This week, the Centralia City Council took a big step forward to support a multi-phase facility for the children of our community by pledging $2.1 million for the United Learning Center’s first phase.
By a 6-1 vote, the council voted to potentially move $1.9 million it had already pledged for the second phase of the building ahead to cover part of the construction costs for the first phase, if needed, along with another $200,000.
Project coordinator Todd Chaput said he is working on fundraising from a variety of revenue streams, but that the money will take time to come in. Waiting for it would push the project back. He asked the city to provide stop-gap funding, and they agreed.
Before the vote, several city leaders expressed some unease with moving forward with changing the timeline of the pledged money, in part because phase two — which the city had originally offered to support — is the more public part of the facility for all ages, while phase one is focused on a child care center and the Discover! Children’s Museum.
I applaud both the city council’s decision to move and expand its funding commitment to phase one, as well as the practical caution and concern they expressed while doing so.
A project of this size and ambition involves some risk and a lot of trust.
Fortunately, Chaput is an able, practical and accomplished community leader who has demonstrated his ability to shepherd a major project to completion.
As chair of the Public Facilities District, he led the effort to create the Northwest Sports Hub at Fort Borst Park. This was a big, multi-year project that was also something of a leap of faith. The project had some tough times in its early days, but after Chaput joined the team a decade ago, he righted the ship and created a valuable resource that has turned Centralia into a regional destination.
The United Learning Center project in downtown Centralia is another big effort that will take ongoing work and collaboration. I see the informed trust and cooperation in place, and I’m excited for what’s ahead.
Thank you to all who are working together with flexibility and the community’s best interests in mind to create something important in Lewis County. The work continues but the outcome will be worth it.
Brian Mittge’s column appears in his hometown newspaper each Saturday. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.