Five-year lease of 100 Drayton St. starts with $150,000 invested into upgrades 

  LYNDEN ­— The city will pay an initial $150,000 for upgrades to allow Forge Fitness to begin operating the Lynden Recreation Center at 100 Drayton St. on Jan. 1, 2021, the City Council decided Monday.

  The city also commits to spending $25,000 more per year over the rest of a five-year lease with Forge, consisting of couple Brian and Jeannie Davidson, who already run a fitness operation in town.

  Jeannie Davidson said that eventually, once up and running, this rejuvenated city-owned building will phase out their operation now existing at Third and Grover streets.

  The action by the City Council discloses who will take over the 40-year-old building that had been run by Whatcom Family YMCA until COVID-19 and financial troubles proved too much to overcome last spring.

  City Administrator Mike Martin, who worked the deal with the Davidsons, said they showed “Lyndenesque attitude and vision” that won over a panel evaluating several applicants.

  He acknowledged that the building has been in some decline, but voiced optimism the new operators and the physical improvements can “take it the other direction” make it “much more of a community hub” for all ages.

  Especially the Lynden Recreation Center pool — which is already operating under the nonprofit Let’s Pool Together — was cited as a very valuable north-county asset in a community survey of 2018-19.

  “Together, the City and the operator will pay to remove old ceiling insulation, painting, HVAC work, new flooring, mezzanine construction, and windows and doors among other things,” stated the action memo to the council.

  According to terms, Forge Fitness will pay the city 40% of revenue above $40,000 per month (based on a three-month average), with those payments to begin April 1, 2021. Also as part of the agreement, the operator will offer discounted rates to Lynden residents and will accept government-subsidized memberships for seniors.

  The lease will automatically renew for five five-year terms unless terminated by either party.

  In other action of an hour-long meeting, held remotely:

  • The city continues to hire Briahna Murray, of the Seattle and Tacoma firm of Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs, to be its lobbyist in Olympia.

  Murray will again be paid $3,000 per month in 2021 to pursue city priorities with state lawmakers and groups.

  That scope of work was then presented by her on Monday, as it had been worked out with Mayor Scott Korthuis, and councilors had a chance to comment on it.

  The city’s highest priority is to get the $1.1 million needed to build the section of Jim Kaemingk Sr. Trail from Depot Road to North Eighth St. behind the former Lynden Middle School alongside Fishtrap Creek.

  The request has not found success at the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office so far, but Lynden hopes it can fit in within one of the budgets, including capital and transportation, that legislators  have control over.

  Secondary on a wish list would be two projects of $3 million each, West Front Street infrastructure improvements and Bradley/Line roads upgrading. Also, Duffner Ditch culvert replacement could benefit from $700,000.

  Murray spoke of a Democrat-dominant session that could be focused on other issues in the 105-day session, among them the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the $4 billion shortfall created in the state’s operating budget.

  • A second story will be added to the north end of the Lynden Fire Station in 2021. Construction bids will be opened Dec. 1.

  It’s been decided the best plan is to vacate the Fourth Street station entirely during the building process.

  The initial plan was to move operations into the Northwood Fire Station of North Whatcom Fire & Rescue, but negotiations on that fell through, the council was told. So an alternate site was sought, and after a few months’ searching, the former Veritas building at 1205 E. Badger Rd. was determined to meet all the needs of a temporary station. Owners Eldon and Ranae DeJong have agreed to allow a lease for one year of their building.

  City payment will be $62,620 for the period Nov.  17, 2020, to Nov. 16, 2021.

  “The lease amount is fair and within market values for a mixed occupancy building with more than 7,000 square feet of space,” the fire department claims.

  • How do you deal with old deteriorated sewer lines? Instead of digging them up to replace them, it’s possible to enclose the old pipe with a durable plastic liner.

  The process, called “cured in place” pipe, will be used across about four blocks from British Columbia Avenue to Eighth Street. A bid of $80,060 was awarded to Insta-Pipe Inc. of Tumwater.

  • Lynden biosolids will continue to go  to a Boulder Park site in Douglas County, permitted by the state Department of Ecology and operated by King County. End use is as a soil amendment for various crops.

  • The Dec. 7 council meeting is for final hearing on the 2021 preliminary budget presented by Mayor Korthuis in October.

  • The city expects to see a slight decrease in its property tax rate for 2021. It is estimated to be down to a mil rate of 1.5756, although final numbers to work with must still come from the Whatcom County Assessor’s Office.

  Councilor Kyle Strengholt said the city’s overall assessed valuation has crept up from just over $2 billion to now about $2.238 billion in one year’s time.