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Mville holds three aces in search for north county UW branch campus
MARYSVILLE The odds have shifted but this city is still in the fight for a new University of Washington branch campus after state planners made a final recommendation of six sites.
Marysville has one group of three locations on the short list, the city of Everett has two sites on the list, and the cities of Lake Stevens and Snohomish have another.
Marysvilles contenders are a complex of three plots of land east of Smokey Point Boulevard just north of 152nd Street NE. Its an abrupt change from the initial cut of nine, when six of those sites were in the city or adjacent to the city limits.
None of those six sites made this round, and city officials were surprised about the new Marysville locations that were included in the short list. The state legislature will make the final decision but a trio of committees are paring the selections down for them. Their final recommendation is due on Nov. 15.
Marysville has hired a public relations and lobbying firm to help round up support for a north county location; Arlington and other cites have also asked that the new campus be built outside the Everett urban area to give students an easier commute to classes.
Deb Merle is Gov. Christine Gregoires higher education policy advisor, and she said that some of the Marysville sites on the first cut shouldnt have made the list in the first place. Most were outside the citys Urban Growth Area, some had problems with utility connections, others had a series of problems.
Each of them had some issue, Merle said.
She said Marysville is actually looking pretty good because they now have three out of six sites. Those three are being evaluated together because they are contiguous, but they remain independent selections, she added.
The final recommendation will be made by a land use consultant hired by the state, the Office of Financial Management, and a UW academic planning team. The consultant will evaluate all four potential sites and recommend one to state lawmakers.
Its still totally up to the legislature, Merle said.
Some people in the north county area are lobbying against the Everett sites because it would be too far to drive for students from Skagit and Island counties, according to Arlington assistant City Administrator Kristin Banfield.
We need a college here in north county, she said.
The Arlington-Smokey Point Chamber of Commerce is supporting the Marysville locations, for the three usual reasons.
Its mainly location, location, location, said vice chairman Jim Lonneker. Its probably the best.
He emphasized that the mandate for the branch campus is to also serve Skagit and Island counties, and noted that traffic into Everett each morning is now backing up into the Marysville area. Adding thousands of new students to the mix doesnt make sense for the banker who lives in Marysville and works in Smokey Point.
I think its the best commute, Lonneker said.
The other strong selling point is the blank slate aspect: acres of wide open fields offer unlimited growth potential for the future. Housing for students and staff should be easier too, he added.
Merle was asked if the selection committees leaned toward an urban site like Everetts downtown location, close to bus and rail transit facilities, or a green-field-type like Marysvilles.
We talk about it all the time, Merle said. Is there any leaning? No.
She noted that all four sites are within 10 miles of each other, and for a reason. Part of the mandate is that the college be located so that students have access to employers who can offer internships and jobs. The colleges academic plan calls for the interaction between businesses and students as part of the syllabus.
Thats part of the reason it got narrowed to the geographic area that it did, Merle explained. The ones that are still in the running make sense according to the academic plan. Everyone of these sites has pluses and minuses.
For Marysville Mayor Dennis Kendall, the initial surprise gave way to relief when he saw the trio of new sites that made the cut. If it is picked by the state one of the new sites could mean losing up to 25 acres of future parkland for Marysville. Frontier Bank had been negotiating with the city to sell a parcel of repossessed land but the city lacked money to pay for the site. But Kendall said a new four-year college would more than make up the difference.
Were OK with the site, Kendall said. This is a pretty huge hunk of property.
State planners will be holding a town hall meeting Oct. 3 to discuss their progress so far, and Kendall is hoping locals will show their support for the new college. A similar meeting in Stanwood brought out a contingent of people who didnt want the campus in their area, and they got their wish: none of the Stanwood or Camano Island properties made the cut.
Were hoping to get support, Kendall said.
The Arlington-Smokey Point and Greater Marysville Tulalip chambers of commerce have helped with printing form letters and logos urging a north county location, and members are planning to meet in town and carpool to the meeting at the Everett Events Center.
The Tri-County Coalition is chaired by Kendall and three other community leaders: Arlington School District Superintendent Linda Byrnes, Marysville stockbroker and community activist Steve Muller, and State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen. All are working towards getting the campus built in the north county area.
The question on Kendalls mind is the huge number of local legislators in the Legislature who are from the Everett area. The vote in the Statehouse could give the Everett sites an advantage numerically, and Kendall is hoping the consulting firm Marysville hired will help them corral some votes when the legislators make their decision.
Ive questioned that myself, Kendall said.
He knows that Everett has been in the game for a long time and has spent a lot of time and money preparing their bids, but Kendall was in the dark as to the political ramifications of the site selection.
For Merle, community support is not entering the equation at this point. The sites have to meet the college requirements and stand on their own merits. The Stanwood and Camano Island sites were taken off the list because they fell short of what the state needed.
There is not a hats and
t-shirts criteria, Merle laughed.
Just in case, the UW North Tri-County Coalition has a Web site, www.realhuskiesgonorth.com, urging people to write the selection team, especially businesses who would be interested in partnering with the college for educating students or offering internships.