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More money sought for tolling fight

The city of Mercer Island will soon tap out the money set aside for an I-90 litigation counsel.

“We’re now at a point where we’ve consumed the money allocated so far,” said Mayor Bruce Bassett. “The council has to say ‘yes’ to go forward with another chunk of money.”

The four entities of the I-90 litigation counsel include DC lobbyist Tim Punke, Seattle law firm K&L Gates and lobbying group Strategies 360 in Olympia. The city also retained law firm Calfo Harrigan Leyh and Eakes, should it seek consultation down the road, explained Mayor Bassett.

The city’s litigation counsel is one layer of its I-90 Tolling Work Plan formed in March of this year, to challenge the legality of applying tolls to an interstate to cover the $1.4 billion gap in funding needed for the SR-520 project.

A budget of $275,000 was authorized, almost all of which is from Mercer Island’s contingency budget, except for $25,000 from the 2012 General Fund savings. As of Oct. 31 a little more than $250,000 had been used. Much of that money has gone toward legal services, specifically the environmental study and federal law work, for a price tag of nearly $214,000. Local lobbying has cost the city $25,000. At a federal level about $10,000 has been expended. The final $2,300 went toward DC travel expenses.

“[That] money has gone to attorneys, helping us through the state environmental study process, advising us on what it looks like, writing a number of letters, advocating our position, looking at alternatives and at the impact of tolling,” explained incoming city manager Noel Treat.

Though there is still money remaining in the city’s contingency fund, it is usually reserved for emergency use. Treat said the city may be able to use revenues from the general fund for this next phase of funding.

City staff will seek council input at the city’s Nov. 18 meeting.

 

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