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2008 ‘Dashboard Report’ reflects well on city

City Finance Director Chip Corder presented the 2008 Mercer Island Dashboard Report, a measurement of the city’s performance, to Councilmembers on July 6.

The study was developed in 2007 to identify “top tier” indicators that reflect the “state of the city,” and collect meaningful information that influences the city’s financial and human resource allocation decisions, all within “manageable measures” of data for staff to gather. Most of the data was gleaned from public surveys, annual reports and city documents.

“When you boil it down and look at all the data, is it perfect? No. But it gets you to the crux of what’s going on,” Corder said.

The Dashboard Report focuses on a number of different areas: community safety and security; public service and community sustainability; public infrastructure; neighborhoods and business districts; recreational, cultural, health and educational opportunities; public communication and community involvement. The 2008 model introduced a new category — environmental stewardship.

Overall, the city reported positive feedback in almost every category.

In particular, the eight indicators for Mercer Island community safety — from timely EMS response to crime prevention — were all “very good,” the highest rating possible, with the exception of emergency preparedness, which was rated “good.”

The delivery of public services and community sustainability, which includes risk management, permit processing, court operations and the new category of environmental stewardship, earned “very good” and “good” remarks. The only area in need of improvement, according to the report, was risk management, which was based on insurance claims filed between 2004 and 2007.

The recreational, cultural, health and education category, which covered Island parks and activities, senior and youth outreach programs and volunteering, received positive marks along with the report’s public communication and community involvement section.

Yet upon closer examination, there are areas needy of improvement, Corder pointed out.

“There is room for improvement with water utilities, in particular the infrastructure,” he said. “That’s one glaring concern.”

Water utilities was the only indicator on the Dashboard Report to receive a “needs work” comment, the lowest of the four grades.

According to the Dashboard Report, Mercer Island has the third highest number of water main breaks per 1,000 service connections among eight King County districts. In addition, the city’s water main replacement program needs to be “accelerated.”

“We have water main breaks that exceed the average of [neighboring] counties. Streets are connected to this, as water mains are under the streets. And there are limitations there, so we’re not going to see any significant improvements anytime soon,” Corder explained.

In order to tackle this problem, the city will have to “ramp up our capital program with water utilities,” according to the finance director.

Councilmembers were receptive to Corder’s concerns and said they appreciated the time that he and staff members put into the 2008 report. The document will serve as a reference for future city planning and prioritizing.

A full copy of the 2008 Draft Report can be downloaded from the City Council’s July 6 meeting agenda on the city’s Web site: www.mercergov.org.

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