Olympia’s budget struggles put squeeze on Quincy project
As time runs low in the Washington Legislature, important funding for construction of a popular local project is at risk.
The Community Heritage Barn planned for the complex of historical buildings and museum at 415 F St. SW, Quincy, is No. 18 on the list of projects officially approved by the Heritage Capital Projects Fund, a list that is traditionally used in state legislators’ budgeting deliberations.
The Quincy Valley Historical Society & Museum organization and local supporters had done their homework. Funds were raised to meet the local match level needed, and the grant was written. The ducks were in a row.
The barn, envisioned with 3,500 square feet, display space and a kitchen among its features to educate the public about the area’s rich agricultural history, seemed on schedule to be built in 2017.
But this year, things are different in Olympia. The main budget proposals, from the governor, in the House and in the Senate, do not fully fund the 35 projects on the Heritage Capital Projects Fund list. Quincy’s Community Heritage Barn project, which was set up for a state grant of $205,190, did not make the cut in capital budget proposals from the governor and the House. The Senate version would fund only 85 percent of the grant amount, according to Harriet Weber, a volunteer with the local historical society.
Weber is the project manager for the Community Heritage Barn, and she is frustrated and disappointed at what she is seeing. She said she has written similar grant applications before and there was not this much political wrangling involved, and those grants were approved by the state.
“It’s never been this difficult,” Weber said. “It’s been a rollercoaster ride.”
This is the first time she has had to be involved in lobbying in Olympia to urge legislators to approve the list of 35 historical projects for funding.
“We did the prescribed route … we did everything we were supposed to do in terms of getting state money,” she said.
Another disappointing aspect of the experience with this grant, Weber said, is that the Legislature apparently has tens of millions of dollars available and is giving out money around the state for projects that have not gone through a similarly rigorous application or vetting process. It is “really sad,” she said.
She said the grant system through Heritage Capital Projects Fund has been in place since the ’90s, and the 35 projects on the list this year total only about $9 million.
The heritage barn grant may still be a part of the state’s capital budget. To improve the chances of that happening, Weber asks for the public’s help by contacting state legislators representing this area: Rep. Tom Dent, Sen. Judy Warnick and Rep. Matt Manweller. Dent and Warnick have been supportive already, she said, but it would help a lot if people would contact the local legislators to say they are really in support of the Heritage Capital Projects Fund and ask them push for it.
Weber suggests calling or sending a personal letter to support full funding of the 35 Heritage Capital Fund Projects to:
• Sen. Judy Warnick, (360) 786-7624, Judith.Warnick@leg.wa.gov.
• Rep. Tom Dent, (360) 786-7932, firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Rep. Matt Manweller (360) 786-7808, email@example.com.
The plan was, Weber said, to break ground for the heritage barn this summer, and she remains committed.
“We are going to start it” regardless of what happens with the state grant requested, she said. The project has enough cash in donations now to put up the shell of the building.
”So our board, with the support of the city, has decided we are going to go ahead,” she said.
She said she knows this heritage barn is going to be such an asset that she has every confidence that, if necessary, a donor will be found to make up a budget shortfall.
“That’s just the way Quincy is,” she said.
By Dave Burgess, firstname.lastname@example.org