Port Townsend City Council members agree on several projects

LED lights, smoking ban in parks, road work get nods

PORT TOWNSEND — Street lighting, council members’ salaries, a new design for Discovery Road and smoking in city parks all landed on the Port Townsend City Council agenda, and council members voted unanimously for the variety of projects.

First up on Monday night was establishment of a salary commission: five city residents to be appointed by Mayor Michelle Sandoval. These volunteers will make a recommendation, perhaps by this fall, on an increase or decrease in the pay council members receive.

Currently that’s $750 per month for the mayor and $500 for the rest, an amount the members have said doesn’t match the work load. Their time is undervalued, Council member Amy Howard has said, and the low pay deters people from considering a run for office.

City residents — who aren’t related to city council members or employees — will be able to apply for seats on the salary commission soon, said Nora Mitchell, city finance and administrative services director.

The process will be similar to that of applying for other advisory board positions, she said. Information can be found at cityofpt.us under “Government” and “Boards & Commissions.”

In other action Monday, the council supported a prohibition on smoking and vaping in city parks.

The ordinance is not designed to increase the number of contacts between police and smokers, city Public Works Director Steve King said.

Instead, park maintenance workers are more likely to speak to vapers and smokers, and ask them to step outside park boundaries.

“I heartily agree with this change,” said Council member Pam Adams, noting it will benefit children who come to the park to play.

City attorney Heidi Greenwood added that the smoking ban includes substances other than tobacco.

“It’s still against state code for people to use marijuana in any public place. That is a civil infraction,” she said.

LED lights

The much-discussed LED street lights issue also won approval from the council. The members voted to accept a $177,460 state grant to replace hundreds of high-pressure sodium lights with efficient LEDs.

King emphasized that the new lights — back-ordered, so not to be delivered for another 10 weeks — will be warm, low-wattage bulbs that can be dimmed according to neighborhood preferences.

In the recent past, King said, “very blue, very bright, very high-wattage” LED street lights have been tested in the city.

“That is not what we’re putting in,” in the future, he said, adding he has consulted with experts on dark-sky initiatives.

During the public comment period, city resident Scott Walker called the LED plan an exciting one — and he added the next step is to “get on the private lights that are spilling over everywhere.”

Discovery Road

Street lights will be part of the new Discovery Road design concept, also approved during Monday’s council meeting.

Capping a long period of public input-gathering, city civil engineer Laura Parsons presented the design for the busy road.

It includes new wide sidewalks flanking both sides of the street, a two-way bikeway on the south side of the road and narrower lanes to calm car traffic.

The project, with a budget of nearly $5.4 million, will reconstruct Discovery Road between the Rainier Street roundabout and McClellan Street at Salish Coast Elementary School.

The plan is to award the construction contract by March and finish by late fall 2022.

Sandoval, before asking the council for a motion, acknowledged the long struggle over how to accommodate everybody who uses this stretch of concrete and asphalt.

People who use wheelchairs — such as her husband — need those wide sidewalks, she added.

Instead of giving some people everything they desire, a good design means “a whole lot of people get some of what they want,” the mayor said.

“It’s unfortunate that we will not be able to satisfy everybody … but I’m grateful we’re moving forward.”

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Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or durbanidelapaz@peninsuladaily news.com.

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