The city of Kent maintenance shops along Russell Road are aging and running out of space, so the city plans to build a new facility on the East Hill. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

The city of Kent maintenance shops along Russell Road are aging and running out of space, so the city plans to build a new facility on the East Hill. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

City of Kent hires firm to design new maintenance, operations facility

Shop to be built on East Hill within the next few years

The city plans to build a new Kent East Hill Operations Center in the next few years to provide more space for the Public Works and Parks departments that have outgrown the aging city maintenance shop at Russell Road and South 240th Street.

The City Council in February approved a $2.46 million contract with Seattle-based Wagner Architects and Planners for design, permitting, bidding and construction phase services for the project. The project will be built on a city-owned 22-acre site, just south of Southeast 248th Street and across from Clark Lake Park near 124th Avenue Southeast.

“It is too soon to fully know project timelines,” said Parks Director Julie Parascondola in an email. “The current consultant contract will include developing an official timeline for completion of the project, but our preliminary target is to be under construction in 2024 with completion of the project anticipated to be in 2025 or 2026.”

The council, in November 2022, approved Mayor Dana Ralph’s 2023-2024 biennial budget that included $24.5 million for the new operations center. Increased revenue from sales taxes and the real estate excise tax will allow the city to spend on new capital projects.

Ralph noted the project, besides providing additional shop space, could include a warehouse building for use by Public Works, Parks and Police departments. Another area will be dedicated to offices, locker rooms, a lunchroom, restrooms and possibly a police substation.

City staff and leaders initiated plans about 20 years ago for a new maintenance center on the East Hill.

“Unfortunately, it has also been faced with project delays, due to unforeseen impacts outside of our control,” said Parascondola, who as Parks director helps oversee city facilities. “In the early 2000s, after a facility audit and needs assessment, it became obvious that Kent’s 30-year-old Russell Road Maintenance Shop needed significant capital reinvestment; the building, storage areas and yard space were too small to meet the growing needs of our Public Works water, sewer, storm, streets,and fleet divisions, and our Park Operations division, who are also housed at this location.”

The Great Recession of 2007 to 2009 brought the project to a halt after the city bought property for a new operations center, issued permits and had design work done as well as grading and underground utility work. Further financial challenges by the city, including the loss of streamlined sales tax revenue, and then the 2020 pandemic caused more delays.

“Since that time, the city’s maintenance and operations space needs have continued to grow,” Parascondola said. “We very much appreciate the patience of our maintenance teams, who have been struggling with space for 20 years and counting. Kent’s population grew by almost 64% in 20 years, as did our mandate to provide increased city services. While population and demand of city services grew, our maintenance facilities have not kept up in parallel.

“Without our Plan A option to build a new, permanent solution, departments have been forced to utilize temporary facilities, lease space, rent storage containers and to find increasingly creative ways to fit more staff, vehicles, large and small equipment and bulk materials (such as gravel, sand, landscape bark, etc) in the same amount of space.”

Parascondola said the city expects to keep using the Russell Road shops after the new facility is completed. In 2018, the council approved spending $300,328 on a new modular building to help with overcrowding at the maintenance shops. But the current shops site doesn’t have room to expand with Hogan Park adjacent to the facility, the nearby Valley Ice Centre and the Green River. The facility also sits in the Valley’s floodplain, which isn’t ideal in the event of an emergency, Parascondola said.

There are operational advantages to having multiple shop sites that are spread out geographically, which create operational efficiencies by grouping like functions together or by helping reduce city vehicle drive times and emissions output, she said.

“The downtown shops site at Russell Road, will for now, continue to house operations staff and supporting vehicles and equipment,” Parascondola said. “As some work groups move into the new facility once built, we will be looking to then move work groups who are currently in temporary or leased space into vacated shops space, saving the city outside lease fees.”

City staff will know more about what the facility will offer once design work and permitting are done.

“But this project, once complete, will be a crucial step forward in solving our long-term operational and maintenance needs,” Parascondola said.

Depending on the costs, the city might build the project in steps.

“We will finalize the total project budget as part of this planning and design effort, as well as answer whether we can complete the entire project as a whole or if we may need to potentially phase the project,” Parascondola said. “We’ll know these answers farther into the design process. Right now, it’s too soon to provide any final numbers, we should know more towards the end of second quarter.”

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City trucks parked at the city of Kent maintenance shops. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

City trucks parked at the city of Kent maintenance shops. STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

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