City considers overseeing water, sewer service for all Issaquah residents

June 26, 2012

City and Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District officials could end up at loggerheads as the city embarks on a study to assume water and sewer service for the portion of district customers inside Issaquah city limits.

Issaquah officials budgeted $300,000 to study expanded utility service for the entire city. State law encourages municipalities to assume utility services in neighborhoods located inside city limits.

City officials said such a changeover could reduce confusion among customers and enable municipal government to better manage the water and sewer system inside city limits.

Such a change could lead to a showdown between the city and the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District, because the district is bound to shed hundreds of ratepayers if the city expands water and sewer service to all Issaquah residents.

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City Council approves $1 million adjustment in municipal budget

June 12, 2012

The latest step in a broad reorganization of City Hall included a $1 million drop in the municipal budget, as the City Council redirected spending after a round of employee layoffs in some departments and hires elsewhere.

The midyear budget reflected a change in strategy at City Hall, as officials retool functions to reflect recommendations in a study conducted last year by a Seattle consultant.

Officials already bundled municipal departments into a Development Services Department — a super-agency meant to streamline planning and building functions — and rolled out a more muscular effort to attract and retain businesses.

The budget adjustment approved by the council May 21 shifted dollars among city accounts to achieve the decrease. The legislation is meant to address the changes in the city spending plan since the council adopted the original 2012 budget in December.

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Residents can peruse Issaquah city budget online

April 24, 2012

Citizens can dig deep into the 2012 municipal budget.

Officials posted the budget online April 9. Read it at www.ci.issaquah.wa.us/Page.asp?NavID=2761.

The budget is the fruition of a long process to establish priorities.

In October, Mayor Ava Frisinger sent to the City Council a $32 million general fund budget — dollars to fund police and fire services, community development and planning, parks and recreation, and municipal government.

Then, per standard procedure, council members adjusted the budget to add projects and shift spending to other priorities. Overall, council members’ changes amounted to $4.1 million.

The total city budget — including dollars for capital expenses and from other accounts — is $85.7 million.

The council is expected to approve a series of adjustments to the budget to implement a reorganization of City Hall departments and functions.

Through February, leaders reduced the Planning and Public Works Engineering workforces through layoffs and a severance program. Officials also left vacant positions unfilled.

City combines planning, building functions to speed up permitting

April 3, 2012

Step is latest in big City Hall reshuffle

The reorganization of City Hall entered a more intense phase March 27, as officials announced a plan to bundle municipal departments into a Development Services Department — a super-agency meant to streamline planning and building functions.

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 to 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.

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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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In hit-and-run accident, unidentified motorist hits, kills pets in crosswalk

March 20, 2012

Neighbors unite to comfort owner, make area safer

Troy Scholzen mourns March 15 next to the neighborhood memorial to his dogs Yogi and Jake at the crosswalk where they were killed. Below, a memorial to Yogi and Jake on Newport Way Northwest grows. By Greg Farrar

Somewhere is the hit-and-run driver of a vehicle that upended an Issaquah man’s life last week.

The driver killed two service dogs, who were on a leash in a crosswalk with the signal blinking. Their owner barely escaped serious injury.

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City announces employee layoffs amid reorganization

February 7, 2012

Officials announced cuts to the city workforce — including six layoffs — Feb. 1, as City Hall launches a broad reorganization.

Overall, leaders reduced staff through layoffs, a severance program and vacancies. The total includes five positions eliminated through voluntary separations and two vacant positions.

Because limited funding is available for capital projects, officials did not need as many employees for engineering and inspection functions. In November, officials announced plans to start employee layoffs in February.

The city also plans to add three positions for a beefed-up economic development effort. The plan is for Keith Niven, the longtime Major Development Review Team manager, to serve as economic development director and hire economic development managers.

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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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Leaders consider layoffs at Issaquah City Hall

November 22, 2011

Leaders could trim the workforce at City Hall and merge some services as municipal government retools in response to recommendations from a consultant.

The recommendations, in a report released Nov. 18, call for Mayor Ava Frisinger and other leaders to restructure how city government handles development and planning.

The report is meant to offer a roadmap to streamline city services and improve communication across municipal departments. Changes stemming from the study could occur early next year. Some require City Council approval; Frisinger can enact others.

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Longtime city public works director retires

November 8, 2011

Bob Brock is not a household name in Issaquah, but projects the former Public Works Engineering director oversaw reshaped the landscape — bridges across Issaquah Creek designed to ease flooding and road projects meant to alleviate traffic congestion.

Brock, 64, retired as the top engineering official in the city Nov. 4 after a lifetime spent in public works roles in California, Wyoming and, for the past dozen years, in Issaquah.

“I’m more of a behind-the-scenes kind of guy. It’s never been my forte to be up there in a suit and tie and everything and being in the foreground,” he said in pre-retirement interview. “I personally like to let my very capable staff get the exposure, No. 1, and the experience to share. It’s them that makes me successful.”

Since joining the city staff in May 1999, Brock supervised road and other infrastructure projects as the city added 19,000 residents through annexations and a home-building boom. Controversy also defined the area, as activists, leaders and residents debated the Southeast Bypass, a proposed road along Tiger Mountain designed to reduce downtown traffic headaches.

Brock led 30 or so Public Works Engineering Department employees from a corner office in City Hall Northwest. The space overlooks a recent city project, a pedestrian connector across Interstate 90 at state Route 900.

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