Mayor Ava Frisinger unveils 2012 city budget

October 4, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Construction could start on a long-planned park along Issaquah Creek, North Issaquah landowners and the city could partner to tackle transportation problems, and police could step up traffic enforcement if the City Council approves the 2012 municipal budget Mayor Ava Frisinger unveiled Oct. 3.

Frisinger offered a $32 million general fund budget — dollars used to fund police and fire services, community development and planning, parks and recreation, and municipal government.

The proposal is not as austere as the budgets Frisinger proposed in recent years. The council adopted a $30.4 million general fund budget in 2011. The increase stems in part from increased debt payments on council-issued bonds for city construction projects.

The proposal does not call for a property tax or rate increases. The council last raised the property tax rate in 2007. Under state law, council members could increase the rate 1 percent per year.

Frisinger’s announcement launched at least a month of deliberations between council members and city staffers to craft a complete budget. The council is required to adopt the budget before Dec. 31.

“The projects that we’re working on are ones that I would describe as building blocks,” Frisinger said. “They are very valuable for what we’ll do in the future.”

Creekside parks project tops list

The proposal includes $4.3 million for capital projects, but does not include large-scale construction projects aside from the initial phase for the combined Tollë Anderson, Cybil-Madeline and Issaquah Creek parks site along Issaquah Creek near Darigold.

The proposed budget to complete the initial phase at the parks — to create paths, picnic areas, play areas, restrooms and a community garden — amounts to $1.7 million.

The funding proposal comes almost a year after city officials hosted a series of meetings to collect input for the parks plan.

“It will make people glad to know the very long visioning process bore fruit,” Frisinger said. “We’re a region that is known for visioning and planning and process. It does ensure a lot of public involvement and provides, in the long run, a very fine product.”

Other capital projects include $600,000 set aside for creation of a proposed local improvement district near the Costco corporate headquarters and flagship warehouse. In such a district, landowners shoulder the cost for projects, such as road upgrades.

City and Costco planners funded a transportation study last year to analyze possible connections from the Pickering Place area into the street grid. The preliminary report suggested numerous transportation projects — estimated to cost tens of millions of dollars — in the dense business cluster just north of Interstate 90 and state Route 900.

Frisinger earmarked about $260,000 for design and engineering efforts on a proposed Newport Way Northwest redo near Issaquah Valley Elementary School. Roundabouts could punctuate the street in the decades ahead as the city attempts to address projected traffic congestion.

The mayor also recommend $850,000 for crews to conduct routine replacement of aging sewer and water lines throughout Issaquah.

“We do those because if you didn’t, you’d have a much higher cost and a whole lot of unhappy residents for any number of reasons,” she said.

The proposal includes a $350,000 payment to King County for North Sammamish Plateau Access Road construction. The road, since renamed Highlands Drive Northeast, opened to motorists in 2003. Frisinger said the city is about halfway finished with the payment plan for the road’s construction.

Police enforcement is a budget priority

Motorists could also notice a stepped-up police presence on city streets next year.

Frisinger proposed dollars for the Issaquah Police Department to conduct increased drunken driving and speed enforcement patrols. The city also intends to pursue grants to pay for speed-measuring devices.

Issaquah and Snoqualmie also plan to partner and share a computer server for dispatch software.

The mayor also set aside funds for the city to participate in a multicounty earthquake drill next year.

The budget also reflects possible changes to the municipal bureaucracy as Frisinger and other leaders await a consultant’s report about city departments.

Frisinger’s proposal includes funding for a deputy city administrator and a Public Works Engineering director, although city leaders could redefine both roles soon. Deputy City Administrator Joe Meneghini retired in August. Public Works Engineering Director Bob Brock plans to retire before the end of the year.

In July, Frisinger commissioned a study to evaluate how city departments function. The results could determine how officials proceed regarding the deputy city administrator and Public Works Engineering director posts. Seattle consultant Moss Adams is due to deliver the study in the weeks ahead.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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