Nonprofits ask Kennewick to invest in infrastructure

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 11, 2014 

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties and Habitat for Humanity Tri-Cities are asking the Kennewick City Council to make an investment in east Kennewick.

Leaders from the two nonprofits urged the council Tuesday to find a way to pay for about $808,000 worth of infrastructure improvements on undeveloped property near South Jean Place and Fifth Avenue.

That investment would allow the Boys & Girls Clubs to build a clubhouse and Habitat to build 12 more homes on the 3.6 acres remaining, said Brian Ace, Boys & Girls Clubs executive director.

Habitat will finish the last of 15 homes in the neighborhood this spring, said Rick Jansons, Habitat's executive director. Originally, Habitat had planned to build 30 more homes on the adjacent property.

Habitat would sell the lots to the families who participate in the nonprofit's sweat equity program and help build their own homes. But Ace said the Boys & Girls Club would rather lease land from the city for the clubhouse.

For that to happen, South Jean Place and Seventh Avenue need to be extended, Ace said. And an extension of Fifth Avenue also needs to be considered.

Peter Beaudry, the city's municipal services director, said he expects the infrastructure cost would be less than the $808,000 estimate. The project would include relocating a sewer trunk line as well as the street extensions.

Councilman Paul Parish said the proposal has his full support.

"Anything we can do to make it happen, we need to," he said.

Ace and Jansons say the combination of Habitat homes and a Boys & Girls club will help stabilize the community.

Ace said it's key to invest now in intervention and prevention services for children and teens to reduce future crime.

At traditional clubs, children participate in activities meant to help with character development, a healthy lifestyle and academics, Ace said. Children pay $10 a year for membership.

The goal is to help children graduate from high school ready to excel, whether they decide to go to college or a vocational school, enter the military or find a job, Ace said.

There are more than 850 school-age children in low-income apartments near the property, Ace said.

Ace said the nonprofit also would like the council to consider developing an acre of the property into a public park.

Kennewick Mayor Steve Young said the council should not lose sight of needs in Kennewick's existing community.

City staff will work with the city's Blue Ribbon Commission -- a group of local residents and community leaders -- on how to pay for the infrastructure improvements, said City Manager Marie Mosley. Funding options will be brought back to council.

Also Tuesday:

w The Carousel of Dreams may open this May at Kennewick's Southridge Sports & Events Complex.

The sheeting on the outside of the carousel building is up and the mechanical portion that will make the horses dance up and down is on site waiting to be installed, the council learned Tuesday.

"This is world class art and it's a new destination for this community," said Eric Van Winkle, chairman of the Three Rivers Carousel Foundation board.

It's not just for children, he said.

The mechanical portion that will move the 103-year-old carousel will be installed in the 9,600-square-foot building in March, Van Winkle said. It will take at least 10 days for that part of the project.

The carousel building includes a banquet room that can be used for weddings, birthday parties and other events. The concessionaire will have a window on the inside of the carousel building as well as on the outside, so concessions can be sold to other park users, Van Winkle said.

The top of the building will feature a copper horse, he said.

Some of the old mechanism parts that were not useable will be displayed on the wall of the carousel building, Van Winkle said. The carousel foundation has also donated some of the pieces to the city of Kennewick to be used on a statue that will go somewhere in the city of Kennewick.

Community members and local businesses have been very supportive of the carousel project, Van Winkle said. A $100,000 funding gap remains.

Carousel horses are still available to sponsor, and the carousel foundation is now selling floor tiles that would encircle the actual carousel, he said. A 10-inch square tile is $200.

Young committed to two tiles for the carousel during the meeting. He said the carousel will benefit the whole region.

Also for sale is 10-by-20 inch tiles for $600 and 20-inch square tiles for $1,000.

Van Winkle said volunteers already are planning how to operate the carousel.

The entire project will cost the community about $4 million since the project began about 11 years ago, including the initial purchase of the horses and the $2 million building.

The council gave the foundation another chance to finish the carousel in 2012. It considered selling the 1910 Charles Carmel carousel to recoup some of the $830,000 the city invested in the project. The horses, purchased in 2003, were restored and had been sitting in city storage.

For more information or to donate, go to www.carouselofdreams.net or call 509-585-8800.

w Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com

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