Blair King is sworn into his position Monday. Courtesy Photo

Blair King is sworn into his position Monday. Courtesy Photo

BI city manager makes his mark at 1st meeting

  • Wednesday, May 19, 2021 12:08pm
  • News

New city manager Blair King made his mark at his first Bainbridge Island City Council meeting Tuesday night.

Twice early on he stepped in and asked for time for staff to research a topic and come back to the council with more information. Previously, council members would likely have talked at length about such topics. He also made sure proper meeting processes were followed.

The honeymoon period quickly ended, however, as Blair hoped to have a retreat in mid-July because before that would be “rushed,” but the council pushed him to change it to late June.

After King was introduced at the start of the meeting, he said his first two days had been like “trying to jump on a speeding train that is not stopping.”

Councilmember Christy Carr stole the meeting, however, by announcing that she is not going to seek re-election, and she’d like to get some things done during the remainder of her term. She mentioned the Winslow Master Plan, Housing Action Plan and traffic calming as some of her priorities.

During a discussion on the council’s Work Plan, Carr said she likes it because it “keeps us on track.” But she also said since 2018 the council had passed 31 temporary measures, while only two had been approved the previous three years.

“We need to get off that track,” she said. “It’s become the new norm. It’s kicking the can down the road.”

Other topics discussed at the work session included an electric shuttle and a single-use plastics ordinance.

The electric shuttle proposal would provide passenger service downtown seven days a week during a one-year demonstration. Supporters say it would improve access to downtown, helping the local economy recover. It would reduce gas emissions, congestion and noise, along with connect to other mass transit systems. The 12-15 passenger van would be converted to electric by EV Works, a local company. Cost for a year would be approximately $400,000, up to $1 million if the route was expanded. Grants and other funding ideas, including user fees, would be part of the study process.

Greg Dronkert of Mobility for All pitched the idea, asking to work with the city and other potential partners for 60 days to come back with a recommendation. Dronkert mentioned his nonprofit has been working with Town and Country grocery store during the pandemic, delivering groceries with electric vehicles. As a result, he said 25,000 tons of carbon emissions were taken off the road. He said he’s like the Climate Change Advisory Committee to be part of the team. “We don’t want to do this in a vacuum,” he said.

Cost was a concern, but Dronkert said if the city and others partner with Mobility for All it would be eligible to seek grants. He said funding is coming “fast and furious” for these types of projects. “We want to have a project shovel ready,” he said.

The council also is considering a single-use plastics ordinance, to supplement a state bill passed by the legislature. The local law would: ban single-use stirrers/straws; require durable utensils for on-premises dining; ban single-use personal care products at lodging establishments; require a fee on disposable cups; and look at self-service for food service products.

Additionally it would look at a future requirement for compostable take-out containers, along with outreach, education and enforcement.

As for the council’s Work Plan, deputy city manager Ellen Schroer explained in a presentation that it gives the council updates on projects, including ones that are funded, completed and added.

“There are a lot on the list, and very many that aren’t,” she said.

She said the Work Plan includes only one-third of the city’s programs and services. She said it’s a challenge finding staff to do work that’s added, especially since staff has been reduced during the 1 1/2 years of COVID-19.

Schroer said there are 59 operations items in the Work Plan, 46 under policy, 24 under capital and 12 under regulations. Items on the list come from staff, council, the budget or outside sources.

The Work Plan also prioritizes issues such as climate/natural resources; land use/housing; mobility; safety; community; and accountability.

Carr said she’d like to revisit some older items on the Work Plan, take some off, defer some others and add some, too.

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