Budget accord has city seeking more help

City Council approves additional funds to accomplish budgeted projects.

Know any good engineers looking for a short-term gig?

The city is looking for more help – temporary help, they want you to know – to help knock out a laundry list of projects during 2006.

“It’s a one-time, clearinghouse year,” said Council Chair Bob Scales, of the council’s decision to supplement the 2006 budget with more than $556,000 to complete budgeted public works and other projects before year’s end. “And we won’t do it again next year.”

Rejoined City Administrator Mary Jo Briggs, who had sought the additional funding:

“I think you’ll wear us out this year.”

On the docket are road and utility projects including the Ericksen-Hildebrand connection and other street upgrades; fish passage improvements at island streams; water main upgrades; and improvements at various public road ends.

The projects are all slated for design in 2006, with construction in future years.

The council in December adopted a $49.9 million city budget for 2006.

But after mapping out workplans and resources for the projects, the administration came back earlier this month saying that all the work could not be completed without additional staffing, and proposed a list of projects to be deferred.

Last Wednesday, City Council decided to reallocate and authorize additional funds, some $556,000, to do all the projects that were budgeted for 2006. The additional funds include $225,000 of new money, with the rest shifted from a discretionary fund for open space.

In authorizing the additional funds, public works will be able to hire people for limited-term positions, including two engineers, an engineering tech, a part-time project analyst, financial analyst, administrative assistant and accountant.

The positions will be short term and will expire at projects’ completion.

Briggs said she believes the talent pool in the Bainbridge community, perhaps recently retired engineers or those between jobs, will make the search for temporary help easier.

“There’s a good bevy of professionals on the island,” she said, “and we want to lure them back to work.”

The council will consider funding additional projects in March. A study of storm and surface water management fees will consider a rate to make the utility self-funding; rather than partially subsidized by the general fund; a “benchmarking” study will look at the level of service the city delivers for its staff size, as compared to other cities.

Elray Konkel, city finance director, daid that even with the additional staff, “it will still be a challenge to accomplish everything.” He characterized the 2006 budget as the largest to date, not just by dollar amount but in sheer workload.

“There’s nothing on this list that isn’t important to do,” he said. “We’re just grappling with what it takes to get it all done.”

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