Capital budget impasse affects projects locally, statewide

Governments, nonprofits having to adjust their plans with expected funding source in limbo

By Jake Thomas, Columbian staff writer



Capital Budget Crisis

A three-part series

Saturday: Capital budget impasse affects projects statewide.

Sunday: School building projects face delays, budget cuts.

Monday: Ambitious Steigerwald habitat project left in limbo.

It was something that had widespread support among lawmakers but was left unfinished when the Legislature adjourned over the summer.

The $4 billion capital budget contained funding for construction projects across the state. While it passed the House on a bipartisan 92-1 vote, it hit a snag in the Senate, where Republicans (who control the chamber) wouldn’t allow the funding package to advance without a fix to a state Supreme Court case that limited access to water for rural development.

The House version contained $105.7 million for projects in Clark County, according to numbers from the state Office of Financial Management. Four months after the Legislature adjourned, local governments and nonprofits in Clark County are adjusting to the expected funding source being left in limbo.

“The lack of passage of a capital budget has severely impacted our community, just as it has communities around the state,” state Sen. Annette Cleveland, D-Vancouver, wrote in a text.

Cleveland mentioned that a planned adult day care center operated by CDM Services has been delayed, and planned construction at school districts has been negatively impacted.

“In addition to the impacts on services, the construction jobs supported by the capital budget were lost this year as a result of the budget not being approved,” she wrote.

The capital budget contains two grants totaling $1.2 million for the Bridgeview Education and Employment Resource Center, an 8,500-square-foot facility in central Vancouver that’s intended to be a one-stop shop for services and support for low-income households.

Despite a lack of funding from the state, Bridgeview began construction on the $3.9 million project in July.

“We are really counting on the capital budget funds, though, to pay for all this,” said Jan Wichert, executive director of Bridgeview. “We have an awful lot of faith in our delegation. We are banking on it going through.”

Wichert said Bridgeview decided to move on the project because costs kept increasing and because her organization needed the new facility for space and staffing reasons. She also said it’s a “real need in the community.”

She said that if funding from the capital budget doesn’t come through, Bridgeview will have to access a $1.7 million line of credit. Using the credit will come with interest costs, she said.

The city of Vancouver was slated to receive $14.8 million in loans and grants for public works projects on Northeast 10th Avenue and to convert city lights to LED. The city was also supposed to receive $300,000 for upgrades at the Clark County Historical Museum, which it owns.

“Projects that missed the construction season will be delayed and probably more expensive for the organization,” state Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, wrote in a text.

State Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, pointed out that the capital budget contained funding for weatherization projects across the state. She said these projects could help families make their homes more energy efficient, but they won’t be in place for this winter.

The budget contained $11.6 million in loans for drinking water construction projects in Clark County. The city of Camas was slated to receive $1.6 million for its water transmission surface main.

Peter Capell, the city’s administrator, said Camas is moving forward with the project and has delayed parts of it. He said delaying construction will make it slightly more costly because of inflation. He also said the city is using a line of credit on part of the project, which charges interest.

“It’s costing us some, but it’s manageable,” he said.