On Tuesday, Yelm City Council and members of the community discussed the proposed acquisition of the vacant building, formerly home to Fairpoint Communications for the relocation of City Hall.

The proposed purchase and sale agreement was released to the public last Wednesday for public discussion before council makes the final decision May 22. The agreement was negotiated at $925,000 for the acquisition and the building will require up to $70,000 for repairs and maintenance, according to a staff report by Yelm City Administrator Michael Grayum.

Transitioning Yelm City Hall to the new location would offer space for the growing staff that is unavailable in the current location and would meet the future demand of the growing city. The new location of City Hall would bring all of Yelm’s services to one campus to create a better working relationship between city staff members who work in different departments, according to Grayum.

The city administrator noted the new City Hall building would allow for better customer service as all departments would be near each other, improve the workplace for current and future employees, and allow city council to host meetings at City Hall.

The proposal was released to the public on May 2 although the topic was discussed behind closed doors in an undisclosed number of executive sessions. City staff and council encouraged the community to participate in the discussion held at the council meeting on May 8 and before council makes the decision on May 22.

Executive sessions are designed to head off abuses of the process for topics that require confidentiality. Holding executive sessions to discuss the purchase of the Fairpoint building is clearly within legal boundaries of the Open Public Meetings Act, according to the Municipal Research and Services Center. It is the responsibility of those in attendance of executive sessions to keep information discussed in the meeting confidential.

Yelm resident and owner of the Yelm Pizza Hut Dwayne Mathis asked if the money spent on the potential acquisition could be used toward the water and sewer funds, known as the “enterprise funds” to lower the cost of consumer water and sewer rates. The question Mathis posed is common in the Yelm community based on public comment at council meetings and Facebook comments.

Water rates must be used to fund the infrastructure of the water system while the sewer rates must be used to fund the sewer infrastructure. Utility rates must be used for utilities while acquisitions must be funded through the general and reserve funds.

The city will pay for the acquisition using the savings from the recent refinancing of city debt, increased returns on short-term investments and reserve funds, according to a news release.

The reserve fund would be restored throughout a five-year period using proceeds from increased interest earnings and continued cost savings.

A separate, but relevant discussion was held at Tuesday’s meeting to ponder ideas for the use of the current City Hall building, if the council moves forward with the purchase. 

In a news release sent last week, city officials said the current City Hall building and additional vacant land would be repurposed for the long-term benefit of the community. 

Brian Wharton, superintendent of Yelm Community Schools suggested using the current City Hall as a building to house a Boys and Girls Club. The proposal would offer affordable supervised care for kids after school and address a “significant need” for the community, according to the Wharton. 

“We’ve been in the process of trying to locate a facility or building to start up a Boys and Girls Club,” Wharton said.  “We know as soon as we would be able to do that here in town, we would have at least 100 students and gradually build up to 200 students that would have supervised care until 6:30 at night.”

City council will not make a decision to repurpose the building until after the acquisition is made despite the opposition from councilors Joe DePinto and Cody Colt. The two councilors expressed discontent with the process and want to know what the current City Hall will be used for if they approve the purchase of the Fairpoint building.

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