News

Buckley moving ahead on big projects

By John Leggett-The Courier Herald

A great deal of work was carried out this year in Buckley, the repaving and reconstruction of Main Street and Ryan Road - as well as the installation of granite city entry signs on the east and west ends of town - not the least of the accomplishments.

Additionally, however, it has been a year in which the seeds have been planted and the stage set for some good things to come during the following year.

The groundbreaking for the 19-unit senior housing complex took place in the fall and that project should be completed by late spring, offering the limited-income elderly faction of Buckley some clean, comfortable and affordable living quarters for years to come.

After working for more than a decade toward getting the ball rolling on the much-needed and long-awaited senior facility, it nearly did not come to fruition as capital up front became the crux of the issue.

The Enumclaw Regional Health Care Foundation though, which has been White River Senior Housing's sponsor since the project's inception, came through with a $110,000 loan when the non-profit WRSHA needed assistance most. As soon as WRSHA got the grant money from HUD, it immediately paid back the loan.

While the elderly were taken under the city of Buckley's wing in 2007, the other end of the demographic spectrum, Buckley's teens, were also taken care of when construction of the youth center became a reality.

The youth center was funded mostly through substantial grants from Pierce County ($175,000) and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development ($200,000), awarded to Buckley in 2002. The Buckley City Council unanimously passed an ordinance to put its full support behind building the youth center, along with volunteer help from a few members of the Families First Coalition, a nonprofit outreach program on the Plateau.

Additionally, Interwest Construction and Development, the firm that won the bid to construct the youth center, made assurances that every effort would be made to build the center as practical as possible with a “modest yet sufficient” approach in addition to volunteered labor, time and materials.

Although the company has yet to apply for a Buckley business license, Interwest President Joe Kessel has made overtures which indicate Buckley is going to be the company's new corporate headquarters, since many of its employees live in and around the Buckley area.

Before too much construction occurs, Buckley's decade-long building moratorium must be lifted. This cannot be accomplished until Phase II of the city's wastewater treatment plant, which is well under way, can be culminated in 2008.

Once this multi-connection plant, funded through approximately $10 million in grants from the state, is finished, the moratorium can be lifted, thus eliminating most of the obstacles that have preventing the building of new houses and businesses in Buckley.

Already under way is the heavy hitter Elk Heights project, which is slated for at least 70 new homes on the southern outskirts of Buckley, ranging from $500,000 to perhaps twice that figure.

Additionally, awaiting only a stamp of approval by the Federal Emergency Management Act, a project is under way to repair the South Prairie Creek water transmission main itself and repair of the maintenance access road, which was nearly washed away by last winter's storms. Part of the delay in getting FEMA's approval is Mother Nature's distraction of the flooding situation in the Centralia and Chehalis plains.

Also in the works for 2008 is a new Buckley Fire Station, still in the planning and preliminary stages. The new station is scheduled to include living quarters for the firefighters and emergency personnel, who are responding to more incidents each year.

John Leggett can be reached at jleggett@courierherald.com.

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