The Yelm community continues to reap the excess budget dollars out of Olympia as the state Legislature has passed a supplemental capital budget request to refurbish both the historic Yelm Water Tower and the Triad Theater.

Both measures were sponsored by Rep. JT Wilcox, R-Yelm. The Yelm Water Tower project is to receive $154,500, while the Triad Theater is getting $39,140.

Steve Craig, who led the effort for the water tower to gain a place on the state’s Heritage Register in 2016, applied for the money through the nonprofit group Save the Yelm Water Tower. Cameron Jayne, director of the Triad Theater, applied for her group’s funds.

The water tower funds will pay for sandblasting, painting and minor structural reinforcement of the ladder and balcony surrounding the water tank atop the 125-foot tower. Once that is complete, the nonprofit group hopes to raise another $100,000 or so to add computerized lighting of the water tower, making it both a preserved historic landmark and an artistic expression.

The Triad funds will go toward renovation, redesign, and upgrades to electrical, plumbing, lighting, construction of a ticket booth, signage, painting, doors and handicap requirements. The Triad Theater is housed within the historic Wolf Building. Both projects are located in the heart of downtown Yelm.

“On behalf of the newly formed nonprofit organization, ‘Save the Yelm Water Tower,’” Craig said, “the group is pleased and excited about the funding being made available to refurbish the tower.  In less than a year the tower not only has been placed on Washington State’s historic register but now has the funds to refurbish it.”

Craig thanked Rep. Wilcox.

“Without his enthusiastic support to preserve this historic Yelm landmark, this would not have happened,” Craig said.

Craig indicated that refurbishing/painting the water tower is phase one, to be followed by a computerized lighting installation, landscaping/fencing and an interpretive kiosk to describe and illustrate the history surrounding the tower. Funding for this additional work will be sought in the months ahead, while work on phase one refurbishing is anticipated to begin this summer. 

“Not quite the Seattle Space Needle,” Craig said, “but when completed it will not only be an historic landmark, but a night time warmly lighted community focal point and attraction — Yelm’s version of a space needle.”

In 2016 the Governor’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, along with the Washington state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation listed the Yelm Water Tower on the Washington Heritage Register of Historic Places.

This is the first water tower in Washington state to have such historic recognition.

“The old Yelm water tower is a big part of our history and an eye-catching landmark that everyone recognizes,” said Yelm Mayor JW Foster at the time of the designation. “It evokes childhood memories in those who have lived here a long time, and it stands as a welcome to those who are new here. We’re happy to have its history and cultural significance memorialized with this listing.”

The water tower was built in 1946 by the Chicago Bridge & Iron Company to provide water for a growing Yelm.

“As time passes, the tower will hopefully stand out as yet another symbol of Yelm’s great pride in its heritage, and that of the state,” Craig said.

Thurston County Benefits From Capital Budget

As previously reported, the Nisqually Valley gained a lot through this year’s legislative session.

Thurston County received just over $1.7 million from the Washington state capital budget for 11 specific projects throughout the county. Five of these projects, taking up nearly $1.2 million of that funding, reside in Yelm and Tenino.

Southwest Washington Agricultural Business Park

Tenino received $618,000 for the Southwest Washington Agricultural Business Park. This business park has been in the making for the past four years and is expected to be completed and open in 2020, according to Tenino Mayor Wayne Fournier. 

The money from the capital budget will go toward building the infrastructure, putting in utilities and any roads needed.

The business park is projected to create around 150 agricultural related jobs in the area and an estimated $25 million in overall sales. In addition it would also boost the tourism industry and overall economy of Tenino and surrounding regions. 

In addition to the funding from the capital budget, the Port of Olympia added $75,000 for master planning of the business park. 

New Lake Lawrence Fire Station

S.E. Thurston Fire Authority was given $252,000 from the capital budget towards a new fire station in Lake Lawrence. 

“The funding will go toward site land preparation including, permits, pocket gopher study, site preparation, new septic tank, drill well and structural design,” said S.E. Thurston Fire Chief Mark King in a press release. “We know that the money awarded will not cover the whole cost to build the new fire station, but it will be a good start.” 

Currently, Yelm and Rainier are left without emergency medical and fire protection services if the fire authority has been dispatched elsewhere. The wait time can be upwards of 40 minutes, according to the press release. Rebuilding the Lawrence Lake Fire Station #22 would cut down on the wait time by creating housing for firefighters, and providing faster emergency services to the southern portion of the district.

Yelm City Park

Yelm received $247,000 to modernize the city park playground. This money will go towards new, replacement playground equipment near the western corner of the park. The current equipment is sub-par. 

The park is free for public use and can accommodate for disabilities, Foster said, making it beneficial for the public as a whole.

The addition of the splash park is also included in this project. Designs have been made and show the splash park to be in the park’s southern corner, but nothing has been finalized. The park is expected to have various water features and will be between 3,000 and 4,000 square feet. 

South Thurston Meals on Wheels

Yelm’s Meals on Wheels program may be receiving $30,000 from the capital budget. South Sound Senior Services Nutrition Director Cathy Visser has yet to receive the letter officially stating that Meals on Wheels program has received the money, but they are expecting it soon. They are looking at a few options, but all would involve some sort of kitchen upgrade for the Yelm program.

Tenino Forestry Museum

The Tenino Forestry Museum received $16,000 for their building. Currently forestry equipment shares space in the Train Depot Museum, but a new building is currently in progress. The forestry building will reside next to the Rota Building, which shows local farm equipment, and the Montgomery Building, which showcases a small mill. 

Not only will the new addition allow for more forestry equipment to be shown to the public, but it will also open up room inside the main building for more items to be shown and displays to be rotated through. Currently the museum is running out of space to store items not being showcased and may even have to turn away items.

The forestry museum will have a viewing room so that even when there is not a tour guide at the museum people can still view the various equipment. He also plans on showing a movie from 1939 about the logging industry. 

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