Health center’s move, ad-hoc library group, election delay @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Nine members and about a dozen onlookers were present for the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council‘s first meeting of 2012, at North Highline Fire District headquarters. Here’s what they discussed, heard, and did:

PUBLIC HEALTH CENTER MOVING: White Center’s county public-health center is moving from 8th Avenue to Greenbridge, and David Reyes came to tell NHUAC more about that. The new location will continue to provide some but not all of the services will move with the location – such as public-health-nurse home-visiting services (the Nurse/Family Partnership), he said – there’s no room in the new facility for that team, but the team will continue to serve the area. 34 or 35 staffers will move, about two-thirds of its current staff, Reyes said. The new location is in two storefronts south of Dubsea Coffee on 8th SW; the street number likely wll be 9930, he said. The new design is being finalized, according to Reyes, and “if all goes well … we’re hoping to be able to relocate sometime in June.” He says the space will be environmentally and ergonomically appropriate, and will be able to capture “as much light as possible” – “very different from what we have now” on the current site next to the White Center Food Bank. “It’s going to be like walking into a new doctors’ facility almost anywhere.” The facility’s service area is beyond White Center, by the way – as far south as Des Moines, as well as points east to South Park. Asked by NHUAC member Ron Johnson about the financial arrangements for the new location, Reyes said he didn’t have all the information; Johnson had noted that the space in question was supposed to be for businesses and said he’s particularly concerned if tax revenues – such as those that a business would have provided – were going to be lost. Reyes said he does know that they’re going in as tenants, “not necessarily (tax) exempt.”

WHAT ABOUT THE HEALTH CENTER’S CURRENT SITE? It will formally revert to being a King County Parks property, according to Katy Terry from that department. The WC Food Bank is five years into a 15-year lease on its part of the site, she noted. Nothing specific is finalized yet but she says they are interested in having “someone” there, not just having it be some kind of “Parks-specific” space. Maybe a combination of medical – she mentioned a tentative inquiry from Harborview, for example – and nonprofit, she said. They haven’t done outreach yet, she said, while waiting to find out about Public Health’s timetable for moving out, which just now, she said, is starting to become clearer. The Food Bank might even be interested in the added space, she said – if any group is interested in the space, it should contact KC Parks. Answering council questions, she acknowledged this is “new territory for us,” as Parks has not previously had facilities it owned but leased out. Community member Gill Loring asked Terry if they have been officially in contact with Burien, considering the site could be within that city’s boundaries; her answer basically was “no,” though Parks, she says, has been monitoring the annexation situation.

CRIME (ETC.) UPDATE: Storefront Deputy BJ Myers said there was one bit of particularly good news – a lower level of crime in the downtown area last month. He noted that Metro Transit Police have “had a good presence” in White Center, checking out bus stops and making rounds on biccyles. He also said that ex-Storefront Deputy Jeff Hancock “is now a regular presence on patrol on second shift … and has been a great resource to have back.” Myers brought up the Seattle Roll Bakery murder and said the suspect was even arrested and jailed before he came to work that day. “Talking to people around the community, I think there’s an understanding that it’s the kind of crime that could happen anywhere,” he observed. “It just happened to go down in our neighborhood.” Dobkin said she had previously not been aware that the bakery had been open all night; Myers said that wasn’t common knowledge before and that the description in some venues of a “24-hour sandwich shop” wasn’t actually the case – that the bakery had employees on hand at that hour because they were baking for clients, not doing retail business. Would the witnesses who made up the robbery story be prosecuted? he was asked. He said that’s not clear, pointing out that they were in a “difficult position,” but at least, he said, the truth became clear fairly quickly and didn’t set the investigation back too far. What’s up at the DK Café? he was asked (following last fall’s raids). It’s still open, Myers noted, while saying that there’s followup to come. The task force also is still interested in tips, he clarified, but if there’s some “new” or “persistent” crime, KCSO would like to get tips on that kind of thing. Asked about recent crimes, he said that detectives are developing leads on last month’s liquor-store robbery (WCN coverage here). As for this morning’s hit-and-run, he says they’re now confirming it was believed to be a “dark sedan,” though originally there was “no vehicle description at all.” He also fielded questions about various other concerns, including whether people are back living in the apartments over the former Club Evo; they seem to be, he said.

QUARTERLY CRIME DISCUSSION? NHUAC member Richard Miller, who also happens to chair the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council, said he had been talking to the brass at KCSO about a possible quarterly meeting to discuss crime issues/concerns, separate from NHUAC meetings, which tackle a variety of topics. A date of 7 pm February 9th was tentatively set for a pilot version of this meeting.

BURIEN UPDATE – INCLUDING ANNEXATION AND LIBRARY CONSOLIDATION: Burien city manager Mike Martin said he’ll be at next Monday’s Boundary Review Board meeting on the annexation proposal (7 pm January 9th at Cascade Middle School), missing a Burien City Council meeting – the first one, he says, he’s ever missed – in order to be present. He says no surprises are expected. … He gave a shoutout to new staffer Nhan Nguyen (left), who (as mentioned at a previous meeting) is now a management analyst for Burien … Then he talked about the library controversy. “You probably don’t know we’ve put together a little ad-hoc group,” Martin said, including NHUAC president Barbara Dobkin, to focus on the issue; it met most recently, he said, last night. “We really tried to dissemble the whole thing and see ‘what makes sense’,” Martin explained. Rather than just oppose the consolidation plan, Martin said, they want to be able to tell the county library system what they think SHOULD happen. He said “a couple themes have emerged” – that the Boulevard Park Library “is a unique facility and serves a function greater than being a library – it’s a gathering spot, it’s iconic, it’s the sole representative of government there …” So, he says, there’s probably “no compromise” that the Boulevard Park Library must stay open in some form, at its location. So, he said, the group is now focusing on the White Center Library, with a lot of discussion focusing on it also having importance beyond just being a library – being “community-centric.” The location, though, may not be so important, so they’re talking about whether other sites might make sense. And, he says, they are taking into account such things as “what if Seattle annexed that area in 10 years?” even though that seems unlikely, at the very least. Factors they are evaluating include social justice and economy of scale, and whether the building of a White Center Library could serve some other function. Bottom line, though, he said, the group has reached “no conclusions,” in its “free-ranging, candid” discussions thus far. Martin reiterated that he doesn’t want to just “stop the (consolidation) project,” but rather put forward an alternative proposal. NHUAC member Ron Johnson brought up the matter of proximity to schools; Martin said there are even better places a library could be than its current site, if that is a key issue. (If you’ve missed previous coverage of the issue, the library board decided to table the consolidation discussion until after the Boundary Review Board makes its decision on furthering the annexation proposal, after next week’s hearing. The board’s next meeting is January 24th; no agenda is posted yet.) Dobkin noted that a location closer to downtown White Center might be optimal; while that has in the past stirred concern that it was too close to Seattle, Martin pointed out the possibilities of economic spinoff – he consulted Nguyen for a bit of data, that 35,000 people from Seattle use county libraries in this area, and what if they all also came to patronize the White Center business district while doing that – “seeing those business rising” during their visits?

COUNCIL ANNOUNCEMENTS: President Barbara Dobkin reminded everyone about the Boundary Review Board meeting, noting that the board will be ready to hear public comment; on behalf of the council, Dobkin plans to speak in favor of the annexation proposal … NHUAC member Pat Price reminded everyone of the White Center-South Delridge Community Safety Coalition’s emergency-preparedness series launching next week …

PUBLIC COMMENT: 7 pm January 24 is the next North Highline Fire District commissioners’ meeting … Aileen Sison thanked everyone who contributed to last month’s Tree LIghting Ceremony at the Delridge Triangle, noting that about 100 people were in attendance (WCN coverage, with video, is here); she mentioned the tree-topper designed by the local blacksmith who also has created the bike racks now appearing in downtown White Center.

DOWNTOWN FLOWER BEDS, AND STEVE COX MEMORIAL PARK FLAG: Dobkin says their adviser on the project, Village Green Perennial Nursery’s Vera Johnson, says they could plant now, so she’ll be organizing a work party. Council member Rebecca Lopes talked about the flagpole at Steve Cox Memorial Park, which also will need a flag. Johnson suggested obtaining a flag that has flown over the State Capitol. Other ideas for flag sources were discussed. Whatever the ultimate result, Dobkin said, she thinks it would be appropriate for NHUAC to have something to do with providing the flag, given the group’s history with renaming the park in honor of Deputy Cox and his long NHUAC involvement.

COUNCIL BYLAWS – INCLUDING, WILL THERE BE AN ELECTION? These are more important than you might think, given that the group’s no longer funded and convened by the county, but has decided to go ahead TFN. That raised the question of whether they should proceed with May elections as usual. Member Price suggested that elections be tabled while they wait to see what happens with annexation, provided the current members are amenable to continue their roles at least through 2012. Dobkin pointed out that elections require a lot of effort, and haven’t drawn major turnout. If annexation falls through, then they’ll have to decide what to do, as Johnson observed, but for now, the council voted unanimously to put elections on hold, at least until there’s word on whether Burien will take the annexation proposal to voters.

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meets the first Thursday of the month, 7 pm, at North Highline Fire District HQ, 1243 SW 112th SW.

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