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Candidate’s claim on total SMP cost raises questions
It's an oft-repeated number that has left some officials at Bainbridge Island City Hall scratching their heads: $802,000.
Richard "Dick" Haugan, a candidate for the Bainbridge Island City Council, has been running a campaign that's centered on the claim that
the city has been "throwing away millions of our tax dollars."
Haugan has also been a vocal opponent of the city's updated Shoreline Management Program, and has repeatedly slammed the city for spending $802,000 on the rewrite of the regulations.
It's a number he's repeatedly turned to — on his website, in his campaign materials, in newspaper ads and fundraising letters — as a sign of the lack of fiscal accountability at city hall.
Trouble is, no one at Bainbridge city hall knows where Haugan is getting his claim of $802,000 that's been spent on the SMP.
The focus on the figure reached a crescendo this week, as City Councilwoman Kirsten Hytopoulos wrote a letter to local media outlets, including the Review, and called the number into question.
The city did not spend $800,000 on the SMP update, she said, but spent $207,000 on outside technical consultants over a 3½-year span. The costs and staff time were also offset, Hytopoulos said, in large part by $240,000 in state grants.
City Manager Doug Schulze said Wednesday he did not know where the $802,000 figure came from.
Bainbridge Planning Director Kathy Cook said she was also uncertain about the veracity of the number.
"I don't know the basis for the $800,000," Cook said.
Grant funding, however, totaled $240,000, she said.
"That paid for all of the consultant work and it paid for a portion of staff salary," Cook said.
The update to the new shoreline plan, which was required under state law, began in 2008.
Much staff time went into the update, Cook noted.
"It's very labor intensive," she said.
But she also said no employees were hired to work solely on the update. Ryan Ericson, who eventually took over some of the work after another planning department employee retired, also handles permit processing and other duties.
The completed SMP found fast critics, from shoreline property owners who said it was too restrictive and claimed it was unconstitutional, to others who send the regulations were watered down to appease waterside landowners.
The city council approved the new plan on a split 4-3 vote in May, and sent it on to the state Department of Ecology for review.
Haugan — who is running for the North Ward, Position 7 seat against Val Tollefson — kicked off his campaign with a promised to be the crucial swing vote to "kill the SMP."
On his campaign website, Haugan writes: "The SMP is one example of fiscal irresponsibility that can't be ignored."
"The state gave the city $230,000 to get it done," Haugan continued. "So, you might ask, how much did the city really spend? The answer will astound you. So far the city has spent $802,000 — that's $230,000 of state money and $572,000 of our money on the SMP."
In an email to the Review Wednesday, Haugan said he got his $802,000 number "directly from the city" in an email.
He did not return repeated calls for clarification.
Instead, via an email, he said he included grant funding in the city's costs for the SMP update.
"On-going cost will be astronomical. You might report on that," he added.
Haugan's claim, however, appears to be off by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
City officials gave Haugan a detailed spreadsheet of the costs of the SMP update in early May.
The spreadsheet, prepared by the city's finance department, shows the city spent $65,192 on the SMP in 2008-2009. Most of that amount, $65,000 was spent on professional consultants, and the remaining $192 was spent on advertising.
The city spent $508,845 on the SMP in the three years between 2010 and 2013.
Approximately $213,263 was spent on salaries, according to the spreadsheet provided to Haugan, and $203,017 was spent on professional consulting services. Other costs included in the $508,845 total include attorney fees, benefits, supplies, community outreach, advertising and printing.
From 2008 through 2013, the city spent a total of $574,037.
And there lies the difference.
Haugan, has repeatedly claimed the city has spent $802,000 — that's $572,000, plus another $230,000 in grant money — on the SMP.
But city officials have said they have not had to pay the full $574,000, as the grant money from the state cut that amount by $240,000, and they've told Haugan that.
In an email to Haugan on May 9, after Haugan had asked for costs of the SMP, the city told him the $240,000 in grant money should be subtracted from the total to get the city's actual SMP costs.