BI ponders what to do with $7 million

  • Thursday, June 17, 2021 9:38am
  • News

When is getting $7 million from the federal government a problem?

When you have $70 million worth of ideas to spend it on.

Actually, despite a long wish list, the Bainbridge Island City Council most often said they would like the money to be spent on affordable housing, if it qualifies.

Also at Tuesday’s work session, the council discussed the plastics ordinance, climate change and how to fix the mini roundabout at Wyatt Way and Madison Avenue.

The city is receiving $7,061,885 from the American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress in March to address adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It expects to receive about half at the end of June and the other half about the same time next year.

“The principles the City Council considers will help guide the use of ARPA funds in a way that will realize the greatest benefit to improve lives and meet the long-range goals of the community,” city manager Blair King said in his weekly report.

The councilmembers expressed what would be on their wish lists.

Leslie Schneider said affordable housing, but she also mentioned programs dealing with pollution, health concerns and helping the poor.

Mayor Rasham Nassar said health and human services to help marginalized folks. “I don’t want to poke the hornet’s nest,” but she also mentioned renovating the former Harrison Medical Center into affordable housing.

Brenda Fantroy-Johnson said helping those in need, affordable housing, mental health and the senior center. She also mentioned the police safety building. “We need to get that off our plate,” she said. “Those are my dreams” for the money.

Joe Deets said he wants to make sure the public gets involved in this, but he favors things like child care and emergency aid for people who are struggling financially getting through COVID. He wants to focus on long-term recovery, “Building back better.” He also said affordable housing infrastructure.

Deputy mayor Kirsten Hytopoulos talked about social justice and affordable housing. She mentioned a city project for low-income housing on land where the police station now sits.

Michael Pollock mentioned race equity, climate change, economic equity and social justice, along with affordable housing. He also talked about green infrastructure and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “We’ve already spent the money several times over,” he said, adding there must be $70 million in requests by now.

Christy Carr was not at the meeting.

Based on his understanding of the government’s desire for the funds, Blair said affordable housing, or at least its infrastructure, could be approved. “It’s not a hard reach at all. Some things could be a stretch,” he said of other wishes.

According to the government, the money can be used: to support public health response efforts and economic impacts to households and businesses; for premium pay for essential workers; to replace public sector revenue; or to support investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure to underserved communities.

Other directions say the funds are one-time monies and should be spent in such a way to avoid reoccurring cost. They should be spent to achieve long-term benefits, and priority will be given to projects that promote fiscal and environmental stability.

“There’s no time to lollygag,” King said, adding priority should be given to projects that could not be done without the funds.

Examples of potential projects include those that deal with:

• Category 1 – homelessness, tourism, job retraining, counseling, assistance with basic bills.

• Category 2 – pay for workers in health care, child care, social services.

• Category 3 – avoiding cuts to government services, maintaining infrastructure like roads, public safety services.

• Category 4 – green infrastructure, projects that protect waters from pollution, energy-efficient treatment works, water conservation, water infrastructure, wastewater treatment plants.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of the Treasury began to distribute $350 billion to state, local and tribal governments under the ARPA. BI was notified by the state Office of Financial Management about the amount it would get.

Plastic law

The plastic ordinance was looked at again after discussion at the last meeting. The scope was narrowed, but talks continue. Its title is being changed to Waste Reduction Regulation Related to Single-Use Products.

The council wants to make the law tougher than the state one recently passed that goes into effect July 1. The new 15-page ordinance explains the many adverse environmental impacts plastics cause, and that only 9% of plastics are recycled.

City Attorney Joe Levan said staff focused on things that would be pre-empted by the new state law. The council agreed to ban plastic cups and bins out in the open containing plastic utensils.

One area the council was split on was whether business employees could ask if customers want plastic or if it would be up to the customer to ask for it.

With Carr gone, the board tied on a 3-3 vote. The final vote will take place June 22.

Hytopoulos said the state law was thoroughly vetted, and she’s heard pushback from businesses about not being able to offer plastic. She said business owners don’t like that this is something they can’t decide for themselves.

Schneider said businesses have told her they like the direction the city is going, but they want input.

“It would be hard to enforce and create bad feelings,” she said.

Climate change

Also, chairman Michael Cox gave the Climate Change Advisory Committee report. Their overall goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% in 2025, 60% by 2035 and 90% by 2045. To do that there are six focus areas: energy, buildings, transportation, natural environment, waste and community engagement.

Some of the actions include: Require all new and renovated buildings to avoid climate risks as part of the permitting process; use community solar and prohibit combustible fuels such as propane; initiate Green Energy/Building Fund; and improve electric transportation infrastructure.

Sea level

The council also received comments from that committee about sea-level rise amendments to the Shoreline Master Program.

By 2025 the city needs to complete an analysis and design a process to ensure city assets are protected from sea-level rise. They recommend the planning department work with the new climate officer on the topic now, not waiting until next year. They also ask the city to assist private property owners to learn about their risk.

Blair said he plans to have a senior planner work on this in the next few months. “This isn’t going to happen in a week,” he said. “I think we all agree this is very important. We do want to prepare for that.”

Deets added, “We need a robust public engagement” process on this that should start as soon as possible.


Regarding the roundabout, residents have requested improvements since it opened in April. Public Works director Chris Wierzbicki said a roundabout has been discussed for the location for about 20 years. The goal is to improve traffic flow and safety. He said mini-roundabouts are becoming more popular so more property doesn’t have to be purchased. “The key is proceeding slow” when driving through them, he said.

In the next few days, some of the changes will include: reducing speed limit to 5 miles per hour, adding warning signs, painting yield with yellow paint on the road at each crosswalk and adding lighting.

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