PORT ANGELES — City Manager Nathan West delivered an optimistic State of the City address Wednesday, citing an estimated $128 million in community investment coming down the pike.
West, who became Port Angeles’ top executive last September, said local businesses, nonprofits and other organizations are “driving our positive movement forward.”
“I’m inspired by it, and I think it inspires us at the city every day to see that happening,” West told a crowd of more than 100 at the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
The $128 million includes such planned projects as the Port Angeles Waterfront Center, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s waterfront hotel, Front Street condominiums/restaurant/parking structure, William Shore Memorial Pool renovations, new facilities for the Port Angeles unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula and Feiro Marine Life Center and the re-opening of the McKinley Paper Co. mill on Ediz Hook.
“It’s really exciting to see the investment and the care that all of those organizations, nonprofits and other entities in this community have actually taken to put together these projects, really, for positive change to our community,” West said during a 45-minute speech at the Red Lion Hotel.
“When we work together, we truly can achieve great success,” West added.
“So continue with a positive attitude about what we have going on in the community with excitement and inspire each other to deliver more success in the future.”
The State of the City address became an annual tradition for West’s predecessor, Dan McKeen. The March programs are co-hosted by the chamber and the Port Angeles Business Association.
West became the Port Angeles Community and Economic Development director in 2008. He served as acting city manager before McKeen retired last Sept. 5.
The city manager oversees the day-to-day functions of city government. He or she presents a draft budget, supervises staff and reports to the elected City Council.
West organized his address by covering his managing principals, environmental and economic indicators, community vision, the City Council work plan, each department’s work plan and community successes.
In a question-and-answer session, West said stormwater regulations are “at the top of the list” of unfunded mandates from the state.
“We’ve written letters to the [state] Department of Ecology about that, and ultimately we do need help with some of those mandates, making sure that ultimately when the mandates do come forward they accurately represent the on-the-ground conditions of our local community and not represent those conditions of the I-5 corridor,” West said.
West said his approach to city management is “all about balance.”
“It’s recognizing that we ultimately need to respect the fact that we have a broad spectrum of interests in this community, that ultimately we need to balance those environmental, economic and social issues,” West said.
“Ultimately, if we are successful in bringing that balance in a sustainable approach, it’s going to result in an enhanced quality of the services we provide as well as an overall growth of our local tax base.”
West presented a series of positive environmental and economic indicators, including a partnership with the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe that resulted in the protection of critical areas along the six urban creeks and improved marine habitat.
“I think it’s important that we celebrate some of those environmental indicators that really indicate the state of the city is good,” West said.
Lodging tax revenue
Last year marked the seventh-consecutive year that the city broke a record for lodging tax revenue, West said.
The city exceeded its five-year average for sales tax revenue by 14 percent and had its fourth highest volume of building permits, West said.
“I feel quite fortunate to be able to provide such a positive report today,” West said.
“Ultimately, all of those things that we measure at the city that are economic indicators are in a really good state.”
Much of West’s speech was dedicated to the various projects that each department was assigned in the 2019 work plan.
“Right now, probably the No. 1 priority to City Council is housing,” West said while reviewing the Community and Economic Development development’s work plan.
“We are getting closer to finalizing a housing needs assessment that ultimately looks at the characteristics of our existing housing stock, what are our needs, what our the barriers with housing and how can we move forward to ensure we have adequate work force housing, adequate market-rate housing and adequate affordable housing at the end of the day,” West said.
The finance department developed a balanced $115 million budget for 2019 that includes a $20 million general fund for core services like police, fire, public works and parks.
“What’s so important to me, and I think also to City Council, is that we did not use general fund reserves to balance that budget, nor did we use street fund reserves to balance that budget,” West said.
“It’s also important to recognize that expenditures are actually down from the 5-year average by 12 percent.”
The police department work plan includes the establishment of a code compliance program. The city has gone without dedicated code enforcement since it eliminated a position amid budget cuts in 2012.
“It’s extremely important to me that we take the time to find new revenue sources to sustain that so that ultimately we can continue it into the future,” West said.
“It’s something that we hear a great deal about, whether it’s junk vehicle abatement or residential complaints.
“Currently, we’re not able to meet the need out in the community relative to the complaints and concerns coming in,” West added, “and that’s something that we’re going to change.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.