The Ritzville Adams County Journal - Eastern Adams County's Only Independent Voice Since 1887

By Brandon Cline
Managing Editor 

State capital budget includes funds for proposed Ritzville Business & Entrepreneurship Center

 

Photo courtesy of Joe Mabel

The German American Bank Building, seen above, would be the host of the proposed Ritzville Business and Entrepreneurship Center. The Ritzville PDA was recently allotted $350,000 from the 2019-21 state capital budget for the Center.

The $4.9 billion 2019-21 state capital budget (SHB 1102) was passed in both the Washington House and Senate last month on nearly unanimous votes, and was delivered to Governor Jay Inslee for his signature last week.

The capital budget is essentially a construction budget, which financially supports the building or remodeling of local community projects throughout the state. So, what projects are being funded in this edition of the capital budget in Adams County and eastern Washington?

In Ritzville, $350,000 has been set aside for the proposed Ritzville Business and Entrepreneurship Center in the German American Bank Building that currently hosts Columbia Bank and the Washington State University Extension Office on the main floor. The building is owned by the Ritzville Public Development Authority (PDA), who is spearheading the project and will be receiving the funds.

According to the Ritzville PDA, the plan is to renovate the upstairs portion of the German American Bank Building to allow for eight office spaces that can be used by businesses and entrepreneurs. The space has been vacant for about 50 years, and would "create a high-tech business center for entrepreneurs, business startups and telecommuting professionals. The goal is to raise a total of $500,000 for the project.

The Ritzville PDA believes the project will: increase rural job creation; attract new families to Ritzville; help revive Historic Downtown Ritzville; improve the quality of life for local residents; and increase the local tax base.

Damon Roth, a Ritzville PDA Board Member and water engineering expert who telecommutes from Ritzville, said in a video produced by the Ritzville PDA that the Center would provide high-speed, fiber optic internet for those who have an office in the building. And for those who don't enjoy or like the idea of working from a home office, Roth said the Center is a more formal option to provide for a better workflow and work environment.

"As a board member of the Ritzville PDA, I think that this project is a key project for bringing people into our downtown, which is something that is vital for maintaining not just the vitality of the downtown itself but really all the surrounding businesses that are supported by it," said Roth.

Ritzville PDA president Erika Hennings said the Center would also include a community space that could be used for a number of different events and serve as a "cornerstone" for the community.

"We need to bring the younger generations back to Ritzville," said Hennings. "If we bring in young families, our schools will improve, our tax base will improve. There's a lot of good things that come with bringing in a new, younger population."

Other projects in Adams County that have been funded by the capital project includes $24,000 to replace the roof at the Washtucna Historical Museum and Community Center, $425,000 for the Othello regional water project and $347,000 for infields and restroom renovation at Lions Park in Othello.

Elsewhere in eastern Washington, the capital budget included $36.4 million in funding for the construction of the Global Animal Health Building at Washington State University. In Cheney, $2 million in funding was secured for the Cheney Reclaimed Water Project. Another $2 million in funding was also included for the construction of the Community Services of Moses Lake Food Bank Facility, while $27 million has been funded for the construction of an academic building for STEM teaching space and laboratories for WSU at its Tri-Cities campus.

Also in Cheney, $5 million was secured to increase class and laboratory space for the Physical Therapy program at Eastern Washington University. Currently, classes are taking place in spaces that were originally constructed as storage rooms.

The capital budget has been beneficial to EWU as of late, recently providing $67 million in funding in the 2017-19 capital budget for the construction of the Interdisciplinary Science Center on the main campus. Construction began on that project last July, and the state-of-the-art building will help "meet the modern day needs of growing STEM programs such as biology, chemistry/biochemistry, geology and physics," according to a news release from EWU.

In all, nearly $5 billion was doled out across the state for projects as part of the capital budget, which was approved on an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote in both chambers of the Legislature.

 

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