Infrastructure, housing among Port Townsend’s legislative priorities

Council approves manager’s list of state requests

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend City Council has approved a legislative agenda that focuses on five areas of its strategic plan.

Council members signed off Monday night on City Manager John Mauro’s first list of priorities, and they unanimously approved council member Amy Howard to share them in Olympia as part of their support of the Association of Washington Cities’ legislative days on Jan. 28-29.

Mauro aligned the requests with the city’s strategic plan through 2022, which was adopted last January.

The focus areas include infrastructure assets, quality of life, affordable housing, economic development and city organization.

“This is a pretty high-level flyover of what our legislative asks might be,” Mauro told council. “Keep in mind it’s a short session, so it’s going to be quite quick.”

The state Legislature will convene Monday and continue until March 12.

A full list of the city’s priorities, including a matrix that explains the rationale, can be found at online.

Longer session

“We’re not going to get wins in all these categories, but it does signal what the city of Port Townsend requires … and it sets us up for a longer session next year,” Mauro said.

The city’s list puts infrastructure on top with an emphasis on transportation choice, transportation benefit districts, climate adaptation and emergency preparedness as well as the electrification of the ferry system and an update to city connections at Fort Worden.

“Port Townsend continues to require greater capital transportation investments to deliver safer, less carbon intensive transportation that generates sustained economic development,” Mauro said.

He said a number of networks are incomplete, and it may take decades to complete.

“Port Townsend currently has over $25 million in needed bicycle and pedestrian improvements as well as over $40 million in upgrades to main arterials, collectors and intersections,” Mauro said.

He said increasing funding through Transportation Improvement Board grants would provide wide-ranging benefits to current and future residents.

On climate adaptation, Mauro singled out costs to repair and armor shoreline erosion from last year’s storms exceeds $250,000.

“Adapting our social and physical infrastructure to impacts like increased storm frequency and severity and sea level rise comes with additional capital requirements,” he said.

The city’s quality-of-life goals include funding for behavioral health issues and to help reduce the “growing and expensive burden of non-preventative police response,” Mauro said.

The city also is asking the state to fully fund both the Housing Trust Fund and the Public Works Trust Fund.

Port Townsend previously received almost $9 million in low-interest loan financing from the latter for its water treatment plant, and streetscape improvements are eligible, Mauro said.

Council member Owen Rowe asked for proposed language in support of a Creative District under economic development to include fully funding the state’s arts commission program.

Mauro said he would amend his report as the city supports the Port Townsend Main Street Association’s effort to apply to become one of the state’s first designated Creative Districts.

The city also will ask for funding assistance for regional high-capacity broadband internet development.

Under city organization, one request is to enact sensible reform to recover staff time as they compile public records to satisfy requests.

Mauro said about $30,000 in staff time is spent each year, and about $500 is recovered.

“While vital to public transparency and healthy democracy, cities like Port Townsend spend a good deal of uncompensated time fulfilling public records requests,” he said.

“Requestors have been known to exploit the [Open Public Meetings Act] and convert requests into personal financial gain or create unnecessary risk to public employees by increasing chances of identity theft.”

Council members appreciated Mauro’s breakdown of each topic in a five-page attachment and suggested the main document be pared down to a single page.

“I think it was a really good, solid list in terms of pulling out those individual items as being the items I’d like to see,” council member David Faber said.

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Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].

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