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Retreat maps out busy year for council

The City Council has a full dance card heading into 2011.

Though the crisis of 2010 has mellowed, financial barriers are still part of the forecast.

Nonetheless, city management hopes the council can start the practice of looking toward the future to plan for long-term goals and better time allocation.

City Council and staff reviewed 2010 and then peeked into the future during their annual retreat on Monday. Land use issues, including the shoreline master plan and code update, will take up much of the council’s time in 2011.

Unknowns, such as the future of the water utility and what the city is going to do with the $2 million Washington State Ferry settlement, could fundamentally alter council’s path as decisions come to fruition.

The council considers 2010 a year of transition since it adjusted to a new form of government, made pivotal staff changes and altered the city’s appearance with major budget and staff cuts.

After a year when much of council’s time was spent on week-to-week crisis control, city management urges the council to start a new approach.

Deputy City Manager Morgan Smith gave an in-depth presentation on a draft of a strategic planning exercise for 2011 to allow the council to determine long-range allocation of resources.

“If you do this well, you are setting the agenda in part for the next council,” said Interim City Manager Brenda Bauer. “That’s what good councils do. They plan, budget and execute on policy issues as they come forward. They can’t sustain a week-to-week pace when long-range planning should be your goal.”

As an annual process, the strategic planning would supplement budget development in the beginning of the year.

The exercise would force council and staff to determine capital and infrastructure needs, operating initiatives, community opportunities and the fiscal capacity and revenue options to make it all possible.

By creating quantifiable metrics to monitor the city’s progress, it will be clear whether the city hits its targets during the year.

With the council’s packed schedule, a planning mechanism would be helpful as issues bubble to the surface in 2011, Bauer said.

She estimated roughly 75 percent of the 2011 draft work plan can actually materialize in the busy year ahead, but an aggressive plan should push the pace.

Land use will be a major focus for the city since it needs to overhaul a 20-year-old code riddled with irregularities, contradictions and opinion from the public.

A tree ordinance with years of community history and no delivery is also on the agenda. As is the capital improvement plan, which will likely include a conversation regarding the controversial $2 million WSF settlement.

The shoreline master plan update is on the table with its own set of impacts in the community.

In the second quarter, the city has planned a strategic review of the storm and surface water management utility and reviews of the other utilities are scheduled for the third quarter.

If the city chooses to transfer or sell the water utility, Bauer said she will likely have to do a reassessment and reorganization of city resources. The consultants hired to review the water system will provide information as part of their scope of work to guide the city if it goes that direction.

The city still has to transfer several of its park properties to the Bainbridge Island Metro Park and Recreation District, which Bauer said continues to be a major challenge. Several of the councilors expressed their concern that the transfer risks their credibility as the process continues to be delayed.

The proposal to transfer the Bainbridge Island Municipal Court to Poulsbo is still in negotiation and will likely be decided in the coming months.

City staff will also need to negotiate new contracts with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) and the Police Guild union. Negotiations with the IAMAW may be contentious after the union filed a grievance against on the city after employee layoffs in last December.

Bauer said the city will continue to reorganize and update its internal policies to become more efficient, which may take several more years.

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