Nearly 13 years ago, the City of Camas purchased a five acre parcel of property, which included the 4,800 square foot Moose Lodge building located on the shores of Lacamas Lake.
Right from the beginning, the intent was that the site would eventually be home to a new recreation facility.
But years went by, and the Moose continued to rent the building at 227 N.E. Lake Road from the city as several different efforts aimed at generating support and identifying funding channels for such a facility failed. The reasons ranged from lack of money and hesitation from some elected city leaders to a poor economy.
But current Camas Mayor Scott Higgins said the possibility of taking advantage of some creative financing options recently inspired him to work to make some form of this long-held dream a reality.
“It’s been a 30-year question,” he said of the effort to build a new community center in Camas. “The community has been trying to find a place to have these kinds of events for 30 years, and now there is a window of opportunity.”
This opportunity is reflected in the 2013 proposed budget in the form of a $1.9 million project referred to as the Lacamas Lake Lodge and Conference Center. The endeavor will remodel within its current footprint the existing facility to create one that will be able to host a variety of community events and activities.
“On the south bank of Lacamas Lake, in the center of the ‘Lacamas Corridor’ of public park, recreation, trail and open spaces, the center will be constructed,” the 2013 budget message states. “In this beautiful setting, a modern, yet compatible structure will be built. It is foreseen as the first and vital step in a longer range vision of community center/facilities in the Lacamas Corridor.”
Funding for the project will come from two sources, including a 10-year, $1.55 million, 3 percent interest loan from the State of Washington LOCAL program. Payments, approximately $180,000 per year, will be made from the city’s Growth Management Capital Facilities Fund using parks and open space impact fees and real estate excise taxes.
The remainder would come from the Friends of the Camas Community Center, who could finally get to see put to use $350,000 originally donated to the non-profit by the late Christine Kropp. The FCCC was among several different organizations that received a portion of the $2.4 million Kropp, who spent 46 years as a secretary at Crown Zellerbach, had amassed through wise investments and then donated following her death on Feb. 4, 1998.
Operating costs are expected to be $60,000 per year. Approximately $17,500 has been set aside for this expense in the 2013 budget.
Last night, the Camas City Council approved two professional services agreements related to the Lacamas Lake Lodge project. The $93,000 contract with Architect Associative, Inc., of Vancouver, funds the building design work and a $67,913 contract with J.D. Walsh & Associates, of Vancouver, will cover landscape architecture services.
Higgins said construction could begin this winter, with the facility complete and ready for use in 2014.
The structure was originally built in the 1940s as a boat repair shop. The Camas Loyal Order of the Moose purchased it in the 1980s, sold it to the City of Camas in 2000 and had been renting it ever since. After years of searching for the right location, the Moose purchased a new building on E Street in Washougal earlier this year.
“Every single day I drive by that place,” Higgins recently said of the deteriorating building on Lacamas Lake. “It was never really pretty and it’s even less pretty now. But it could be beautiful.”
Higgins has described the remodel of the Moose Lodge as a potential “Phase 1” of a community center project. Additional phases could eventually include additions on the city-owned Buhman property, located across the street from the lodge.
The Lacamas Lake Lodge project is one element of the $58 million 2013 budget for all city funds.
“It is a fifth ‘recession budget,’ flat in its general fund spending,” said City Administrator Lloyd Halverson. “The balance of city services is continued, albeit at strained and stretched levels.”
Other elements of the coming year’s proposed budget include $22 million in capital investments such as the Northwest 38th Avenue extension ($5.3 million); Friberg/Strunk Street construction ($2.9 million); next phase of the wastewater treatment plant construction ($3.3 million) and the initial phases of the Jones Creek and Boulder Creek waterline construction ($3 million).
If the budget is approved, Camas will also continue its contributions to local and regional economic development associations including the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association ($50,000), Columbia River Economic Development Council ($26,000) and the Downtown Camas Association ($15,000).
The $16.34 million general fund operating budget will be balanced using $824,000 in reserve funds. This is expected to leave a $2.9 million general fund balance at the end of 2013 — an amount within the 17 percent goal set by City Council policy.
Thirty-three percent of the entire $58 million budget supports salaries and benefits for the city’s 175.9 full-time equivalent employees who serve the 20,020 Camas residents.
The budget that has been crafted is based on some unknowns. Although a preliminary assessed value figure was released by the Clark County assessor’s office in October, the exact number isn’t expected until later this month, and there is also some uncertainty regarding the outcomes of negotiations that are underway on contracts with all five of the city’s labor unions.
A public hearing on the 2013 budget is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 3, at 7 p.m., at City Hall. The City Council will vote on its formal adoption later that month.
To view the budget document, visit City Hall at 616 N.E. Fourth Ave., call 834-6864, or visit www.cityofcamas.us, then click on “Document Center.”