Members of the Enumclaw City Council took one final opportunity Nov. 28 to massage a spending plan for the coming year, tweaking a few budgetary items and confirming others.
The fiscal fine-tuning was done during the last council session prior to the planned adoption of the 2017 municipal budget. That action should come when the seven-member council gathers the evening of Monday, Dec. 12.
The process of crafting an annual budget is an arduous undertaking that begins in earnest in August. Talk on the 28th briefly diverted as some talked up the merits of adopting two-year budgets, as the state Legislature does.
At the beginning of the budget talks, which took the better part of an hour, Mayor Liz Reynolds emphasized the nightly agenda gave council members a last chance to add or subtract dollars from a proposed budget.
In the realm of social services, the council voted on the 28th to support Plateau Outreach Ministries’ “utility voucher” program to the tune of $15,000. That amount was included in Reynolds’ proposed budget, but Councilwoman Juanita Carstens suggested the contribution could be sliced to $10,000.
Councilman Hoke Overland countered that the money is well spent, giving temporary aid to at-risk seniors and families. Councilman Mike Sando noted that the money eventually is returned to the city in the form of utility payments.
In the end, only Carstens and Councilman Chance La Fleur favored the reduction, so the $15,000 item was retained in the budget.
Carstens also suggested that a planned $5,000 contribution to a Neighbors Feeding Neighbors program operated by the Rainier Foothills Wellness Foundation could be dropped to $2,000. Many others support the program, she said, making the city share somewhat expendable. Her motion died with no additional council support.
Another RFWF initiative, a “backpack program” that sends food home on weekends to children of families in need, received $4,000. It was promoted by La Fleur and passed 6-1, with only Carstens opposed.
In a balancing act of sorts, the $4,000 addition for hungry families immediately followed a $4,000 reduction in the flower basket program. A suggested contribution of $16,000 was reduced by unanimous council vote to $12,000.
Code enforcement added
Both Overland and Carstens pushed for a new item in the budget, the addition of a code enforcement officer who would be tasked with enforcing certain city rules and regulations.
Much of the talk centered upon private property – the entire community suffers when things look “untidy,” Carstens said, and Overland noted that city revenues are impacted when property values decrease due to unkempt neighbors. But Reynolds was quick to point out no one can pick and choose areas to be enforced.
“I see what’s going on,” the mayor said, when talked turned to employing someone only during the summer months.
Overland initially proposed placing $20,000 in the 2017 budget for code enforcement, but it was agreed that $12,000 was a more realistic figure. With that, a divided council voted to fund the effort on a one-time trial basis. Supporting the proposal were Overland, Carstens, Kimberly Lauk, Jan Molinaro and Morgan Irwin; opposing the idea were La Fleur and Mike Sando.
So, what’s in the budget?
After debating a multitude of items during the course of budget hearings and public meetings, Molinaro took a moment to carefully review what’s in and what’s out.
Barring any surprises during the budget-adoption item on the Dec. 12 agenda, the city’s 2017 plan calls for:
• spending $35,000 on a consultant who will study a proposed “downtown plaza and pavilion” project. The notion has floated about City Hall for at least 15 years, gained traction a year ago and is now being budgeted. The concept calls for turning Railroad Street into an attraction that could include things like a performance area, children’s play structure, spray park and space for public art.
• allocating $7,500 to have someone perform a detailed evaluation of the city-owned aquatic center, from its exterior structure to its inner workings. The study is seen as an essential component in planning capital needs for the 40-year-old facility.
• restoration of a job at the Senior Center to full-time status. The recreation program assistant had been pared to .75 status in 2010, reflecting tough economic times.
• bringing back the Parks and Cultural Services director position, a key post that has sat vacant since mid-2010. The person chosen for the job will, among other things, oversee the city’s recreation programs, Senior Center, parks maintenance, arts and cultural programs and parks planning.
• restoring a full-time construction inspector position to the Public Works Department. Additionally, new employees will include a full-time Geographic Information System specialist in Public Works and another full-time maintenance worker who will split time between the street, stormwater and parks divisions.