Washington State School Construction Assistance Program Faces Budget Stalls

GRAYS HARBOR, Wash. — A number of major projects in Grays Harbor and Pacific counties of Washington state are in limbo due to stalls with the state capital budget process. After a full legislative session and three special sessions, in recent weeks, the budget has yet to be passed.

The ramifications for area school construction projects is significant since the funding issue directly impacts the state’s School Construction Assistance Program (SCAP), which provides funding assistance to school districts that are in the midst of major new construction or improvement projects.

With a capital budget yet to be approved, some Washington state school districts face going without planned fiber optics upgrades. Photo Credit: Tony Webster

Among the projects facing a freeze is the East Grays Harbor Fiber Project, which would extend fiber optics through the Satsop School District, the Cosmopolis School District and surrounding areas. The improvements would align the area’s availability for broadband and related high technology infrastructure with the existing Grays Harbor County telecommunication network, which is managed by created by public and private sector providers.

The wide area networks are designed with redundancy to provide uptime in the event of a disaster or an emergency situation. The backbone includes a publicly owned 72-strand fiber optics line that runs from the main facilities on the I-5 corridor as well as digital transmissions owned by private telecommunications companies. The SCAP funding for the improvement is budgeted at $436,000, but there is little indication when the budget will be approved.

Nearby Cosmopolis School District will likewise feel the impact, according to Sen. Dean Takko (D-Longview). “Cosmopolis School cannot go out to bid on their remodel as they do not know when they will get their SCAP money from the state,” Takko said in a report by the Daily World.

Some schools in the affected districts have long trailed their tech-savvy equivalents in other districts, including the 115-year-old Satsop Elementary School, which boasts only three classrooms, library, a multipurpose room and a gym. An office was only added 20 years ago.

Though there is an expectation that the capital budget will be approved within the month, it’s not exactly clear when. Until then, school officials will have to wait for lawmakers before improvements can move forward.

Daedalus Howell

Daedalus Howell is the associate editor at Emlen Media. He can be reached directly at daedalus@emlenmedia.com. He writes books, makes movies, podcasts and blogs at DaedalusHowell.com/blog

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