Budget sorted out, again -- News Roundup

Budget sorted out, again

Barring yet another late complication, the city’s 2004 budget should be approved this week.

Consensus on the budget was imperiled last Friday, when finance officials determined that the council had balanced next year’s operations spending by cutting from capital projects, two funds that are strictly segregated.

But this week, revised forecasts for current revenues – an unexpected surge in franchise fee revenues, land use, and utility charges – put the city to the good by more than $600,000, ending the need to cut spending next year.

Several council members expressed annoyance over the new figures, then proceeded to propose more spending.

Councilman Michael Pollock proposed restoring several projects previously pared out of the 2004 budget, including support for a salt marsh restoration on Manitou Beach.

Norm Wooldridge countered that if the council reopened the spending debate, he would fight such proposals in favor of more funding for roadwork.

If the public were asked to choose between the salt marsh project and funding for downtown Winslow planning, Wooldridge said, “I don’t think you’d be pleased with the vote.”

Councilman Bill Knobloch was among several urging the council to not revisit spending, and to be satisfied with the sudden surplus.

“We’ve done our work, we know where the money is, and it’s a nice position to be in,” he said. “Imagine if it were a negative?”

The council did seize the opportunity to cut an increase in the stormwater utility fee in half, to $78 per household per year in 2004. That cut $150,000 from projected revenues.

The final budget is expected to be formally adopted at Wednesday’s council meeting.

– Douglas Crist

City fills two key vacancies

Two key vacancies were filled at City Hall this week.

City officials announced the hiring of Roger Mustain of Poulsbo as city engineer, and Mark Hinkley of Riverside, Calif., as city building official.

Mustain recently retired from a career in the U.S. Navy with the rank of captain. He served as director of facilities for bases around the world, including Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Naples, Italy, and the Philippines, and was responsible for budgeting, planning, construction and contract management.

It was that scope of experience that impressed Randy Witt, public works director.

“There’s some things he’s done that we’ll never do here, by size and scale of activities,” Witt said.

Hinkley spent seven years with the San Bernardino, Calif., Department of Planning and Building Services, and worked in Seattle’s Department of Design, Construction and Land Use until earlier this year. He has since worked as plan check engineer for the city of Riverside, Calif.

Mustain and Hinkley replace Jeff Jensen and Larry Skinner, respectively, both of whom resigned their positions earlier this year.

– Douglas Crist

House OKs $2m for park

The U.S. House of Representatives this week approved $2 million for the acquisition of land to create Pritchard Park on the south side of Eagle Harbor, currently the site of clean-up efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The funds are included in the annual appropriations bill for the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The $2 million was also included in the Senate omnibus bill, scheduled for a vote early next year.

“Pritchard Park is going to be a tremendous public asset, and I am glad that Congress saw the importance of helping with the purchase of the land for the park,” said Rep. Jay Inslee (D-1st District) in a news release Thursday.

To date, the city, county and state have pledged $2.5 million toward the $8 million price tag of the 50-acre parcel. Proceeds from a sale would go toward cleanup activities at the site, where an estimated million gallons of creosote still remain – a legacy of the Wyckoff wood treatment facility that operated there until 1987.

A memorial to the forced internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, for which private funds are being raised, is also planned for the site.

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