Council debates pipes and bikes

Giving a lane of Island Crest Way to pedestrians and bikes, splitting the sewer lake line project into two and debating the upcoming parks levy were some of the more compelling issues discussed by the City Council and staff during the annual winter planning session Jan. 25-27.

During a discussion about Island traffic and parking, new City Councilmember Bruce Bassett suggested the city look into the impacts of reducing one lane on Island Crest Way south of Merrimount Drive.

“When I was campaigning I heard transportation was an important issue,” Bassett said. “I want to throw out there the idea of a road diet. To reduce Island Crest Way from 44th down to three lanes. That would give the space for bike lanes and safer pedestrian crossings. Plus it ties in well with [the new improvements] at Merrimount now.”

The city installed traffic barriers that restrict turns at the intersection of Island Crest Way and Merrimount last October. During the next several months, a video camera and traffic engineers will be monitoring the changes. A report to the Council on the modification is due in June. Bassett said the current southbound configuration at the intersection, where only the left lane goes through, allows the opportunity to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians on the Islands major arterial. Such space would become available by converting one lane south of the intersection for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The city plans to present its findings during its street improvement planning sessions that take place in May and June during regularly scheduled Council meetings.

The city will also be taking samples of a portion of the North end sewer lake line that has not experienced the breaks and failures that another segment has had lately. Concerned that the $20-million project was too expensive, Councilmember Dan Grausz suggested that the city determine if the second segment is necessary.

“If it weren’t for the breaks [around Faben Point], then you wouldn’t be telling us there is a problem,” Grausz said.

Councilmember Mike Grady argued for replacing the entire line regardless of the lack of know breaks or failures in the second section.

“When I am told that there is wear and exposure on two of my car tires, I don’t get just the two replaced. I get all four,” Grady said.

City staff plans to come back before the Council in May with results of the pipe’s stability in both sections and the potential costs of fixing only one line should the other be found to be in good condition.

The Council also discussed the upcoming parks levy expected to be put before Island voters as early as this May.

The city is developing a list of capital improvement projects for its parks and ballfields and will be sending out a survey to the public in the coming weeks. A final list of projects will be presented to the Council in a month’s time if the Council still chooses to have the measure during a special May election.

According to the city attorney, Bob Sterbank, the city should devise a ballot measure that allows some flexibility in completing the voter-approved projects.

“You want to make sure you make sure the voters are comfortable, knowing what they are going to get, what is on the list but with the flexibility for yourself to take into account variable grant funding or retiring levies,” Sterbank said.

Councilmember Mike Cero said he was concerned about the amount of money this levy would charge to Island taxpayers combined with the school levy and other city needs.

A document prepared by the city’s finance director, Chip Corder, displayed the potential increase in property taxes for Island residents associated with 2008 ballot measures.

The school district’s capital improvements and technology levy of $10 million would cost the average Island homeowner $397 a year. The city’s potential 12-year parks levy of $12 to $13 million, which would bring the city about $682,000 to $865,000 a year, would cost the average Island homeowner $88 to $113 each year. If not included in the parks levy, then $325,000 per year would be needed for operation and maintenance of Luther Burbank Park. That would cost about $38 a year per Island home.

Funding the sewer lake line at $20 million could add another $50 a year. The city is also working with Puget Sound Energy to put some power lines underground in the South end, which would cost around $3 million. Corder told the Council that the amount that will be charged to Island taxpayers is undetermined at this time, but some of the cost would have to come from homeowners.

Corder then pointed out that there are five other unfunded issues for the city. Those include the city’s contributions to the new regional dispatch center called NORCOMM, repairs at the South end fire station, resolving transportation issues and acquiring openspace when they become available.

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