Enumclaw street improvement plan moves forward

A plan to spend millions of dollars for city street improvements was approved last week by members of the Enumclaw City Council.

The City of Enumclaw plans to borrow $2.75 million for road repairs and pay the loan back with money generated by the local Transportation Benefit District.

A plan to spend millions of dollars for city street improvements was approved last week by members of the Enumclaw City Council.

In a nutshell, the decision to borrow $2.75 million for road repairs was made by the council; and the money to repay the loan will be generated by the local Transportation Benefit District, which consists of the seven members of the council.

The TBD moved several years ago to implement a fee of $20 on all automobile license renewals, with revenues – anticipated at about $220,000 annually – earmarked solely for upgrades to city streets.

Using that money would have meant ordering street repairs on a “pay as you go” system, according to City Administrator Chris Searcy. Instead, the decision was made to schedule a bundle of projects simultaneously, to be completed during the 2017 construction sweason.

The action taken during the June 13 council meeting was to authorize the city to borrow the necessary $2.75 million and have TBD money repay the loan.

The Transportation Benefit District has a second source of income, stemming from a local sales tax increase passed by voters in November 2015. The increase of one-tenth of 1 percent became effective April 1.

During the “public comment” section of the council’s June 13 meeting, several citizens stepped forward to share their feelings about gated communities in the city limits. Presently, no such neighborhoods exist in Enumclaw, but the item is being addressed as part of the city’s Comprehensive Plan update.

Adamantly opposed to gated communities was Julie Ubbenga, who shared her belief that average citizens would be “appalled” at the notion of neighborhoods cut off from the rest of town by a gate.

In explaining her opposition, Ubbenga critcized the “exclusive” nature of neighborhoods isolated from everyone else. She maintained that gates create a false sense of security and present a physical barrier to those who provide public services.

Gated neighborhoods “don’t fit within the realm of a rural community,” she said, adding that “they break up a small-town atmosphere.”

Taking an opposing view were Troy Couch, director of the Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce, and Don Bauer, who owns several businesses in town.

Couch said the chamber’s board of directors debated the issue and agreed to support a move that would allow gated communities. The decision would entice “higher income businesses and families,” he said, which would stimulate the revenue flow throughout town.

“From a commerce point of view, we are in favor of gated communities,” Couch said.

Bauer said gated communities typically contain high-income properties that lead to residents with disposable income. That, he said, is good for the economic health of the city.

In other action during their June 14 meeting, council members:

• heard from King County Councilman Reagan Dunn, who represents the southern portion of the county and makes an annual appearance before the Enumclaw City Council.

He spoke primarily of dollars and cents and county finances that are not looking healthy. King County is looking at a biennial budget of $9 billion, made shaky by a projected $48 million shortfall.

“It’s not going to be pretty,” Dunn said, noting that the biggest problem is a revenue stream limited by a maximum 1 percent increase in property taxes. Candidates to face budget troubles, he said, are Public Health and some sheriff’s operations.

On a more positive note, Dunn spoke of a county commitment to provide annual funding to the King County Fair, money that was allocated for Expo Center improvements and financial help for the local VFW hall.

Of concern to rural residents, he said, is a proposal being floated by the Seattle-King County Health Department that would implement a $40 annual fee on all properties served by a septic system. The plan, he admitted, “is going to be highly controversial.”

• formally greeted Chris Pasinetti, who was promoted to director of the city’s Department of Community Development.

Pasinetti was hired in September 2014 as an associate planner in the department and served as interim director following the departure of Erika Shook.

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