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Council Gets to Talking about Streets Maintenance

Though no resolution was passed, information brought forward by public works director Chris Searcy with regards to the state of city streets and pavement Monday spurred a 'robust' conversation about possible ways to fund repairs and maintenance.

The Enumclaw City Council, absent Sean Krebs, let a resolution die on Monday regarding authorizing city staff to apply for a $3 million Public Works Trust Fund loan for streets maintenance.

The action -- or inaction -- in this case wasn't entire unexpected as several council members were hesitant to commit to the loan application without a clear idea of where the revenue would come from to pay back the loan and more pointedly, with an application deadline of May 11 looming.

Nonetheless, the work that city staff, as overseen by public works director Chris Searcy, did to present detailed studies, findings and cost analyses to the Council wasn't for naught, said Councilman Jim Hogan as the information did help to activate 'robust' conversation about how to go about repairing city streets and maintaining them as well.

Though it is sitting out this particular loan, which was at $400 million in funds and no local match was required, Enumclaw leaders are still researching how to best fund streets. Searcy said in his presentation that in a comparison of pavement and asphalt studies done in 2007 and then in 2012, there was a notable decease in quality over the five-year period.

The council public works committee had been discussing ways to find funding for streets, including the formation of a Transportation Benefit District (TBD) that would have it's own dedicated revenue source through vehicle fees (See Dept. of Licensing for more information). Searcy, in discussing where revenue might come from to pay the loan debt, offered the TBD as an option. There was also using the city's banked capacity, which city administrator Mike Thomas sat at about $1.1 million. Increasing utility tax rates was another option as was bringing a general obligation bond to voters.

Correction: Public works director Chris Searcy contacted us Tuesday to clarify that the option would be to increase the utility tax rate rather than the utility rate itself. Related to that, utility rates might also increase to cover the increase in tax. Utility rates cannot be used to fund street improvements, police, parks, etc., according to Searcy. The utilities are taxed by the city's general fund and it's that tax revenue that is used for a variety of expenditures.

Council also weighed an increase in city sales taxes. According to Searcy, a consultant brought in in 2007 said that the city should be spending between $500,000 and $600,000 yearly on city streets. In a staff report, Searcy said the city has invested an average of $151,000 each year between 2008 and 2012 toward pavement maintenance.

In Other News:

Council heard a first reading of an ordinance described as a housekeeping item by community development director Erika Shook to clarify the city's actions with issuing business licenses in that they would only be issued to businesses the comply with local, state and federal law. According to a staff report from Shook, this also clarifies the city's role as it relates to Engrossed Second Substitute Senate Bill 5073 which made changes to the state law allowing medical marijuana dispensaries and collective gardens. As this was a first reading only, no action was taken.

Upcoming events:

  • is Saturday, May 19 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Museum on 1837 Marion Street. Cost is $5 per item with a limit of 3.
  • Mount Rainier Duathlon is May 6 at the Enumclaw Expo Center. More information at www.buduracing.com.
  • 4-H Rabbit Show is May 12 at the Enumclaw Expo Center. More information on Facebook Rainier Rabbits.
April Chan April 25, 2012 at 04:19 AM
Thanks to public works director Chris Searcy who corrected the story that another funding option would be to increase the utility tax rate rather than the utility rate itself (which we initially reported).

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