,” Swenson said, “but there are so many other pressing items in the capital budget, from schools to firefighting measures.”

Among the $130 million in lost funding for the University of Washington is $24 million in the capital budget for Burke Museum upgrades; that project is already under construction.

“All of that is put on hold,” Macri said, “and then statewide there’s a billion dollars in school construction.”

The 43rd District legislator said she worries not releasing school construction funds to reduce class sizes will result in the state Supreme Court determining that Washington is continuing to skirt its constitutional responsibility to adequately fund public education.

Macri said she spoke to McVeigh about the dental clinic and budget on Tuesday, July 25. The strategy deputy director for the Downtown Emergency Service Center, Macri said she knows through working with Seattle’s homeless population the need for expanded community health and dental services.

“We have done a good job,” McVeigh said. “We have raised every other bit of money we need.”

McVeigh reported the project was estimated to cost $7 million in late March, when Country Doctor provided a community update and asked for assistance raising the last $900,000 in donor support.

Country Doctor currently has $6.3 million, and the $1.8 million tucked in the capital budget would bring the total to $8.1 million.

“The cost of hiring subcontractors has just gone through the roof, so yes it has gone up, but we have managed to adjust the budget so we can move forward — again — as long as we get the state money.”

McVeigh said Country Doctor also has to spend federal grant dollars for general construction by September 2018.

The nonprofit is still in the permitting process, having gone through the East Design Review Board three times before the project was approved.

“There is nothing about this project that has been easy,” McVeigh said.

“I think the pressure on the Senate remains great,” Macri said, and now legislators are back in their home districts. “They, like me, are starting to hear from folks that run community services that were depending on state capital investments, and they, I hope, are feeling the pressure.”