New city manager assesses Bainbridge’s challenges

dombroskimugThe new City Manager (and old City Administrator) Mark Dombroski gave a detailed assessment of the city’s financial challenges at a Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Wednesday.

You can read my coverage of Dombroski’s talk here. My story focuses on Dombroski’s assessment of the city’s limited revenue base and how greater economic diversity – particularly through a tourism industry boost – may put the city on more stable financial footing.

Dombroski covered a lot more ground in his talk. To get a sense of it, you can download his PowerPoint presentation at the city’s Website. Look under “News and Announcements.”

Here’s some highlights:

The limited revenue base (which relies heavily on growth and development) was only one problem the city faced as it entered the the recession. According to Dombroski, the city had in recent years grown beyond the reach of its relatively volatile revenue sources, had increased its staffing levels, taken on a greater role in providing community services since 2000.

He said the city’s geography is particular challenge. Bainbridge is the state’s eighth largest city in terms of land size but ranks 40th in populationf. That makes for a thinly populated city. Bainbridge’s density, according to Dombroski, is ranked 223 out of 281 Washington cities. The city has 32 square miles for police to patrol (vs. 23 sq. miles for Bremerton), 53 miles of shoreline to protect and 132 miles of roads to maintain. The small population generates low levels of revenue in proportion to the size of the area under the city’s care.

“We have very little density and don’t have the tax base or retail sales, but we police the area, protect the shorelines and maintain the roads,” Dombroski said. “That’s a lot to take care of.”

Other challenges include:
• Land use remains a core service that generates “enormous” legal and regulatory costs to the city.
• Funding support from federal and state agencies has decreased while their mandates for services has increased sharply.
• The recent change in the form of government will require an adjustment period as new roles and responsibilities are sorted out.
• A lack of trust and respect between and among city officials, staff and the public.
• A lack of strategic focus or agreement on what the city is to accomplish.

On that last item, Dombroski suggested that the city should reasses its Comprehensive Plan (a series of goals and common priorities that guide policy) to see if it still resonates with the current population.

“There’s no sense of shared feeling,” he said. “We’re sort of a teenager. We annexed in ’91…maybe we need to revisit (the Comprehensive Plan) and see if it’s still accurate.”

One thought on “New city manager assesses Bainbridge’s challenges

  1. Thanks Mr. D. for your thoughts. Now address the Peter Best issue. He has for 7 years run wild with his own agendas and the Mayor has supported this stuff. Contention reigns with everything he does. This employee needs to be dismissed and should have been one of the 22. Tenure by the Union has forced his continuance I suppose just like it does in education-retain those based upon their time not their contribution.

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