SEQUIM — New sidewalks and curbs are expected to be installed near Carrie Blake Community Park by the time of the Sequim Lavender Festival this July.
Sequim City Council members gave unanimous approval Monday night to enter into a contract with InterWest Construction Inc. of Sequim.
The firm will begin construction along North Blake Avenue in the coming weeks to finish incomplete stretches of sidewalk and install curbs compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
City Engineer Matt Klontz said Monday that InterWest was the lowest of six bids at $217,000, about $32,000 lower than the city’s initial estimate. Funds for the project come from the city’s Transportation Benefit District fund this year and money rolled over from last year.
Klontz said city staff plans to be “done well in advance” of the Lavender Festival set for July 20-22, which moved to the park this summer in preparation for construction along Fir Street.
Road construction was delayed into 2019, but festival organizers said enough planning was in place to keep the site at Carrie Blake Community Park.
The bid came in lower than others, Klontz said, because InterWest is able to do its own concrete work because it is a local company. Out-of-area contractors might have to hire a subcontractor for concrete installation.
New curbs and sidewalks will be installed or repaired along North Blake Avenue’s sidewalks from East Washington Street to East Oak Street. City staff previously said all but one corner of the dozen intersections is ADA compliant.
Klontz said the curbs will be flatter and wider for accessibility and include stainless steel warning plates, which will likely be included in costs for the project’s 10 percent contingency that city councilors also approved with the contract.
Following the Feb. 12 City Council meeting, council members approved adding a 6-foot bike lane on the west side of North Blake Avenue from Carrie Blake Community Park’s entrance to Washington Street.
City staff plan to paint new crossings and install new signage for accessing the park once the curbs and sidewalks are finished too.
Rainy day fund
Planning for a possible recession and/or natural disaster, council members voted 5-2 Monday, with Pam Leonard-Ray and Brandon Janisse against, to adopt an ordinance to create a rainy day fund. The council will determine at a later date how much will go into it.
City Manager Charlie Bush said financial experts estimate the next economic recession could begin within the next year to sometime in 2021 and that when a city is in better economic times, it’s best to save for tougher times.
“We’re getting ready for whatever is coming down the road next including disasters,” Bush said.
Sue Hagener, Sequim director of administrative services, said the rainy day fund would run in accordance with a contingency fund made in 1993 that can’t exceed $0.375 per $1,000 of the city’s assessed value, or about $365,000.
The new fund doesn’t have a cap like the contingency fund but both require council members to vote to add or remove funds.
Hagener said the city general fund balance is almost at maximum per policy following a strong year from developer fees and sales taxes in 2017 so they’ll recommend at a later date that $200,000 to $400,000 be moved to the rainy day fund and about $365,000 moved to the contingency fund.
Councilman Ted Miller said it didn’t make sense to have both funds, but Hagener said she’d look into possibilities and ramifications of deleting the contingency fund. She said staff would report on the funds quarterly to the council.
Leonard-Ray told city staff she liked the concept of saving but said it bothered her to raise water and sewer utilities while saving money for unknowns. She asked if general funds could offset water and sewer infrastructure costs so that utilities wouldn’t go up for residents.
Hagener said the transfer of funds for the rainy day fund would come from general taxes and not water and sewer payments.
“A water and sewer utility need to be able to stand on their own,” she said. “It’s unhealthy for a water and sewer utility to rely on general tax fund tax dollars for the health of that utility.”
Both Hagener and Bush said the rainy day fund could maintain service levels of street employees and/or police officers in a recession, purchase a piece of property that’s key to the city, offset lost revenues if a large retailer leaves, allow for more aggressive debt payment such as on the Civic Center’s construction, and/or offset costs in a disaster.
“The city would likely not see any revenue at least until the power is out for six months or more,” Bush said of a serious disaster such as a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake.
“What it could mean is survival of the city.”
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected]gazette.com.