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All show, no go on contract | IN OUR OPINION
Respect and responsibility. Both seemed to be in short supply at the last meeting of the Bainbridge Island City Council.
That’s our takeaway after Councilman David Ward’s snit over a public works proposal for chip seal road repairs.
Despite a warning that tabling the proposed contract could mean that the needed street repairs just don’t get done because of the short summertime construction window, Ward asked his fellow council members to table the discussion until he could get greater “quantification” on why double chip sealing was being proposed for a few of the roads that are scheduled for work.
Remarkably, three other council members — Debbi Lester, Sarah Blossom and Steve Bonkowski — agreed.
It was a baffling decision, but part of a continuing and disturbing trend. Baffling because it put summer road repairs in jeopardy, and disturbing because tabling the discussion did not give Public Works Director Lance Newkirk the chance to address any of Ward’s concerns. Instead, like so many other times in the past, the council abdicated any debate and decision to another day.
Newkirk had previously met with Ward to talk about his concerns. He also provided the council with a six-page memo detailing how the city has used low-cost chip sealing since 1998 to maintain city streets.
Chip sealing can be done at about half the cost of asphalt overlays, and double chip sealing is done where road conditions are really bad, and a single chip seal won’t level out deep cracks or ruts in the roadway. The public works department has also found that double chip sealed roads have about twice the life of a single chip sealed road.
Tabling the discussion was a failure in a number of ways.
If council members feel they did not have enough information to vote on the contract, they could have abstained from the vote. (That said, any council member who needed more information should have made an honest attempt to get answers from city staff, rather than waiting until the council meeting to put on a show. It is the council’s responsibility to ask specific questions and get answers; we pay city employees to do their jobs, not be mind readers.)
If Ward felt the chip sealing repairs were not a wise use of city money, he should have said so and voted against the contract.
The whole hissy fit underscores what city officials have been told by the consultants hired to find a new city manager: Many people question whether this council can live with the council-manager form of government that citizens voted to establish. In the council-manager set-up, there isn’t an elected person roaming city hall, telling the paid professionals how to do their jobs. Some on the council don’t seem to get this, though, and seem unwilling to stick to decisions on policy.
And sadly, we likely won’t be surprised if the street repair project eventually goes forward, but the council insists on deciding where the flaggers should stand.