As word spread in June that Yelm received state funding for the design and planning process for a new, two-story, mixed use South Puget Sound Community College branch and business incubator, support from candidates and city council members alike has grown.
Yelm has $200,000 from the state Legislature to begin the design and planning process of the mixed-use space. The structure would tentatively be built on a half-acre lot that the city purchased alongside its new city hall on Second Street.
But some are still unsure about the funding method to construct a new building, and others are saying they don’t want taxpayers to foot the bill.
“The only concern I have is with local taxpayers in Yelm,” said Yelm Councilmember Joe DePinto “I can support a feasibility study, but after that I just don’t know.”
The Nisqually Valley News spoke with two Yelm councilmembers and three candidates for Yelm council about the issue. Some said they support the city’s initiative to bring higher education to Yelm, but others are skeptical.
Mayor JW Foster said there’s no final plan, but the city is looking for support in whatever venture or space comes to fruition.
“We have a beautiful plot of property next to city hall that would be great for a number of resources,” Foster said. “We’ve got this rather broad concept. We’ve gotten some support verbally from our legislators. We’re still putting the pieces of the puzzle together.”
When it comes to creating a space, Foster said it’s about bringing together resources and organizations within the city. Many businesses in Yelm fail because of a lack of planning, so Foster said having support from an incubator and education center would help struggling businesses with their long term operations.
Candidate for Yelm City Council James Blair opposes the project, saying that while he supports the drive to expand options in higher education, he doesn’t support the city funding a space for it.
“It is not the role of city government to play landlord. I would love to see some form of higher education option in Yelm, but not on the backs of local taxpayers. SPSCC needs to pay to construct their own campus,” he wrote in an email to the Nisqually Valley News.
Blair also voiced strong opposition to a business incubator space.
Council member EJ Curry said the city has been looking at bringing a community college branch to Yelm for at least a decade.
A supporter, Curry said the project is still only in the preliminary stages of planning at that nothing has yet been submitted to the council.
“It’s going to be great because people won’t have to drive,” Curry said.
She said she would like to see the city apply for more grants and said constructing a new facility will all depend on the cost.
According to Andrew Kollar, communications specialist with the city of Yelm, the city hasn’t started the process for looking at a possible community college and incubator space.