Council commits $500,000 to youth club

At hearing, public tells council to invest in kids
By Nicholas Johnson | Mar 01, 2017
Photo by: Nicholas Johnson Jackie Webley, who grew up attending Mukilteo’s Boys & Girls Club, said she could not think of a better investment the city could make than to support the club that gave her a place to go and nurtured her lifelong love of art.

Supporters of Mukilteo’s Boys & Girls Club came out in force last week to tell the City Council just how much the club has meant to them – and it worked.

Some 21 people spoke during the public hearing, after which the council voted unanimously to give the club what it’s been asking for: $500,000 toward construction of a new, $5 million facility in Harbour Pointe.

“How exciting,” Mayor Jennifer Gregerson said following the vote, which was also met with applause from the roughly 75 people in attendance.

With Councilmember Randy Lord absent, the council also took several other unanimous actions.

It separated the club’s request from the question of what to do with the historic Hawthorne Hall, which the club has called home since it 1961, and deferred that discussion to a later date.

It also approved Gregerson to sign a contract with the club governing its use of a $775,000 county grant, and directed city staff to bring a draft lease agreement back at a later date for further discussion and approval.

Though it still has a funding gap of $556,000, the club intends to break ground on the 18,000-square-foot facility in June, and move in by October 2018.

“We’re going to get up there,” longtime club director Chuck Davis told the council. “We’re going to get up there right behind Kamiak High School, right behind Harbour Pointe [Middle School], not far from Endeavor [Elementary School], not far from Columbia [Elementary School]. And, when we get there, we will get those kids, because that is our mission, to have programs for kids.”

Davis and others said for years the club has failed to serve the area’s young people, especially those in Harbour Pointe, due to a lack of space and its inconvenient location in Old Town.

“There’s a potential to reach so many more kids,” Childcare and Program Director Marcie Hagan told the council. “Parents don’t want to drive their kids down to that facility.”

Dakota LaFountaine, 17, said as a homeschool student he goes to the club to play basketball and make friends.

“My friends don’t like going to the club because it gets so overcrowded,” he said. “We’ve been in there when there are 60 or 70 kids trying to share six hoops.”

While city staff have said the hall is structurally sound, they estimate needed improvements would cost between $250,000 and $500,000. Some who spoke had harsh words for the hall.

“I spent enough time in that boy’s club building to tell you it’s a disgrace, it’s a dump, and anybody who thinks it can be remodeled, that’s ridiculous,” said Bill Rucker, who has actively campaigned for the club’s new facility.

Ken Collins of Mukilteo seconded that characterization.

“Thirty years ago, that place was a dump, and it’s a dump today,” he said, noting that he began taking his 5-year-old son to the club 30 years ago. “We need to do something to get our kids off the street, away from their computers and their Gameboys and their iPhones.”

Prior to the hearing, Community Development Director Patricia Love convened a group of stakeholders to discuss alternative uses for the historic hall. That group, which included city staff from various departments and members of the Mukilteo Senior Association and Mukilteo Historical Society, recommended the council separate the hall’s fate from the club’s funding request.

“Overall, the group had overwhelming support for the Boys & Girls Club,” Love said. “They saw the club as part of our history and our future.”

Many at the hearing said the club has had a positive affect on their lives.

“I learned to draw there,” said Jackie Webley, who grew up in Mukilteo and now lives in Bellingham. “I now work as a professional artist. I pay my taxes, I vote and I have a good credit score. A lot of that is due to the kind of person that I learned how to be at the Boys & Girls Club.”

Jaden Jones, a Mariner High School student, said, “It’s definitely changed who I am. I used to hang out with sort of bad people, then I started volunteering.”

Tom Lowry of Mukilteo said the city has plenty of money to spend some of it in promotion of youth recreational activities.

“I’m embarrassed to be in a city with this much wealth, to put it bluntly, that we haven’t been able to get this done,” he said. “It’s a black mark on us and the way we look at our underprivileged kids.”

Former Mayor Joe Marine told the council that kicking in $500,000 on a $5 million recreational facility to be maintained by the club and owned by the city is just a good investment. The council agreed.

“To invest 10 percent to get 100 percent of something just makes good business sense to me,” Councilmember Ted Wheeler said.

Councilmember Scott Whelpley called the investment a win for all.

“I think we have this mistaken idea that we are wealthy here in Mukilteo,” he said. “That is not true. This is an opportunity for us to provide an affordable facility for kids that can’t join the YMCA in Mukilteo.”

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