BI ‘blindsided’ by police-court overruns

Some Bainbridge Island City Council members were not too pleased to hear March 14 that another $950,000 was needed for the new police-court facility.

“What happened to the $840,000 contingency we had before?” Councilmember Kirsten Hytopoulos asked.

City Public Works director Chris Wierzbicki explained the $20 million budget made in 2018 underestimated things like inflation.

“I was blindsided by this,” Hytopoulos said.

She said the cost of the facility has been a contentious issue in the community from the start. Sticking to the budget was one of the main points for her supporting it. She said the city should have been looking at inflation all along and making adjustments.

Councilmember Clarence Moriwaki agreed. “We knew inflation was going crazy.”

“I’m disappointed,” Mayor Brenda Fantroy-Johnson added.

But Councilmember Jon Quitslund said they shouldn’t be surprised because overruns are being seen everywhere due to inflation.

City manager Blair King reminded the council that it caused some of the added expense, such as asking for the facility to become an Emergency Operations Center.

“It will never fall down,” Fantroy-Johnson said. “It’s the safest place on Bainbridge.” If something happens we’re “all going to try to run there.”

Moriwaki said the money is left over from last year’s budget, so the city won’t have to dip into reserves. “This is twenty years overdue. Let’s get it done,” he said, after which the council approved the added dollars.

A city staff memo says the remodel of the former Harrison Medical Building on Madison Avenue is due to be completed this fall, with the cost now $21.2 million.

About $950,000 more is needed due to the foundation; wall thickness; and cost of furniture, equipment, fixtures and technology.

It actually would have been more but there have been savings of about $250,000. They have reused some windows, used staff in lieu of hiring out certain work, and bought alternative police lockers.

But offsetting some of that is buying public art for $150,000 that had not been budgeted, along with other items.

Valley Road

During public comments, Els Heijne, one of the owners of Bay Hay and Feed, drew a picture with words, asking the council to imagine 800 people packing the chamber, filling the entryway and out into the street.

That’s how many people signed a petition asking the city for improvements along Valley Road. The city was planning to spend $350,000 to do just that.

But Councilmember Leslie Schneider said not so fast. She said there are other projects underway that could use that funding, especially in Lynwood Center, which it ranks as a higher priority.

“This is a really tough one,” Councilmember Clarence Moriwaki said, adding he is listening to the people along Valley Road, but he also always likes to emphasize the process, so the public can count on what the council is going to do. He said in the past the council has a reputation for not being predictable. “We can’t have that anymore,” he said.

Councilmember Joe Deets called the discussion “disheartening. This is finally something for the North Ward. Look at the total island and reconsider your objection,” he said, recommending spending $175,000 for each area.

Fantroy-Johnson added, “The only thing going on in the north is the roundabouts,” and those aren’t even city projects.

Hytopoulos said she appreciates the support of the 800 people on Valley Road, but council can’t base its decisions on popularity. She said council needs to best use the funds to advance the corridor to Lynwood Center. “Lynwood Center is pretty out of control,” she said, adding it needs nonmotorized connections. “$350,000 is a drop in the bucket. Let’s not spread it around.”

Councilmember Michael Pollock said it’s about safety. “Valley Road is hazardous. You have to stop (when driving) when people walk by.”

Heijne had said that a senior housing facility is much larger than the previous one, so there is a “huge growth in traffic.” She added before any more commercial development is added at Rolling Bay that at least shoulders need to be put on the road.

Moriwaki said as a bicyclist he would love to see that. But the project isn’t even in the Capital Improvement Plan, so to make it a priority now would make it feel like “planning’s nonsense. Ragtag is a little bit concerning,” he said of changing funding priorities.

In the end, the council decided to spend money in both areas.

The Valley Road Non-Motorized Improvement Project is a new program that was community driven. Envisioned is a connecting corridor for Winslow, Lynwood Center, Island Center and Rolling Bay. King said the entire project could cost $2 million.

Eagle Harbor

The council also approved $860,000 more for Perteet Construction for the Eagle Harbor-Wyatt Way project because of its expanded scope.

Schneider questioned Perteet’s experience. “It’s a dangerous route,” she said, adding Perteet may not be the best choice. She asked if council would like staff to readvertise the project.

Wierzbicki said the city “right now is behind the eight ball to get it done on time.” Its project deadline is June 1, 2024.

The Eagle Harbor-Wyatt Way Non-Motorized Improvement Project and Cooper Creek Fish Passage is looking at two designs. One has paths on each side of the road, while the other offers two directions on one side.

The council approved the funds.

BI Ride funding

The council also agreed to spend money in its marketing budget on BI Ride.

Surveys show 73% of residents have never used BI Ride, and 88% drive alone for local trips. Despite that, BI Ride had 21,000 passengers in 2022. More drivers are needed, along with increased awareness. About 34% of the city’s carbon emissions come from transportation. The top six destinations are near downtown Winslow. Cost is only $2, and it’s on-demand, not tied to any bus schedule. Hours are 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Sanjay Bhatt of BI Ride said it is used mainly in-between commuter trips.

Regarding complaints about service, Bhatt said driver shortages are one reason. But he added that it is now offering $7,000 for pay during training, which is helping recruitment.

During public comments, Stephan Goldby of the BI chamber said BI Ride needs to focus on service improvement. To help people in the workplace, it needs to expand its hours.

Also, Natalie Rodriguez, owner of Tour Bainbridge, said her business offers two products: charter services and tours that highlight BI. She said BI Ride has cut into her winery tours by 30%. BI Ride “puts my livelihood at risk,” she said.

“It’s not our intention to compete with private business,” Bhatt responded later.

STO Trail

City engineer Peter Corelis provided an update on the Sound to Olympics Trail. The next phase is from Madison Avenue to the Agate Pass Bridge. An Open House will take place March 29. Challenges include: critical areas; slopes; rights of way and easement; and vegetation and roadside buffers.

The route would basically be near Highway 305, but there are options, such as a detour at Hidden Cove that would enhance wildlife viewing for users.

Ron Peltier encouraged the council to ask lots of questions. He said when he was on council it approved a similar project, and the community got upset about the number of trees that were removed.

Public comment

Walt Hannon complained about speed limit reductions. He said the 25 mph limit is going to lead to tailgating, rear-end accidents and possible road rage, taking up more police time.

And at Walt’s Lynwood Market, he complained about the new waste ordinance adding work for employees.

Marilyn Mclauchlan said the container law is great— “sometimes you have to make people do what they don’t want to do”— but not when they hurt businesses like Walt’s.