Submitted by City of Yelm
The Yelm community will see the iconic Water Tower come back to life as 125-foot-tall art piece that stands over the center of town and — at the same time — the City will start the beginning stages of developing a South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) satellite branch and business incubator space, thanks to grant funding through the Washington State Legislature.
“We are grateful for our legislators who worked with us to find the most appropriate funding source in the final budget adopted by the Legislature,” City Administrator Michael Grayum said. “Both of these community projects are important for preserving Yelm’s past and building our future.”
The State allocated $200,000 in the 2019-2021 Capital Budget to fund the conceptual building design, architectural renderings, community engagement, and cost estimate for a multi-story, mixed-use community building to serve as a business incubator to serve rural parts of Thurston and Pierce counties.
“This project builds on the collaboration and partnership between the City, Yelm Community Schools, and SPSCC to help young people and adults complete their education and have the necessary tools to be successful in the workplace,” City Administrator Michael Grayum said.
The City has made it a priority to improve public infrastructure and create new services for the Yelm community, most notably purchasing an existing building to revitalize Yelm City Hall along with the purchase of an adjacent half-acre of commercial property. Since the purchase, Councilmembers Colt, Stillwell, and Wood have been working with City staff and regional partners to explore developing the property into a dedicated space that provides education, training, and technology to catalyze the startup and expansion of small business enterprises and support underserved populations.
“Ever since we purchased the land, we have been wanting to utilize it in a way that benefits our community,” Councilmember Colt said. “Creating an innovative education service center is a way for us to invest in our citizens in multiple ways — providing a dedicated space for secondary education, technology training, and breaking down barriers local businesses face to continue strengthening our local economy.”
The Washington State Capital Budget also appropriated $300,000 to a separate non-profit organization to restore Yelm’s water tower, in addition to the more than $150,000 the legislature previously dedicated to the project in the previous budget. The decommissioned tower was put on the state Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation in 2017 and is maintained by “Save the Yelm Water Tower,” the nonprofit who advocated for and received the state funding. The organization imagines the tower being lit by LED lighting that will have an array of different features and colors to coincide with the holidays and other special events.
“I’m thrilled that “Save the Yelm Water Tower” was able to apply for and receive nearly half-a-million dollars to fund the water tower restoration project,” Councilmember EJ Curry said. “It’s going to be beautiful when it’s done — with those colorful lights and the landscaping we are planning to have. That historic tower will be a community asset forever.”