Vehicle license fee goes up $10 in BI for transportation

City also looking at fines for parking violations

The Bainbridge Island City Council decided Oct. 25 to increase the local vehicle license fee $10 a year to $40 to pay for sustainable transportation.

Councilmember Leslie Schneider wanted to make sure that increase paid for a manager to advocate for transportation projects, but that was shot down 5-2.

Councilmember Kirsten Hytopoulos said that would be “dictating a staff position” to city manager Blair King, which she called “overstepping.”

Councilmember Brenda Fantroy-Johnson said King knows the council wants someone in that position, so we “don’t need to spell it out.”

Deputy mayor Clarence Moriwaki said he’d like to see some flexibility so they could use that $200,000 in new money each for other things in the future.

Schneider voted against that amendment, along with Councilmember Michael Pollock. She said without a manager advocating for projects it’s “too easy for this to slip away.”

King said he knows the council wants the position, and if this became a funding source it would be easier for him to support such a job.

Pollock was the only one to vote against raising the fee $10 a year. He doesn’t support “raising taxes on people,” especially since the city has a surplus in cash reserves that needs to be spent down.

“Ten dollars a year is not a huge financial burden,” Moriwaki replied.

The Transportation Budget Fund started in 2013 to pay for transportation projects. The city collected $20 per vehicle from then until 2019, when it was raised to $30. It brings in about $600,000 a year.

In 2023, the city wants to spend $860,000 of those funds on Madison Avenue, $500,000 on street pavement and $18,000 on the Sound to Olympic Trail for a total of $1.38 million. It plans to spend $603,000 in 2024 with $8,000 for STO, $500,000 for street paving and $95,000 for Grove Avenue traffic calming.

Police report

Chief Joe Clark said he is working with King on a policy to start giving out parking tickets. For some time the department has issued warnings.

One major driving force for that is people parking in Electric Vehicle charging stations. The council has made that a priority and illegal parking makes it so the facility can’t be used by someone who needs it.

“People are wise to the warnings” only, King said, adding that if staff comes back with a proposed law that the city give the community plenty of time to learn that the two-hour limit is now being enforced.

Clark talked about an increase in crime against property, mostly vehicle break-ins. He said thieves will go down a street checking car handles one after another. If it’s unlocked they will quickly look to see what’s there. If it’s locked they might smash a window if they see something of value. “There are a lot of remote, dark streets that are easy to move around and not be spotted,” Clark said.

He said such crimes are difficult to solve, even with video, because it can be hard to identify the person, but, “We have made some arrests.”

Mail theft and vandalism are up, as are stolen vehicles at 24, an increase of 16 more than last year. Reported crime is almost double last year and assaults of people also are up.

Calls, traffic, collisions, DUI and arrests are about what they were last year, but way down from 2018.

The department has hired a number of new officers. One is a community resource officer who will do community outreach and work in schools with Whitney the search and rescue dog, among other duties.

In other news

In King’s report, he said two designated parking spaces have been set aside for a Community Exchange Zone at the police station so people can make transactions safely. No police are there, but there is signage and cameras.

People like to use these sites when selling something on Craigslist, for example, so that the parties involved feel safer as the other doesn’t know where they live. It’s also a good spot for custody exchanges. A site also will be set up at the new police station when it’s finished.

The council also:

•Considered property tax levy collection. The rate is a little over 64.6 cents per $1,000 valuation, raising more than $8.32 million on the total assessed value on BI of over $12.835 billion.

•Approved to develop a Public Art Plan with a budget of up to $50,000.

•Authorized installation of more solar panels at Waterfront Park Community Center, and allocated $104,000 of federal pandemic funds to install them along with battery energy storage at the Emergency Hub at Hyla Middle School.

•Accepted a $115,943 grant from the state Department of Ecology for wastewater treatment.

•Received a presentation for the American Public Works Association Accreditation Award for BI’s Public Works Department.

Public comments

Barb Zimmer and Elise Nelson encouraged more funding for the sustainable transportation plan. “We need to find ways to do more projects sooner than later,” Nelson said. Zimmer more specifically asked for a transportation manager. “We’ve needed that for quite a while,” she said, adding that the city is missing out on grants that would more than pay for the position.

Meanwhile, John Lay advised the city that with a new playground likely coming to Fort Ward it would need to install crosswalks and speed tables for the safety of more children in the area.

Also, Brenda Padgham, conservation manager, and Cullen Brady, executive, both of the BI Land Trust, asked that the city make sure to fund the federal mandate of fixing culverts for salmon recovery.

And Mike Lempriere, owner of Perennial Vintners, again asked for a liaison from the city to work with him regarding problems caused by the new Farm Trail.