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Service cited in budget hike to $14.87 million
"Growing community, growing budget.Citing increasing demands for services, the Bainbridge Island City Council Wednesday adopted a $14.875 million operating budget for 2001, up from $12.9 million this year. The figure includes transfer payments of about $700,000 for projects left unfinished this year, making the final figure a marginal increase from the $14.13 million in spending proposed by Mayor Dwight Sutton in his draft budget six weeks ago.You can't keep the same level of services for the same money, Sutton said, when there's more demands, more roads, more infrastructure to be taken care of.Most of the programs sought by the mayor were approved. Five new city positions were created, and several others were upgraded from part-time.Bainbridge Police will get two new officers next year, one for traffic enforcement and the other for general patrol duties. A request for an assistant chief position was turned down.The public works department will see a new road crew worker, with a second position to be split between facilities maintenance and answering citizen calls in the field. A new long-range planner was added to the planning department.The budget includes $500,000 for the preservation of farms and open space, and commits $50,000 to further study of the Town Square parking garage project.The budget also earmarks $20,000 as a partial subsidy of Kitsap Transit's No. 100 Winslow shuttle.The figure only represents about half the money needed to restore that run - which makes a loop around the downtown area and is heavily used by local seniors - to full service. City officials are expected to meet with transit representatives to see if that agency can commit the balance of funds.Council chair Merrill Robison said he was not happy, and not totally unhappy with budget.Robison said he had hoped the budget would better reflect new efficiencies said to come with bringing most city workers under a single roof in the new city hall.On the other hand, he conceded, I'm glad I'm not the mayor or the city administrator, getting all those calls every day and having people pound on the door wanting more, more more.The council also approved updates to the city's six-year capital improvement plan, pushing back several major road projects. Under the plan: * The return of traffic-calming measures on Madison Avenue won't happen until 2002, if at all. The public works department is now compiling public comment on the 60-day trial, which saw reconfiguration of the traffic lanes and the addition of on-street parking at several points. * Complete reconstruction of Winslow Way between Madison Avenue and the highway, once scheduled for the summer of 2002, was bumped back to 2004.* Traffic-calming work on Ericksen Avenue was pushed back to 2003, although Sutton said some new sidewalks are expected to be constructed as part of a new commercial project slated for the corner of Ericksen/Knechtel.But according to city engineer Jeff Jensen, a broader Ericksen project could spring forward again, particularly if an island-wide traffic study scheduled for next year supports connecting that street with Hildebrand Lane. The proposal is to remove the pocket-part now separating the streets, and to align the south end of Ericksen with Bjune Drive, making a north-south street that runs from High School Road to Eagle Harbor.While we don't have the money in the budget to take Ericksen from High School Road south to the water, we have a couple of funds where money can come from for that, he said.The city has a $150,000 grant from the state for the next biennium that can be used for that project, Jensen said. Other funding could come from a category referred to in the capital facilities budget as Winslow Loop, a grab-bag that includes both road and non-motorized transportation improvements in downtown Winslow from Weaver Road east to the ravine. The future of the mayorInterestingly, the biggest future change may prove to have been spurred by a pay increase for the city's elected figurehead.At Robison's suggestion, the mayor's salary was upped from $30,000 per year to $45,000, making it officially a three-quarters time position. They're getting closer to the time I actually put in, Sutton said Thursday, noting that he hadn't asked for the raise but will not turn it down.At the same time, Sutton has asked council members to re-evaluate the role of the mayor - and to at least consider switching to a council-manager form of government or some other arrangement.A number of other cities that have incorporated around Puget Sound over the last few years have gone with a council-manager. Under such a system, a manager is hired by the council and serves at its pleasure, with turnover typically fairly high. The manager is responsible for overseeing all city functions and department heads, while a ceremonial mayor can be elected from among council members for other civic functions. It would be the second time in less than a decade such a move has been studied on Bainbridge. After a report by the League of Women Voters urged such a change in 1993, the issue went before island voters but failed badly. Bremerton voters defeated a similar proposal there in the November election.Sutton attributed the results of the 1993 vote to uncertainty over the direction of the then-new all-island city, saying residents wanted to have a direct line to a higher authority - the mayor.Sutton has asked the council's finance committee to consider the issue again over the next six months or so.Sutton's term expires at the end of next year, meaning the question would have to be resolved by mid-summer, before races for the office begin. Sutton himself has not decided whether he will seek a second term. But he echoed longstanding concerns that as long as the position is officially less than full time, the only candidates to emerge in the future will be retirees or those of independent means.Robison agreed that as the responsibilities of the position now stand, it has been poorly compensated.Poor Dwight - he's been getting paid $30,000 a year, and working 70-hour weeks, he said. "