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Bainbridge city officials to meet with Wing Point neighbors

But a road project there may still lose grant funding.

A decision by the City Council between two pressing projects – Winslow Way and Wing Point Way – will have to wait until August 13.

Still, Wednesday’s City Council meeting offered a new wrinkle on the issue, as councilors voted unanimously to meet with residents of Wing Point about solving road safety problems there.

“Two critical projects in the community need to get done,” said Councilwoman Hilary Franz, who proposed the idea of a meeting. “I believe the solution is in front of us.”

No meeting date or place has been scheduled, but the idea, Franz said, is to define the needs of the project, determine the timeline and resources needed to complete the work and set a date.

The need for repairs at Wing Point Way was established years ago. City officials and residents are worried about the safety of the road, which is plagued by poor sight-lines for drivers and a lack of sidewalks and shoulders, among other problems. Various plans have been proposed, but none implemented.

The city earned $866,000 worth of federal grant money to go toward Wing Point Way repairs. The plan had been winnowed down to a few design options before it became clear that the city didn’t have enough money to build any of them as proposed. The council’s Public Works and Transportation Committee earlier this year agreed on the need to keep sidewalks, but planners said more design is needed.

In the face of the city’s financial woes – revenue could be off by as much as $2.5 million by the end of the year, if trends continue – leaders have said the city only has enough money to complete one of the two major road projects: Wing Point Way or Winslow Way.

To do either, the city would need to redistribute federal grant money – both projects have earned roughly the same amount – to one of the projects and couple it with another $855,000 in grant money from a proposed project at Wyatt Way that has been canceled.

With failing infrastructure on both streets, leaders appear to be torn over which project should be funded; the money must be used or forfeited by 2010.

Whichever project loses the grant money would be pushed back beyond 2010.

Staff has recommended the grants go toward Winslow Way.

Public Works Director Randy Witt said Wednesday the council needs to decide in August or else risk losing the money altogether.

“You don’t have the money to finish both projects as they’re envisioned,” he said.

Not all councilors have indicated their preference – Debbie Vancil and Chris Snow were both absent Wednesday – but Franz said the city needs to give residents more certainty about its plans for Wing Point Way.

Councilman Bill Knobloch, a Wing Point resident, supported the motion but said he doesn’t think more meetings are what his constituents are looking for. 

“I very sincerely believe in your intent,” Knobloch said. “(But) why hasn’t this same process been applied to Winslow Way? What I see you attempting to do here might be too little too late.”

Councilman Barry Peters also supported the idea. He said the July 9 public hearing about the city’s capital plan – at which several proponents of both Wing Point and Winslow Way spoke – underscored the problems facing the city as it struggles to fund needed projects.

He disagreed with Knobloch about a lack of public process on Winslow Way.

“We have been open in so many ways on so many days,” Peters said. “This is an issue on which there has been an immense opportunity for public comment.”

Peters said the Wing Point Way plan isn’t far enough along for the city to offer “certainty” about the project, as suggested by Franz. 

“As we speak, this design is little more than a crayon drawing,” Peters said. “I think there’s a great risk in setting the expectations too high if we use the word certainty.”

Councilwoman Kim Brackett said she thinks Wing Point Way is the more doable project in the short term.

“This is not about winning, it’s not about losing,” Brackett said. “It’s about money and what we can afford to build and complete successfully. In my viewpoint it’s Wing Point Way.”

She said a lack of process isn’t the problem. 

“There have been countless meetings,” Brackett said. “We do have a plan. What I wanted was action, not so much talking.”

City Administrator Mark Dombroski on Friday said Franz would take the lead on the outreach effort with Wing Point neighbors. 

“The time is now to get together and try to chart a path forward,” Franz said.

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