City combines planning, building functions to speed up permitting

March 28, 2012

NEW — 5:30 p.m. March 28, 2012

The reorganization of City Hall entered a more intense phase Tuesday, as officials announced a plan to bundle municipal departments into a Development Services Department — a super-agency meant to streamline planning and building functions.

Bob Harrison

The change is accompanied by a more muscular effort to attract and retain businesses. Leaders said the Development Services Department is meant to smooth the process apply for a permit to construct a project or open a business in Issaquah.

The centerpiece is a plan to offer applicants the option to pay additional fees to expedite the evaluation a project receives. The setup is akin to Disney’s Fastpass. Only, rather than theme park guests standing in line for shorter stretches, permit applicants choose a speedier permitting process.

City Administrator Bob Harrison said frequent questions from permit applicants influenced the project.

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City, Issaquah Chamber of Commerce honor innovators

February 28, 2012

The most innovative businesses in Issaquah manufacture fasteners for airliners, use technology to treat autism, and rely on a tiny-but-talented staff to create slick productions.

Issaquah Chamber of Commerce announced the Innovation in Issaquah honorees — Marketing Masters, Lakeside Center for Autism and Impact Studio Pro — at a Feb. 22 ceremony and luncheon.

The carbon-neutral community zHome also received a nod as the most innovative public-private partnership. The city spearheaded the 10-unit townhouse development from concept to completion.

Leaders from the chamber and City Hall recognized the entrepreneurs’ accomplishments through the Innovation in Issaquah contest, a showcase for local businesses offering unique services. Honorees demonstrate innovation in product development, services, systems or strategies.

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City creates commission to attract, retain businesses

February 14, 2012

City leaders continued the latest push to bolster economic development Feb. 6 and created a municipal Economic Vitality Commission — another piece in the effort to attract entrepreneurs to Issaquah and retain existing businesses.

City Council members formed the commission to handle a marketing plan to attract businesses, consider opportunities to improve signage options for merchants, review municipal permitting and inspection processes, and produce annual report cards on strategies recommended in the 2005 Economic Vitality Plan. The commission is expected to offer regular updates to the mayor and council.

The idea for a commission stems from a goal council members set at a May 2011 retreat to outline priorities for 2012.

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City Council bids farewell to outgoing member John Traeger

January 17, 2012

In a dignified sendoff Dec. 19, City Council members bid farewell to Council President John Traeger.

John Traeger

Traeger decided in late April to step down after a single term as a councilman after leading the council through a busy period.

Other council members elected the technology consultant and Squak Mountain resident to lead the board for 2010 and again for 2011. Under Traeger, council members preserved the forested Park Pointe site near Issaquah High School, hired City Administrator Bob Harrison and embarked on a landmark reorganization of city government.

In addition, the council president runs semimonthly council meetings and monthly Committee-of-the-Whole Council meetings, handles committee assignments and represents the city if Mayor Ava Frisinger is absent.

“I will miss Councilmember Traeger’s presence on the council and his thorough research and good, solid work as a council member,” Frisinger said at the last council meeting Traeger attended as a member.

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City leaders announce up to 20 employee layoffs

December 6, 2011

The city plans to start employee layoffs in February, as officials launch a wide-ranging reorganization at City Hall.

Under a reorganization plan prepared by Seattle consultant Moss Adams, the city could shed as many as 20 employees to retool the Public Works Engineering and Planning departments. Meanwhile, the city could hire additional administrative staffers to shift paperwork and other clerical duties from high-level managers.

“Layoffs are never easy,” City Administrator Bob Harrison said. “Some of it is part of the economy and some of it is just dealing with the new realities of what today is.”

The municipal workforce includes about 200 employees. Officials plan to offer severance packages to employees in the affected departments next month.

The plan also recommends a more muscular economic development effort from the city. Harrison announced the initial step Nov. 29 — a plan to promote Keith Niven, the longtime Major Development Review Team manager, to economic development director. Leaders intend to hire economic development managers to complete the team.

The recommendations, from a report released last month, called for Mayor Ava Frisinger and other leaders to restructure development and planning functions.

“Times have changed, as we know,” Moss Adams’ Tom Krippaehne said in a presentation to City Council members Nov. 29. “They’re changing in the city of Issaquah and they’re changing in the development functions. It’s a good time to take a look at how to update your business model.”

Harrison also announced a plan to promote Sheldon Lynne, the longtime No. 2 official in Public Works Engineering, to director. (Longtime Public Works Engineering Director Bob Brock retired early last month.)

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Issaquah quarry site is considered for homes, businesses

November 8, 2011

The hillside quarry below the Issaquah Highlands, plus land adjacent to the highlands, could someday transform into businesses and homes, if the city and landowner approve a long-term agreement to redevelop the site.

The landowner and quarry operator, Lakeside Industries Inc., proposed a development agreement for the 80-acre site.

The site — a quarry, a hillside and land on the plateau adjacent to the highlands — is zoned for mineral resources. The agreement under consideration could change the zoning to urban village — the same zoning for the highlands and Talus.

“We envision redevelopment that follows the patterns we are seeing in the highlands,” Lakeside Industries CEO Tim Lee said in a letter to City Administrator Bob Harrison. “Specifically, we foresee mixed uses and moderate density in a walkable community.”

City Council members sent the proposal to a committee Nov. 7 for further discussion.

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No. 3 official at City Hall, Joe Meneghini, to retire

August 9, 2011

Joe Meneghini

Joe Meneghini, the No. 3 official at City Hall and a behind-the-scenes force in almost every important municipal project for more than a decade, intends to retire after 11 years in the post.

Meneghini is the deputy to City Administrator Bob Harrison. The administrators and Mayor Ava Frisinger oversee all municipal departments, cross-departmental projects, communications and economic development.

Often operating far from the spotlight, Meneghini left indelible imprints on creek restoration and open space preservation efforts, programs to meld technology to city services, and prepare City Hall and residents for emergencies.

The deputy administrator also acted as a key player in the effort to create a downtown park along Issaquah Creek and to bring a Bellevue College campus to Issaquah.

“I think a key thing has been our ability to stay focused and grounded on doing all of our basic business well,” he said.

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No. 3 official at Issaquah City Hall to retire Aug. 19

August 4, 2011

NEW — 1 p.m. Aug. 4, 2011

Joe Meneghini, the No. 3 official at City Hall and a behind-the-scenes force in municipal projects for the last 11 years, intends to retire Aug. 19.

Mayor Ava Frisinger announced the retirement Thursday.

“Joe was involved with almost all projects — at some level — for more than a decade here at City Hall,” she said in a statement. “We deeply appreciate his leadership, commitment to this community and focus on long-term sustainability, which will no doubt benefit Issaquah for decades to come.”

Meneghini is the deputy to City Administrator Bob Harrison. The administrators and Frisinger oversee all municipal departments, cross-departmental projects, communications and economic development.

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City launches $50,000 study to determine how departments coordinate, collaborate

August 2, 2011

Ava Frisinger

Consultants started interviewing employees at City Hall last month, as leaders embark on a $50,000 study to determine how municipal departments function and the city delivers services to businesses and residents.

Mayor Ava Frisinger selected Seattle consultant Moss Adams to examine the Building, Planning and Public Works Engineering departments, in addition to economic development efforts. The focus is on organization and a still-nascent effort to anticipate future service needs.

“It’s always beneficial for organizations to say, ‘How are we doing? Might there be places we could improve?’ Because we want to do the very best that we can at providing services,” Frisinger said. “That’s our mission — we want to do it effectively, not just efficiently.”

Construction in Talus and the Issaquah Highlands — urban villages and the impetus behind the Major Development Review Team — is slowing after a construction boom in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In addition, the city is refocusing planning efforts on the Central Issaquah Plan — a redevelopment outline for the 915-acre commercial core along Interstate 90.

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Major renovation for aging Julius Boehm Pool is a priority

May 17, 2011

The long-discussed plan to redo the outdated Julius Boehm Pool inched ahead May 14, as City Council members listed priorities for 2012 — a key step in determining how leaders decide to spend next year.

In addition to confronting increased maintenance costs as the pool ages, a 2009 city-commissioned study declared the facility as inadequate for the community.

“We’ve gone to tactical mode,” Council President John Traeger said. “We’ve got to fix the pool.”

The pool emerged as a major focus early in the session, as council members and department chiefs gathered in a map-lined Public Works Operations Building conference room. Other priorities included downtown parking, economic development and Lake Sammamish State Park.

The price tag to expand and upgrade the downtown Boehm Pool in a major renovation is estimated at $21 million. Other options could cost less.

The popular pool no longer meets demand for high school and club swim teams, recreational swimmers and children’s swimming lessons due to its age and other factors. Still, passing a municipal bond to salvage the facility might be a tough sell.

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