Public Works project costs would double under 2014 budget proposal

By Paul Archipley | Oct 31, 2013

Coming off a record year in capital improvement projects, Edmonds’ Public Works Department is proposing a project list that would more than double the 2013 total.

That information was among the highlights Tuesday as the administration presented to the City Council the second of a two-part discussion on its proposed 2014 budget.

The city will hold a public hearing next week, on Nov. 4, followed by possible budget adoption on Nov. 19.

Public Works Director Phil Williams said Tuesday that the city is on track to spend about $9.5 million in capital projects by the end of 2013, a record.

However, he said if they were to follow through on council approved projects in 2014, costs would more than double to about $19.5 million, followed by another big year in 2015 with about $17.4 million in projects.

Because of the expected workload, his department’s budget request includes the addition of another engineer to help with design and planning.

Labeling the 2014 project list “robust,” Williams named about a dozen that would be started and/or completed. Among them:

• Construction of the 5 Corners roundabout, $2.9 million;

• 228th corridor improvements, $2.71 million of a $5 million+ project;

• New lighting on Hwy. 99, $592,000;

• 238th Street walkway and storm drain improvements, $1.4 million;

• Nearly 2 miles of water main replacement, $2.67 million;

• 6,500 feet of sewer main replacement, $2.8 million;

• Relaunch of a pavement preservation program, $1.2 million.

That final item, Williams said, is overdue, “something we have not had in a very long time.”

On the revenue side, he said most of the department’s income, including motor vehicle fuel tax, and water and sewer fees, remains flat.

The budget does not reflect the water, sewer and storm water rate increases that the administration is proposing.

However, Williams said the council has “an almost historic opportunity” to take the leap and raise rates.

Because the economy continues to improve, and because comparisons with surrounding cities show that Edmonds’ rates are among the lowest, Williams encouraged the council to bring an end to the current debt financing method that leads to higher costs for projects and transfers money from projects to debt payments.

“It’s not often you get to do the right thing in the right climate,” he said.

“It would be the smart thing to do. I believe you have the latitude in our rate structure to make those adjustments without feeling too bad about the results.”

He said the city would still compare very favorably with other cities even with the proposed three-year rate hike in place.

Also making a presentation Tuesday was Police Chief Al Compaan. Among that department’s requests are the replacement of two positions that had been eliminated during the recession, including an assistant police chief and an entry level officer.

Compaan said they have been doing more with less. Some jobs, such as responding to public disclosure requests, are taking up more time.

He said in 2012, for example, the department received more than 1,800 public disclosure requests.

“It has gotten a lot more complicated,” Compaan said. “We have one FTE (a full-time employee) doing only that, plus it’s taking up to a third of my assistant’s time.”

The technological age has also made criminal investigations more complex, with accompanying rising expectations by prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and juries, he said.

“We have to have a pretty doggone good case to bring to the prosecutor,” he said.

Technological advancements also have made police work more expensive, including DNA and fingerprint identification costs, virtual crime scene replication and other processes.

“It’s pretty darn complicated, even compared to 10 years ago,” Compaan said.

Comments (1)
Posted by: john dolan | Nov 01, 2013 01:30

Sounds like the capital improvement projects need to be spread out over more time.

Is the Police Chief now proposing to do the same with more?

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