Happy Valley Fire Station

Also go to: Time Line of events in the Barracks purchase

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Friday, March 19,1999

It was a meeting of elected representatives and the citizens they represent. There was dialog - good dialog. Gene Knutson, chair of the Bellingham City Council, helped by putting no time limit on each person's comments. Every speaker spoke with respect and everyone spoke to the issues and sat down. Those who wanted were allowed to speak a second time to make further points. The representatives listened. Really listened. The citizens spoke from their hearts and their experience as Barracks' residents and/or as Happy Valley residents.

The result? Well the council told us at the beginning that because of the awkward nature of this meeting - little notice, not really a legal council meeting, no recording secretary - they told us that they would not make any decisions this evening. And in a legal sense, they did not. But is a real sense, they did come to a concessus as a group - and a concessus with the 50 some citizens there.

New council representative John Watts summed it up at the end.

A. No rush to a decision. Public process will prevail on how to handle the land not needed for the new fire station.

B. Break the project into three parts.

1. Fire station design decisions. Where on Barracks property to put it.

2. Use of the unneeded land at the Barracks location. Select a proposal for housing use.

3. Decide what to do with the property at the present fire station's location at 14th and Harris.

The council will hold a hearing at the April 5 meeting to listen to suggestions for possible projects. It will also see if it can make a decision that evening or else at the April 12 meeting on the fire station location on the Barracks property. This will free up the the rest of the property for proposals. This gives the Peoples Land Trust a fair chance to either renovate the present Barracks apartments or to build entirely new low cost housing without a burden on the taxpayers.

What could have been a very bad evening was turned around and became a wonderful evening for all. The council learned that the residents of the South side understand the issues and have reasonable requests. We residents saw our representatives open to our comments and not committed to a slam dunk.

Lastly - the 4:20 pm council meeting on Monday was canceled.

Thursday, March 18

We've posted a small tribute to Sherry Jubilo who has chosen to stay in her apartment at the Barracks. Today was the city of Bellingham's deadline for her to move out. By staying, she loses the $10,000 payoff offer by the city.

If you can make it, there are two city council meetings that need citizen attendance.

Friday, March 19, at 7 pm - in the council chamber of city hall. And you thought council meetings were scheduled well ahead of time - and at times that the public could attend. Well, not when the Mayor and Council want to slam dunk a controversial project past the citizens. Then you get meetings with bare legal standing - or less. They don't want citizens there. They want the deed done and in the past.

Monday, March 22 at 4:20 pm in city hall - probably the mayor's board room. Note this is about three hours before the regularly scheduled council meeting. Sneaky folks, those representatives. This one was just scheduled today. It is missing from the council agenda. What will happen? The council will approve the giving away of the Barracks property to the Housing Authority. Yes, they have counted the votes. It is a done deal.

Only strong opposition from many citizens can reverse this. We should demand that the council hold a hearing to consider what to do with the Barracks property. Sell it to the Peoples Land Trust or give it to the Housing Authority? We should demand a cost benefit study - what are the costs of each? Tax loses if made public property. Tax costs for public housing. Let the issues see the dialog of a public hearing. If the Housing Authority has money to build 11 low cost houses then that is great - they should build them somewhere else. Counting the renovations of the Barracks by the Peoples Land Trust, that will give us perhaps 20 low cost housing units.

If you cannot attend the council meetings, then call your city council representative. Ask that council business be done at regularly scheduled council meetings on Monday evenings. object to the slam dunk political process now being practiced. Ask that the decision on the surplus Barracks property be done in a proper and public manner - and not at these two irregular meetings. Please - make the call.

Thursday, March 18

Sherry Jubilo enjoys a last legal evening at home in her easy chair and with friends. Sherry has lived in her Barracks apartment for over 10 years. If the Peoples Land Trust could purchase the Barracks and renovate the apartments, (at no cost to taxpayers) then she could live here in the future. Today was the city's deadline for Sherry to move out of her apartment. She hasn't. She will now lose the city's payoff offer of $10,000 to move quietly. At some time soon, the city will evict her. Then the city will begin the process of spending taxpayer money - lots of it - to bulldoze the apartments and build new public housing.

Keep in mind, dear reader, that professional renovators have inspected the Barracks and declared them to be very ready for renovation. The Peoples Land Trust is ready to put down good money for this. They have formally made their offers to the city. But, Mayor Mark wants none of it.

Tuesday, March 16

A sad tale of city government squirming to complete an ill planned and expensive project.

Why the rush? Why the secrecy? The mayor made it official Monday afternoon before a secret executive session of the city council - he wants to bulldoze the barracks and give the land to the Housing Authority. A secret meeting to discuss business between two government agencies is probably illegal and against the Open Meetings Act of Washington State. Why the secrecy? Why was this not discussed in open session a few hours later during the regular city council meeting?

Mayor Mark also has scheduled a special council meeting for this Friday evening at 7 pm - yes - that is this week, March 19. He intends to present his plan for the Barracks property then. This is to slam dunk this project and bulldoze the barracks. Bulldozers on Saturday? Just a guess at this point. Don't expect an announcement from city hall.

The Mayor has been calling a few select residents of Happy Valley trying to get them behind his plan. However, he did not have the basic decency to inform the Peoples Land Trust until late Monday afternoon. Note the Sunday posting of this story - the Mayor waited till his plan had been exposed by NW Citizen before he notified the Peoples Land Trust.

So what else? Would you believe that the city has scheduled a tour of the Barracks by the public for Friday afternoon from 4 to 6 pm? Your tour guide will be the Fire Department's special project agent, Dave Wolf. Dave will apparently conduct tours of the apartments to show the public why they need to be destroyed. How humiliating and insulting.

Then an hour later, the council will give their binding vote to allow the bulldozers to destroy 19 homes.

One Barracks' resident will stay. Sherry Jubilo is still living in her apartment. She plans to stay. She has forsaken the $10,000 payoff the city council has offered her. The city has informed her that if she stays beyond Thursday, March 18, that she will be billed for her rent. Sherry has lived here for over 10 years. I think close to 15 years. She has worked with the other Barracks' residents to help the People's Land Trust form a plan to buy the Barracks, renovate the apartments and continue this privately owned low cost housing community.

Finally - there will be a midnight candlelight vigil late Thursday night, March 18. Attend if you support the renovation of the Barracks' apartments.

I'll post news as events unfurl this week.

Sunday, March 14

The Mayor now has a definite plan to bulldoze all the Barracks apartments. This violates his pretend good trust cooperation with the Peoples' Land Trust (PLT) to sell those apartments not demolished for the new fire station to the PLT. They planned to renovate them and continue to offer low cost apartments - at no taxpayer expense. No, the Mayor has not informed the PLT of his plans. I have learned about this through reliable sources, as usual. The proof will be the pudding. The bulldozed land will be transferred to the Housing Authority which will build expensive homes and manage them as low cost houses for low income qualified persons - at considerable expense to taxpayers.

Bottom line for most city residents: that fire station price just went up again. Keep in mind that it was located at the Barracks because it was supposedly cheapest. Top fire department officials have told me privately that the Barracks's location is not the best for the fire station. The response times for calls to the south Bellingham area are longer from there than from other possible sites. The south is the area of all future growth and the area for over half the emergency calls now. The city did no study of response times in preparation for the fire station relocation.

All this from a mayor who says he has improved relations with neighborhoods. Mayor Mark is not talking about the Happy Valley Neighborhood when he says this. Most all of the residents of the Barracks have now moved out -with the $10,000 payoffs the city decided to give them. They have found new homes. Several of them have continued to work to have the PLT buy the remaining apartments - an effort that shows their sincerity about wanting to preserve their former homes - and move back in. They won't be allowed into the tax supported housing - they aren't government qualified poor folks, and they don't want to be. They all have jobs.

So, our mayor finds yet more ways to waste taxpayer money. A fire station in the wrong location and a new permanent tax burden of supporting housing where no support was needed. Where is our city council on all this? Hello - anybody there?

Saturday, Feb 13

The Bellingham Herald Editorial on Friday was complimentary to the Barracks residents and their fight to save their homes. We have printed it with some comments. We also recommend you pick up a copy of the new Every Other Weekly - Feb 11 issue - to read the skinny and what it has to say about the Barracks.

Monday, Feb 8

We posted "Public Process and the New Southside Fire Station", a request presented to the Bellingham City Council this evening by Adam Ward with the support of many of the Barracks residents. Also at this evening's Council, several South Side residents - 5 people - spoke about the importance of preserving as many of the apartments as possible - with a goal of saving 17 of the 19 apartments. The obvious way to do this is vacate 15th street and move the fire station into that 40 extra feet of space. Hopefully the Council will request the Fire Department to evaluate the feasibility of this. So far, the department has brushed the idea aside, saying the residents on the other side of the street would also have to be for the vacation. Problem was the department had not talked to the owners. Some neighbors did and we informed the council that those property owners are open to the idea. Hopefully the council will now request the fire department actually investigate the vacation proposal.

A correction to report. The Herald article did mention there are 19 units to the Barracks. The paragraph just below - first para of Feb 3 report - incorrectly says the Herald did not mention this. My error. I was notified of this error this evening. Glad to correct it.

Wednesday, Feb 3

So the Herald and KGMI both report that 8 units of the Barracks will be saved. Not mentioned is that 11 of the 19 units will be eliminated. Neither report even mentioned that there are 19 unites. Thus, the reports give no sense of the loss. This is biased reporting to favor public official over citizens. As usual.

We also note, for the city council representatives benefit, that we have another deception in the works that will only come out later. Dave Wolf was careful all evening to never admit that the city has no intention of selling the surplus land and apartments to the Peoples Land Trust (PLT). He always referred to the apartments being managed by an "agency" and gave examples of tax supported agencies (see today's Herald article). The PLT is not tax supported. It is not an "agency". The city intends to restrict and control who lives in the renovated barracks in the future - if they don't just bulldoze them.

Watch this one play out folks. In a few weeks or months we'll have public officials saying they never said they would sell to the PLT. True, but they are now leaving everyone with the impression that they will sell to the PLT. I challenge the council members to seek the truth from the Mayor, Fire Department and Legal Department - and to tell the public. Does the PLT have any chance of buying the remaining land and apartments and what conditions will be set? I say the conditions will be unreasonable for the PLT to accept and will only be affordable by a tax supported agency. All taxpayers will lose. The deception is now in play.

 

To earlier postings. The postings on this subject started on Aug 17, 1998.

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