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Legislation stalls, city to keep pushing for branch campus
MARYSVILLE At this point, were in kind of a holding point pattern, said city Chief Administrative Officer Mary Swenson. Were in kind of a wait and see mode.
Swenson was referring to the citys long, but on-going efforts to land a proposed branch campus of the University of Washington. Those efforts underwent a sort of sidestep last week.
At a hearing Feb. 12, the state Senate Ways and Means Committee put on hold three pieces of legislation connected to construction of the potential campus. According to Swenson and others, the move means there is little chance of the campus earning legislative approval in the Senate any time soon.
Ways and Means Chairwoman Sen. Margarita Prentice, D-Renton, did not return a phone call. But Swenson was in Olympia for the Feb. 12 hearing and said Prentice told those present that the campus decision is too big an issue to be rushed.
Olympia legislators are currently meeting in an abbreviated 60-day session that ends in March.
According to sources, Prentice also called for legislators on her committee to tour the three potential campus locations still under consideration: Everetts Pacific Station, northern Marysville along the Arlington border and a spot in Lake Stevens.
I agree with her that this is a big decision, Swenson said. I have a hard time arguing with her position.
I think this was a fairness issue, said Becky Foster, one of the organizers of the grassroots group Real Huskies Go North (of Everett) and a big proponent of a Marysville campus.
The Senate Ways and Means committee was slated to hear a bill on an Everett location for the campus earlier this month. But Prentice refused to hear the issue unless she could see legislation on all three potential sites.
I said all along that we will give them each a hearing and a chance, Prentice said prior to the Feb. 12 hearing. She added she wasnt prepared to get into a long debate over the location.
Others can duke that out, Prentice said. I dont play that game.
Back in November, a state-hired consultant named the Everett site as their top choice for the potential campus. Marysville came in second. Since then, both the Washington Senate and House Higher Education committees passed legislation following along with the consultant report.
With all that in mind, Swenson and others said Prentices call for information on every potential site seemed a move in Marysvilles favor, possibly the first good news the city had received regarding the campus issue in months.
With only Senator Shins bill on the table, things didnt look good, Foster said.
Sen. Paull Shin, D-Edmonds, sponsored the bill backing the Everett site.
I think were still in the game and are monitoring what happens and will react appropriately, Swenson said.
At the Ways and Means Committee last week, Arlington Mayor Margaret Larson presented Prentice with a letter backing a Marysville location, a letter signed by eight local mayors. The letter was the idea of Stanwood Mayor Dianne White.
Perhaps most importantly, the letter argues that the Everett site does not meet the minimum size requirements as spelled out by the states site selection committee.
It has been clearly demonstrated that the Pacific Station site in Everett does not have and never had the required minimum acreage needed to pass even the initial selection process, the letter reads in part.
The letter also once more attacks the consultants report for alleged errors made in studying the Marysville site, arguments the city has been making for several months.
If Prentice effectively slowed the passage of the campus issue through the Senate, the Everett location still is making headway in the House.
On Feb. 11, the House Appropriations Committee approved legislation backing that city for the campus. The issue still could wind up in front of the full House during this legislative session, but such a move would mean little if no there is no action taken on the Senate side.
Prior to last weeks Senate Ways and Means hearing, local leaders were at least beginning to talk about what might happen if the branch campus doesnt land in Marysville.
You will see some development up there, I guarantee it, Mayor Dennis Kendall said recently.
Im not concerned, said Foster, who owns some of the affected property. There are so many opportunities. There are things happening.
Foster declined to go into details, saying any developments are still in the very early stages.