Projects on the chopping block

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Low city revenues means soccer fields, the senior center expansion and bike lanes could get cut from the capital projects plan. Read the story below.

City may cut deep into capital projects
By Tristan Baurick

The city may cut lose some big money projects to slow the city’s sliding finances.

The cuts won’t be easy, and could make many island residents – from senior citizens to soccer players – very unhappy.

The administration is recommended this week that the city delete planned work on the senior center’s expansion, a new court and police facility, new soccer fields, bicycle lane construction and most of the other items on the 2008 capital facilities plan.

“If you need somebody to tell you that you can’t afford the soccer fields, I’m telling you that right now,” said city Finance Director Elray Konkel to members of the City Council’s finance committee. “I don’t think that’s a popular thing to say.”

Unpopular because the council’s $300,000 worth of support for new soccer fields came after months of impassioned lobbying from young soccer players and their parents last year.

Plans to remodel and expand the senior center and install bicycle lanes on North Madison Avenue also drew upon strong community support.

The proposed cuts come after Konkel earlier this month predicted a more than $2 million revenues shortfall for 2008. Due in part to plummeting sales and real estate excise tax revenues, the shortfall has put the city on high alert.

“The fact is, we are so far down we have to do nothing for a year just to break even,” said Councilwoman Debbie Vancil.

The administration two weeks ago proposed a hiring freeze and a lock on contingency funds to save almost $1 million, but warned the council that tough decisions would have to be made on capital projects.

“This changes the whole landscape,” said City Council Chair Bill Knobloch. “We have zero money.”

A few items – such as emergency repair work to Rockaway Beach Drive – remained in the administration’s reduced capital spending plan.
Some councilors expressed concerns about one project that dodged the chopping block.

“Everything’s off the table except the mother of all projects – the Streetscape,” said
Councilwoman Kim Brackett, referring to underground utility and aboveground street improvements planned for Winslow Way. Initially budgeted at $19.6 million, the council recently knocked the project down to just over $13 million. The street upgrades, which include the replacement of failing sewer pipes, are considered the flagship project of the Winslow Tomorrow downtown planning effort initiated by Mayor Darlene Kordonowy four years ago.

Kordonowy warned that additional reductions could scale the project back too far and allow Winslow Way’s infrastructure to break down. To make her point, she offered a car analogy for the rejected Winslow Way proposal vs. the current plan.

“If I’m giving up the brand new car, which I have and the brand new car is Winslow Tomorrow, (and) if I’m staying in the same old car, I want to make sure the breaks are working and make sure it will serve three to five years until I can put the new car back on the wish list.”

13 thoughts on “Projects on the chopping block

  1. Public monies are going to support “art and humanities” to the tune of $400K per year. I am opposed to this state (city) support of arts in good times and bad. I love art and believe the art lovers can do their art without public subsidy. Yes, many of the projects are clever or nice-to-have but state supported art is unnecessary and antithetical to art. . Much of the monies BI Arts and Humanities spends and receives from COBI is run through clever shell organizations so the funding looks like it is BIAHC — when in fact it is the taxpayers’ money.

    Also, the Streetscape should go the way of the Quay. Read the post on Althea Paulson’s blog Notebook for the latest in our dire $$ news.

  2. I bet the Seniors would be happy to share their restrooms a while longer if COBI scuttles new toilet construction.

    Firing half of city hall would also cut costs, and leave us all better off.

  3. Maybe NOW the Council will finally take the bull by the horns and not just postpone hiring but finally and permanently reduce headcount. We do not need to be staffed as proposed by a Mayor who can’t manage what we have had and this includes appropriate and rational spending. Council get these headcount reductions done and they do not creep up again!

  4. Firing half isn’t good enough! Fire everyone! Volunteers can lead utility projects and hand out permits just as good as any egghead college boy. Enough with communism! It’s time we got real!

  5. Be very careful how any cutback if worked. Government knows how to go through the motions of personnel reductions. While you watch FTEs go down, they turn around and hire a consultant for $300K. Case in point was the sewer project. Because COBI engineers/staff are so busy working up Mayor k’s Taj Mahal projects and “partnerships” with the $5 million memorial, our resident staff can’t do a basic sewer project and we hire an outside firm. We need to reduce personnel and limit consultants being hired to end-run the reductions. Of course the issue is who is the fox to watch the chickens.

  6. What I can’t understand is why we don’t have the money? Why are great projects happening all over the county, except on Bainbridge. We are supposed to be the gem of Kitsap, but we are turning into the laughing stock.of Kitsap.

  7. The competition is pretty limited, Blue Light.

    Indianola and Hansville are probably the true gems, but they are just blips on the radar.

    Drive through Kingston and see all the infrastructure upgrades they have made, its astonishing Bainbridge doesn’t have the money for any of them.

  8. Now give BI some respect. OK our local engine was jammed into reverse but look at the bright side: millions of dollars in litigation waiting to further sink us; overpaid for Meig Farm open space (100% overpaid), rougue staff pushing litigation envelope; new school levy with decreasing school population, 150 unsold condos and xx houses in foreclosure. It helps to look at all our positives.

    But best of all we have a dysfunctional local government and we are sinking fast.

    And a forever vehicle excise tax on deck thanks to Barry Peters.

  9. It is disheartening to read this string of comments. What can I take away from them in the way of useful information or constructive commentary on Mr. Baurick’s article? I wish that all bloggers would bear in mind the old maxim that bad money drives out the good. I find blogs worth reading; some people put time and serious thought into what they write. But many people I know have been turned off and have found better things to do, so the readership grows narrower and less serious over time. We all lose.

    If there is real unhappiness and an eagerness for positive change behind the comments here, I don’t wish to make light of it. The proponents of less government and those working on behalf of more effective government ought to be arguing with each other, and not just venting their spleen.

    In another context recently, I expressed a hope that we could focus on what I called “the real work.” Just the other day, I was introduced to a poem I didn’t know by a poet I admire, Wendell Berry. Titled “The Real Work,” it’s an answer to another poem with the same title, by Gary Snyder. Berry says more than Snyder does:

    It may be that when we no longer know what to do
    we have come to our real work,

    and that when we no longer know which way to go
    we have come to our real journey.

    The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

    The impeded stream is the one that sings.

  10. Jon: You stated curiously: “The proponents of less government and those working on behalf of more effective government ought to be arguing with each other, and not just venting their spleen.” Is the admirable work of Notebook, BI PostScript, and other works of analysis not positive forces?

    Less government is more effective government — they are not opposing forces. Conversely, more government is nearly always less efficient.

    Were you not aware a large consortium of groups are working on change — changing the form of government. Were you aware there are audits being conducted on COBI and a recent value engineering study done? There are some who are calling for a Mayoral recall. There are some (myself among them) who decry a new vehicle excise tax or public housing. Contrary to your assertion — there is action being taken and it isn’t all spleen venting. Yes, it is constructive to look at where tax dollars are going and if, in fact, COBI tax money should even be supporting those entities (BIAHC and Chamber of Commerce for example). We all want something but the reality is when government supplies that something, we overpay by hundreds of percent over what innovative free market could furnish that good or service for.

    As far as people turning away from blogs because the tone or focus is not to that person’s liking, people vote with their fingers on the keyboard. They can have town meetings, coffee with friends or join political movements. If use of blogs was decreasing (case in point Bainbridge Conversation), that was a result of the paper basically shutting it down in the recent past or having a reporter that couldn’t handle free speech.

    The above mentioned comments are not idle venting only, perhaps other than a few tongue-in-cheek comments about mass firings at COBI, most discussion is fine. The fact everyone does not hold BI up as the best, brightest and most enlightened, if the shoe fits, wear it.

  11. Jon — point of clarification on the blog situation. At times in the past some BI blog sites, among them the Buzz and BI Conversation, appeared to not always post comments during times they were posting other comments. I appeared to me — and others — that there was some selective preference given to people being able to post comments under their own names. Things are definitely different now and that is good. BI Conversation is definitely in the upswing and the Buzz went out of business.

  12. James:

    On the principle that silence gives consent (or concedes defeat), I feel obliged to respond. I find no lack of respect for me in these responses, and I’ll do my best to answer respectfully.

    On the subject of “less” vs. “more effective” government, perhaps we can agree that government agencies are often over-staffed. I think this is most often the case in the biggest and best-funded departments of the federal government; I don’t think over-staffing is the root of the problem in local governments — Bainbridge included.

    When I think of proponents of less government, what I object to is the hard-line slogan “Starve the Beast!” and broad statements like “Government is the problem, not the solution.” I’m not sure where you stand in relation to these ideological positions. If we sat down to describe the essential functions of local government, we would probably come up with very different lists. And if we each tried to define “community,” that might be more interesting.

    Blogging is something new. I think it’s worthy of attention, and I would like to attract a wider range of participation. I admire the intelligence and patience that I see in the leading voices. It’s “intermittent reinforcement,” as the behaviorists say — and they have shown that providing intermittent rewards is the best way to promote addiction.

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