Car tabs may cost more in BI to help transportation

Ground-breaking June 3 on new police-court facility

Your car tab fees likely will be going up to help pay for transportation projects on Bainbridge Island.

While not making that decision at last week’s City Council meeting, members did show interest in charging $10 more for a total cost of $40.

Also at the meeting, city manager Blair King announced a ground-breaking will take place June 3 at noon for the new police station-court facility at 8804 Madison Ave. N.

The basic cost for car tabs is $20. Since 2019 the city has charged $30 with the added amount going to the Transportation Benefit Fund. That extra charge would have ended in mid-January 2023, but the council did vote to extend that indefinitely, along with some restrictions on how that money is spent.

Councilmember Leslie Schneider brought up the $10 increase. King said that could be done, and two years after that it could be raised another $10 to $50.

Finance director DeWayne Pitts said Seattle is the only city in the state to have done that. Anything above that voters would have to approve. He said higher city sales taxes are another option to raise funds for transportation projects.

Asked about a bond to front-load costs for transportation projects, Blair said for every $10 increase that raises about $200,000 a year. So a 20-year bond to raise $2.6 million for projects would be feasible. “That’s part of the budget process you may want to consider,” he said.

Councilmember Clarence Moriwaki said he would want a public discussion before deciding on a bond. He wants to know if the “community wants a ten dollar fee” for sustainable transportation projects.

Councilmember Kirsten Hytopoulos agreed. She said the community would be committing to a project that is not put together yet.

Schneider asked for an amendment that would make a $10 increase go to sustainable transportation projects, but that was voted down.

Pitts explained the TBD money goes to street improvements, maintenance and sustainable transportation. The council passed a change that would allow it to also be spent on traffic calming, climate change mitigation projects such as bike paths, and marketing for BI Ride.

TBD funds this year will be spent on the Madison Avenue project ($460,000); pavement ($400K); Sound To Olympics trail ($140K); and BI Ride ($100K).

The council also responded to recommendations made by the city’s Race Equity Advisory Committee. It directed King to make a budget plan to pay for changes.

“This to me is past due,” deputy mayor Brenda Fantroy-Johnson said.

King said some of the recommendations already are being done due to requests from the council. He said outside resources will be brought in when needed to “get the best product we can. I don’t see any impediment” other than organizing staff and resources.

REAC asked to have input throughout the process regarding: getting a race equity assessment as a benchmark; race training; questions made for a foundation for decision making with an equity lens; all committees to use a race equity lens; and progress on all of the recommendations.

Meanwhile, city attorney Joe Levan led a discussion on making it easier for people to donate to the city. “The donation policy is not as broad as it should be,” he said.

King mentioned that some donations just aren’t large enough to make it worth city staff time. So there should be a minimum. He also said some donations come with strings attached, so the city should be able to deny those.

Council members asked that donations also should be in line with city policy, plans and goals. King said staff will incorporate those ideas and come back to the council.

Public comment

Fred McGinnis again challenged the council on its decision regarding the police station-court facility. He said it did not consider a public parcel next to the fire station, and that violated its own code of ethics. He said he was told by King that parcel could not be used because it is zoned R-2, but that the Suzuki property was considered with that same designation. McGinnis said he is embarrassed that the chosen site is not in a prominent location, and that disrespects police and judges. He said “what is just and right” is to stop the current process. “You have the power. All you need now is the spine.”

Cindy Anderson said she was glad to see police chief Joe Clark talk about law enforcement at a recent council meeting, but there should be time for the public to ask questions.

Another comment came up about adding flagpoles downtown to fill in gaps. King said later that staff would look into that.

Other news

Moriwaki talked about how delayed decisions cost the city money. He mentioned how the city pays rent on the current courthouse, and it could have saved up to $70,000 if not for the delays on the new facility.

Fantroy-Johnson said she has been involved in trying to help residents of Finch Place, who are being subjected to huge rent increases. “The way the notices came out made a lot of people afraid,” she said, adding meetings are taking place to help them find resources. Of Housing Kitsap she said, they are in the business of helping people find affordable housing, not “terrorizing them.”

It was also mentioned at the meeting that it’s a special year for the American Legion as it celebrates 80 years on the island. It plans to rededicate its memorial at Bainbridge High School on Memorial Day.

“I first saw that (memorial) while playing football going through the tunnel to the stadium,” Cmdr. Gary Sakuma of the legion said, adding the two brass plates recognize islanders who died.

The memorial was put in storage for two years as the Building 100 shop was constructed.

Sakuma said three Medal of Honor winners have lived on BI, along with one of 10 women who have received high commendations. “We have a rich military history,” Sakuma said.

The legion hall is named in honor of Colin Hyde, who lived on BI and whose family donated the land for the hall. He added that just four World War II vets are left on BI. “They really are the greatest generation,” Sakuma said.

Denita Holmes, Suquamish tribal treasurer talked to the council about Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Awareness Month, saying the epidemic is their third-leading cause of death. The public is asked to wear red on the 5th day of each month as a reminder. She told the council that Jessica Santos went missing in 2017, and she was found in the forest of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Reservation. “She was recovered and laid to rest. This means a lot to our tribe,” Holmes said of the awareness month designation.