Water tank, storage biggest single expense in Forks city budget

FORKS — Workers are toiling inside an empty 750,000-gallon city water tank in a $2 million infrastructure improvement project that highlights Forks’ 2019 budget.

Money spent on that tank and a companion 1 million gallon metal water-storage reservoir make up the largest single expenditure in an overall status quo 2019 budget resolution for $7.1 million in expenditures that the City Council approved 3-2 on Dec. 10.

The spending plan goes into effect today.

Water and sewage rates will increase under the plan.

Juanita Weissenfels, one of the two dissenting council members, said Friday her no vote hinged on $225,000 in lodging tax allotments for 2019 that she thought should have been higher.

The budget also includes a 1.5-percent wage increase for city employees that consists of two separate 0.75 percent hikes.

Lodging tax funding includes $143,000 to the Forks Chamber of Commerce-Visitor Information Center, $26,000 to the Forks Timber Museum and $13,000 to West End Thunder.

Other lodging tax expenditures, in order of amount, include $7,000 each for city of Forks sport fishing policy advocacy and the Piecemakers Quilt Club, $6,000 to the VFW-Gold Star Families Memorial Monument and $3,400 to the West End Youth League-Nate Crippen Tournament.

Weissenfels, who voted with Council member Bill Brager against the budget, said she wanted the full $245,000 requested for lodging tax expenditures to be allocated from the fund, which she said would have left reserves intact.

After budgeted revenue-expenditures for 2019, reserves will be $334,650, City Clerk-Treasurer Audrey Grafstrom said Friday in an email.

Weissenfels said $4,000 more should have been allotted to the memorial monument and that the full amount requested by the chamber also should have been awarded.

Instead, the City Council went along with a recommendation from Mayor Tim Fletcher who, in Forks’ elected strong-mayor form of government, takes part in putting the plan together.

“We had, in my opinion, enough money set aside that we should have been able to meet their requests 100 percent.”

Weissenfels said that unlike the city of Port Angeles, which has a lodging tax committee that makes recommendations to the City Council and which includes City Council members, Forks once had a lodging tax committee but no longer does.

“We are pretty much the lodging tax committee,” she said.

Fletcher did not return calls for comment on the budget Thursday and Friday.

Both water tanks are south of downtown Forks.

“It’s one of our largest public works projects in quite some time,” City Attorney-Planner Rod Fleck said Friday.

Work will include recoating the tanks’ interior and exterior areas, welding structure seals, replacing roof-vents, and improving the electrical systems.

The 750,000-gallon tank was built in 1968 and the 1 million-gallon tank in 1978.

The tanks are not leaking, they are just old, Fleck said.

“It’s something that needs to be done to ensure structural integrity,” he said.

The renovations will be completed by June.

The project is financed with a $1.95 million U.S. Department of Agriculture loan with a 40-year amortization at 2.625 percent interest.

The loan is guaranteed by a water revenue bond that will be repaid by water fees that increase today by 3.3 percent.

Sewer rates also will increase by that percentage.

The base rate for water customers inside the city limit will increase by 86 cents a month, or $10.32 in 2019, and outside the city limit, by $1.26 a month, or $15.36 in 2019.

Water and and sewer rates increase annually according to the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue consumer price index under a 2009 City Council resolution.

Other capital projects in the 2019 budget include $625,000 to repair the city-owned Quillayute Airport’s 4,200-foot runway, which is funded by the Federal Aviation Administration and state Department of Transportation.

Fleck said Friday the project could cost an additional $62,500 that the city hopes to cover with additional FAA funds.

An additional $90,000 in capital funds is dedicated for engineering for a Bogachiel Way street project and $30,000 for a City Hall generator.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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