Lake Stevens growth spurt
finally drawing outside attention
Through the city’s successful annexation campaign, we’ve all become aware of the civic, commercial and residential transformation taking place. Gone is the picket-fenced enclosed sleepy town of 5,000. Mitchell’s Pharmacy closed 15 years ago, the Viking’s gone, the Chicken’s back, and while the old B&O grocery now houses G.I. Joe’s three supermarkets sprung up in its place - literally within a stone’s throw.
We’ve seen these changes first hand. We may have been slow to recognize at first, but, for the most part, Lake citizens can wrap their minds around the fact that we’ll be a two high school town in five years. We’re ready to live in one of the five largest cities in the state’s third most populated county. We’re living in the now, and we’re ready to be recognized.
Until recently, it seemed like no one but us had noticed this change. Ask friends in Seattle if they knew where Lake Stevens was, and you were likely to get a vague comment about “that crappy bridge thingy from I-5 to Highway 2,” or maybe a confused stare and a question like “Is there a lake at Stevens Pass?”.
In December, a group of community leaders met at the police station to discuss the pressing needs of our growing community. The group was comprised of representatives from the school district, police department, city government, church and human service leaders and our state senator. The group agreed to vote on our city’s three most vital issues, and then vowed to join forces to see these goals through - to make sure those outside Lake Stevens knew about who we were and what we needed.
In no particular order, the three issues were decided upon. It was agreed that we needed a new civic center to house public facilities and to encourage economic development in historic downtown. The group also recognized the need for our teachers to be paid at the same level as their colleagues in Everett, which has not been happening due to an antiquated state teacher salary schedule that pays educators in some districts up to six percent more than their counterparts. Finally, the group recognized that the congestion issues at the SR-9/20th Street choke point must be addressed.
Four and a half months later, the legislative session is over, and for the first time in I don’t know how long, it is obvious that Lake Stevens is now on the map in Olympia.
Due to the concerted effort of these elected officials, citizens, educators and community leaders, each of these issues has been addressed in a very significant manner.
The state capital budget features $800,000 towards the construction of a new downtown civic center, and an additional $200,000 towards a long-overdue Lake Stevens Senior Center.
The state operational budget set aside $63 million towards the goal of teacher salary equalization, and the state transportation budget provides $14 million in funds to add lanes to the SR-9/20th Street intersection.
In addition to these needs, Lake Stevens’ new non-profit clearinghouse the Synergy Group will receive $25,000 in state operational funds, and Lake Stevens residents will also benefit from the construction of a new four year regional University of Washington campus in the area the first new four year school in our state since Evergreen was introduced in 1967.
Each of these identified need areas still has a long way to go. The civic center will likely cost in excess of $30 million. Teacher salary equalization will be an issue every year in the near future until all teachers statewide are paid equitably. The SR-9/20th Street interchange is fed traffic from the 800 pound guerilla of a problem known simply as “the trestle”.
While we’re not there yet, it’s nice to know that our progress has not gone unnoticed outside city and county limits. As we continue to fill out and grow into our size-13 footprints, it’s good to know we’ve got some responsible caretakers looking out to make sure we get what we need to become a successful and fully developed adult city.