Traffic lights, Washington Street rehab among 2022 Sequim projects

Pandemic may bring second year of no utility increases

SEQUIM — The City of Sequim’s proposed $31.7 million budget for 2022 could bring significant street work to main thoroughfares and new traffic signals to downtown, with no increases to utility rates.

Council members saw their first look at the 2022 budget on Sept. 27, with more discussions planned for their regular meeting on Oct. 25 and public hearings set for Nov. 8 and Nov. 22.

Sue Hagener, Sequim’s administrative services director, said at the Sept. 27 meeting that city staff worked to balance the budget in August, which she said “represents a consensus between council recommendations and staff.”

She added that the city is doing well with a healthy mix of revenues, paying debt and saving more in 2022 to pay more on that debt in 2023.

In her budget message, interim city manager Charisse Deschenes said staff proposed to restore some department budgets from 2021 that were cut to “bare bones and not sustainable … so as not to slip backwards with deferred work or programs.”

Capital projects

Capital projects are proposed to be scaled back about $2 million from this year to about $4 million in 2022, Hagener said.

Some of the proposed projects in 2022 include:

• $450,000 for Washington Street traffic signals at Sequim Avenue and Third Avenue.

In the city documents, staff wrote this project replaces traffic signals from 1986 along with cabinets and controllers, adds new pedestrian crossing signals and a yellow phase for left-turn movement to allow “yield” left turns with gaps in traffic.

• $500,000 for Washington Street pavement rehabilitation.

This rehabilitates roadway — a little less than three miles — from River Road to Simdars Road and fixes curb ramps and driveways to become compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

• $400,000 for Sequim Avenue sidewalk infill.

Plans include adding sidewalks on the west side of Sequim Avenue from Old Olympic Highway’s roundabout to Hendrickson Road.

• $50,000 for new playground equipment.

This would include new structures for toddlers at both Margaret Kirner Park and Carrie Blake Community Park with ADA-compliant surfaces.

Other planned projects include: $400,000 to purchase land by the Water Reclamation Facility on its west and east sides; $150,000 for a Transportation Master Plan; $50,000 for a solid waste study; and $100,000 for a city shop upgrade and expansion.

The city also has $480,000 budgeted for water and $1.4 million for sewer projects.

Utilities

While it hasn’t been set, city staff said they assume council members will, similar to this year’s budget, ask for no raise in utilities because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Deschenes wrote in the budget message that the average Sequim household’s residential bill increased 0.6 percent, or about 49 cents, over six years following the city’s budget policy to minimize fees’ impact on residents.

She wrote that a 2020 utility rate study suggests a 4 percent and 2 percent increase for water and sewer rates in 2022, respectively, to keep up with maintenance and other costs.

Hagener said the city has not kept up with inflation and staff would like to see a 1 or 2 percent increase in sewer rates to avoid future deficits and/or large increases all at once.

Other proposals include expanding the low-income discount and eliminating the two-tier sewer rate for single-family residences, which will bring 480 customers to a $59.38 base rate.

While no utility increase is proposed, staff propose approving the 1 percent property tax levy allowed by law.

More expenses

Sequim’s staffing level will go up slightly to 89.21 full-time-equivalent staffers per 1,000 residents. Hagener said this is up about three full-time-equivalent staff from 2021 due mostly to cross-training employees to replace outgoing retirees.

Salaries and benefits make up about $10.4 million of the city’s budget, the city’s report states.

Other contracts include a proposed increase to a contract for the Visitor Information Center at $91,000 while maintaining the health and human service contracts at $75,000, and community services contracts and economic development contracts at $30,000 each.

The city also continues to pay down debt for building the Sequim Civic Center with $710,000 budgeted toward it in 2022.

For more on the proposed budget, click here.

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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].

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