Tuesday morning's headlines

Nov 30, 2010

Worries over Tacoma's historic Old City Hall,  over state pension funds, and a big snowstorm in the Cascades and eastern Washington.


State Needs Fix for Some Pension Funds: Treasurer


Does the state need a constitutional amendment to fix a predicted $4 billion funding gap in some pension funds?  State Treasurer Jim McIntire thinks so, and he's proposing one. McIntire wants the legislature to close the projected gap by 2015. He tells The Seattle Times the idea is to ward off troubles before the state gets in a bind:



"If we get to the point where we're just using tax dollars to pay pension benefits, it's incredibly costly to the state," McIntire said. "The more you invest in the pension plan up front, the lower the cost is."


The state's been getting a good return on pension fund investments, about 8% annually. The pension fix is aimed at those workers who are under Plan 1 pensions, covering about 15,000 active state workers and 90,000 retirees. McIntire stresses those funds are safe today, but setting a timeline to manage asset risks will keep them secure.


 


Major Snowfall for Cascades and Eastern Washington


If your travel plans include a trip over the Cascades be warned: lots of snow is expected today.  The mountain passes may get up to 18 inches of new snow. Spokane is bracing for 4 to 8 inches. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm advisory. The Associated Press reports this month may go down as one of the snowiest Novembers on record.


 


 Can Tacoma's Old City Hall Be Saved?


That's the question a city council member is asking after thawing pipes broke last week and further damaged the 117-year old building. The News Tribune's lead story today details worries the building may go the way of other historic structures the city's lost to neglect:



City Councilman David Boe has been trying to sound the alarm about Old City Hall for over a year. An architect, he keeps his office kitty corner from the 117-year old Italian Renaissance tower. That has given him a daily impression of the condition inside. “Ripped canopies, boarded-up windows, birds living inside, which implies other things living inside,” Boe said.


Two building tenants are unable to use their offices because there's no heat or power following the massive pipe break that sent 30,000 gallons of water through the building. 


Old City Hall is owned by the Stratford Company of Seattle and is in financial trouble.  The Trib spoke with Stratford CEO George Webb who says damages from the pipe break is still being assessed. The building's money problems may be much bigger:



Webb said the financial situation with the building is unchanged. He is negotiating with Union Bank to address a threatened foreclosure of a loan the bank inherited when it took over Frontier Bank.


City manager Eric Anderson is expected to brief council members at noon today about any options the city might have to intervene.