Tukwila Neighborhood Resource Center on International Boulevard to shut its doors

When Mike Fowler started to volunteer for Tukwila’s Neighborhood Resource Center about 12 years ago, he was surprised at what he could see. Located on Tukwila International Boulevard, the center is home to a bank of readouts from surveillance cameras, running along 20 blocks of the busy road.

Volunteers Mike Fowler

When Mike Fowler started to volunteer for Tukwila’s Neighborhood Resource Center about 12 years ago, he was surprised at what he could see.

Located on Tukwila International Boulevard, the center is home to a bank of television screens from surveillance cameras, running along 20 blocks of the busy road.

“Crime was really big up here,” Fowler said of the felonious activity that was taking place out in the open. “We used to watch drug deals go down right in front of the cameras.”

Today, as Fowler continues to donate his lunch hour Monday through Friday at the center, the cameras aren’t catching quite as much, which is a comforting thing. But for the longtime volunteer, the feeling here is bittersweet, as the Neighborhood Resource Center enters its final days – at least in its current configuration.

Due to the budget ax, the center that’s been an icon on the boulevard will be shutting its doors and parting ways with its volunteer staff.

“The 31st is our last day,” said Fowler earlier this month, as he flipped through incident reports, organizing them for data input by police staff.

Fowler is one of a group of volunteers who have worked here for years. When asked if it felt like family, he smiled.

“Yeah, pretty much.”

Tukwila Police Chief David Haynes explained the upcoming closure is one facet of many cuts his department is facing – and which other city departments also are having to contend. Due to the toxic economic climate, Tukwila had to grapple with $8 million in budget cuts for the 2011 year.

In addition to cutting three officer positions and going through a major restructuring process to handle the staffing changes, Haynes’ department also had to cut approximately $168,000. That figure was achieved through cuts to the overtime budget and closure of the Neighborhood Resource Center, he said.

Mayor Jim Haggerton said there are other opportunities for such a center, and that the center’s present office space isn’t really adequate. Such a facility would still be operational, although without the volunteer base, he said.

“It’s not a completely done deal yet,” Haggerton said, noting other options could involve Tukwila Village – a future development involving 6 acres of city-owned land at Tukwila International Boulevard and South 144th Street. The acreage is slated for a mixed-use neighborhood center, although an earlier developer, Tarragon, pulled out of the project late last year, due to the economic downturn. The city is currently seeking other developers.

In the meantime, Haynes’ department is making alternative arrangements for one of the most utilized parts of the Neighborhood Resource Center: its bank of camera screens.

“Those cameras are not going to go away,” Haynes said of the security devices along International Boulevard. Instead his department will be monitoring them from police headquarters. And some of center’s volunteers will be moving to assist with other needs in his department, Haynes said.

But another aspect of the center – being a clearinghouse of information for anyone in search of city services – won’t be revamped for the time being.

And occasionally people do come in, needing help.

Bob McKee, another longtime volunteer at the center, recalled a time when a veteran came through the door, upset when he had a memory lapse and forgot where he was supposed to go for a Veterans Administration medical appointment.

“I spent nearly an hour with the VA,” McKee said, trying to locate which office the veteran needed to be at.

“He gave me enough clues, that by the end of the hour, I could figure it out.”

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