Issaquah councilmembers have set aside $900,000 to repair the failing Black Nugget Road retaining wall, but some say there still won’t be enough money to make the repairs until next year.
It was the largest last-minute change to the city’s $32 million budget, before the council voted to approve it late December.
While the majority of councilmembers felt the wall should be repaired in full when the money was available, councilmember Joshua Schaer pushed to get a temporary fix this year, he said. “We’re on borrowed time with that wall.
“The city doesn’t have enough money for a $1.4 million repair, but a $270,000 fix would buy the city a few more decades, he said.
The money set aside for repairs comes from $1 million in savings on the new Maple Street fire station. Some of that money also went to ARCH, an Eastside low-income housing group.
Even though administrators are expecting to rearrange and lay off staff in February, the budget process was fairly smooth. Issaquah maintained its $8.5 million reserve, crucial for a healthy city, and didn’t have to increase property taxes, a rare feat with inflation.
“A lot of people are hurting, a lot of people are struggling financially, and it’s a recognition the council knows and understands,” said councilmember Fred Butler, who was reelected as deputy council president Tuesday.
The decision not to increase taxes was in part made possible by a $1 million jump in sales tax revenue to $8 million, said councilmember Mark Mullet.
The hope is to continue that trend with the creation of an economic development team, which would help attract new business to the city.The philosophy is that good cities don’t just regulate business, but help facilitate it, Mullet said.
While Butler and Mullet were pleased with the budget’s conservative approach, councilmember Schaer would have liked to see more money for the Complete Streets initiative, which focuses on sidewalks and bike lanes, saying the fund was once again “gutted.”
Whereas 2011 was a year of completed projects, including the opening of the YWCA and Swedish Hospital, Issaquah expects to see a heavy year of planning and reorganizing in 2012.
In addition to the economic development department, councilmembers are expected to approve the Central Issaquah Plan by year’s end. Some also hope to approve plans to develop the Highland’s business district and decide on Confluence Park.
“We’ve got an exciting year ahead of us,” Butler said.