Council discusses how to spend WSF settlement money

The Bainbridge Island City Council has been talking about how to spend the $2 million settlement from Washington State Ferries.

Still to come: more talk.

Councilwoman Anne Blair, a member of the ad hoc committee charged with finding options for spending the money, asked the council last week to devote some time in the future to go over the topic.

“We want to present a couple of options to council,” she said.

The ad hoc committee consists of Blair and Councilman David Ward.

Blair offered two options but was clear that they were only ideas. She wanted to hear objections, or “tweaks” to the suggestions before discussing them at the council’s June 6 meeting.

Blair also set out a timeframe for using the money. Decisions for the allocation process would be made in 2012, the identified projects would start in 2013 and completed by the end of 2014.

The first option proposed was to form an eight-member panel of volunteers who could recommend qualifying projects to the city council.

Under that volunteer panel option, Blair suggested that a bulk of the funds — at least $750,000 — be used for a major project, with the remaining funds set aside for multiple smaller projects.

The criteria for the panel to consider included a guarantee that the projects were water-related; would offer long-term social, recreational and economic value to the island; provide funding for at least three community-based projects; demonstrate an ongoing collaboration of more than two agencies or community groups; include a public input component; include a maintenance program; and match WSF funds on a one-to-one basis, with in-kind contributions not exceeding 50 percent of the match.

The second option the ad hoc committee came up with was a partnership approach with other island agencies.

Under this option, the ad hoc committee said the parks district and the city could team up to renew Waterfront Park and the city dock using $1.4 million of the funds. They also recommended allotting $100,000 to the Road Ends Committee for its projects.

The option also included a community panel to recommend multiple other projects.

While Blair was looking to only provide information for the council to later discuss, the presentation prompted preliminary concerns.

Councilwoman Kirsten Hytopoulos said it seemed some ideas for the money were given priority over others.

“It feels like some ideas are more important than others,” Hytopoulos said. “It concerns me that a particular idea has come to the top.”

Councilman Bob Scales said he felt that whatever the council chooses to do, they should fully back one option over the other.

“My personal preference is to allocate funding to a specific (cause),” Scales said.

Scales said that he was more inclined toward the second option. He would like to hand the funding to a specific cause and then have that group come back with ideas on how to spend the money.

Scales also expressed concerns about the first option would limit the number of projects because of the requirement for matching funds.

“How many groups will be able to come with a one-to-one match?” Scales asked.

Mayor Debbi Lester was initially a part of the ad hoc committee, but some of the ideas produced by the committee posed a conflict of interest and she had to recuse herself. Her husband is the attorney for the Bainbridge Island Metro Parks & Recreation District.

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