Roundup – Ferry bills motor on/Streetscape to see scrutiny/A jump-start for public art/Market calling for vendors/Have lunch with PSE Prez

Ferry bills motor on

Several ferry-focused bills made progress in the Legislature this week.

A bill sponsored by Poulsbo’s Sherry Appleton that would allow the state Transportation Commission to consider reasonable rates for ferry commuters when setting fares cruised through the house Thursday, en route to a Senate vote.

The House also passed a bill sponsored by Christine Rolfes of Bainbridge that would allow Puget Sound port districts, including those in Kingston and Port Townsend, to operate passenger-only ferry services.

Meanwhile, a bill to expedite the building of several small car ferries to help relieve the aging fleet was signed into law by Governor Christine Gregoire Thursday.

A Rolfes-sponsored bill that would give crime victims a voice in deciding whether offenders are granted work release also passed in the House.

Streetscape to see scrutiny

The Winslow Way Streetscape, said City Councilman Kjell Stoknes at Wednesday’s council meeting, might best be thought of as a set of Legos, with which planners and leaders can add or remove segments to build a project that’s desirable to the community.

“Quite frankly I don’t care whether it’s Legos or Monopoly,” said Council Chair Bill Knobloch. “What can we afford when it comes to this project?”

Councilors hope to get closer to answering that question with the help of value engineering and peer review of the Streetscape, both of which were approved by the council Wednesday.

The goal of the reviews is to have the projected costs analyzed by an outside source, and to compare the cost of separate elements in the Streetscape design to like elements elsewhere.

Councilors were shown a presentation Wednesday by Project Manager Chris Wierzbicki that itemized money spent on the effort to date. The biggest chunk ($544,000) was spent on design work. Another $202,000 went toward technical reports; $69,000 was spent on public outreach.

According to the presentation, the city has so far spent $1,059,554 on the Streetscape, which is set to break ground in spring 2009.

Wierzbicki said Seattle firm Heery International, which has carried out the work to this point, “met or exceeded” the objectives laid out in its contract with the city.

Councilors must approve a new contract with Heery by April 1 to continue the next phase of work, or risk delaying the project by a year, he said. Numerous questions remain about the project, including the scope of the work and how it will be funded.

Councilors on Wednesday agreed that funding, and not the design itself, should guide the project into its next phase.

Progress will continue to be vetted by the Public Works and Transportation Committee.

– Chad Schuster

A jump-start for public art

The City Council on Wednesday approved an ordinance that increases the annual funding for public art from one to two percent of money the city spends on capital projects.

“This is not an expenditure,” said Councilwoman Debbie Vancil. “It’s an investment.”

Backers of public art have long been asking for more money from the city, saying they are faced with an “unfunded mandate.”

The city on average contributes $24,000 to public art each year. About $13,000 of that is required annually to maintain the program, leaving little money for permanent projects, which can cost upwards of $50,000. As a result, no permanent public art has been created on the island since 2002.There are several exclusions to the funding formula – including underground utilities, property acquisition and grant-funded portions of projects – which is why some councilors opposed the change. The new ordinance retains the exclusions.

Councilman Barry Peters said it would make more sense to create a funding mechanism that provides public art with a consistent and predictable amount each year.

“This leaves the Public Art Commission in a position of not really knowing from one year to the next what’s going to be generated by this random number generator,” he said.

Many cities use a program similar to the one on Bainbridge, in part to ensure funding remains intact, even in down economic cycles.

“We’ve seen what happens to art funding (when money at cities is scarce),” said Councilwoman Hilary Franz. “This gives more certainty by guaranteeing a funding stream.”

The vote was 6-1 in favor of the change, with Peters the lone dissenter. Though they approved the change, some councilors said they would still like to explore a more predictable funding mechanism.

– Chad Schuster

Market calling for vendors

The Bainbridge Island farmers market is accepting applications for farmers and vendors for the upcoming 2008 season. The market returns April 12 at the town square in City Hall Park and runs through Oct. 18. Applications from new and returning vendors are due March 1.

For market information and an application see or call 855-1500.

Have lunch with PSE Prez

Bert Valdman, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Puget Sound Energy, will speak at this month’s Chamber of Commerce Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 20 at Wing Point Golf & Country Club. Valdman will talk about the company’s plans for Bainbridge and the region and the impacts of its recent merger. Cost is $15.

For reservations or information call 842-3700.

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