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Winlock looking at sale or lease of Community Building

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The Winlock Community Building, owned by the City of Winlock, has served as a gathering place for generations of local residents, but the high cost of upkeep combined with low revenue from renters has prompted officials to consider selling or leasing the facility.

Winlock officials have stated they are intending to lease or sell the Community Building in an effort to relieve the city from paying for utilities and regular upkeep.

Discussed during the March 24 Winlock City Council meeting, Mayor Lonnie J. Dowell said the council is being asked to consider either leasing the building to the Winlock Lions Club, or seeking a sale on the open market.

“It’s costing the city a little over $4,000 a year just to maintain it,” said Dowell to the council, stating the city does rent the facility to private individuals and community groups during the year, but not very often.

Discussed as the favored option was a lease with the Lions Club, which would entail a contract between the club and the council, as well as a charge of $1 per year to comply with state regulations against gifting public resources.

Lions Club Member Viola Chickese told officials most members of the Lions Club Board have given their approval for the idea and she is still following up with others regarding the proposal.

“We use the building a lot, so why not us take over and help the city out a little bit,” she said, stating the Lions Club has funding available to begin restoration projects such as roof repairs, repainting the outside, refinishing the floors and other general improvements.

Similar to the city, Chickese said the Lions Club would intend to offer the building as a venue for events such as weddings, family reunions and other social gatherings, stating it is their hope to instead advertise more aggressively to generate revenue, which she said would then be invested back in the building.

She also said community organizations currently using the building on a regular basis, such as American Legion Post 101, who host their pancake breakfasts on Egg Day in the Community Building, would be allowed the same access they are currently afforded with no charge for use.

Differing from the city’s policy, though not by much, would be a requirement by the Lions Club for a security deposit from those using the building to pay for any potential damage, which Dowell said the city had been considering as of late in response to complaints by officials and community groups who have reportedly found the facility in disrepair after being used by other renters.

But none of these plans are in place as of yet, as the council tabled discussion to wait and hear official word back from the Lions Club regarding the club’s stance on the issue.

If leasing is not an option, Dowell continued, the city could instead sell the building and be absolved entirely of their financial obligations while generating income for the city.

“I know that several of us have had mixed feelings about just selling it,” said Dowell, acknowledging the role the Community Building has played for generations of Winlock residents. “It is kind of like an icon.”

City Attorney Mark Scheibmeir said, if the council opted to sell the property, they would have very specific, very strict policies to follow, from the surplusing of the property to it’s evaluation and eventual changing of hands.

“You’d want to have a public hearing before you declare an asset of this nature surplus,” said Scheibmeir, adding, “Otherwise you’re going to have a political firestorm.”

Scheibmeir also advised any sale of the property would have to be “unconditional” and the city would have no say in its use after the deed was transferred.

“It can be turned into just about anything, but it wouldn’t be a publicly-used facility any longer,” he said, acknowledging the income generated by the sale would benefit the city’s general fund.

According to parcels.lewiscountywa.gov, the most recent evaluation of the parcel on which the Community Building sits (number 006122000000), which also houses the headquarters of Lewis County Fire District 15, places the value of the property at $432,900, though the Fire Hall has not been part of conversations in regard to sale of the Community Building.

It was reported that night the sale or leasing of the Community Building is among a number of options officials are preparing to consider in order to increase the city’s bottom line.

Council Member Aaron Mummert said he and other council members are attempting to identify a number of currently-unused items and vehicles the city could surplus, as well as other parcels of city-owned property available to be sold.

The idea of annexation into the Timberland Regional Library District was also proposed, as Mummert said such action could free up as much as $30,000 yearly in the city’s general fund by instead generating income through a library-specific property tax.

“We have people that are trying to clean up the city,” he said in reference to recent efforts by volunteers. “We need to start doing the same and try to start saving the city money.”

Police Chief Terry Williams said he is expecting to present a list of potential items for surplus at the next council meeting, including police vehicles. Additionally, a meeting to discuss annexation options with Timberland officials was tentatively scheduled for April 14 at which Dowell and Council Members Barbara Pedersen and Sarah Gifford are expected to attend.

The next council meeting is scheduled for April 14 at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall. Those with questions or in need of accommodations may call (360) 785-3811.

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