Following councilor Bill Huizinga’s prompt, the city council discussed Monday night the possibility of lowering new building development fees by as much as 50 percent.
Huizinga’s reasoning is that the city is losing revenues to neighboring areas because of the current fees.
“I believe our impact fees and (general facility charges) are too high,” he said. “If we cut them by half, we don’t lose anything.”
However, most councilors took the wait-and-see approach for analysis from upcoming utility studies.
Mayor Pro-tem Ted Miller disagreed with Huizinga, saying that in Port Angeles, builders pay lower fees yet they only had one more single-family home built in 2011.
“The only logical conclusion is people are willing to pay for quality,” Miller said.
The city is contracting out studies on its sewer, water and transportation master plans, which could provide insight for future decisions on utility and fee rates.
Paul Haines, public works director, said it would take up to a year to have data to present from the plans.
“Rate studies show what we’re allowed to charge. Not what we should,” Huizinga said. “(A reduction) could create jobs. Clallam County has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.”
Councilor Don Hall and a few attending realtors agreed with Huizinga’s proposal.
Miller said Sequim has a large amount of unsold homes already and that cutting fees in half would result in sales tax possibly going up.
“The taxpayer would have to make up the difference,” Miller said, “It is a zero sum game.”
Mayor Ken Hays said fees are there to keep pace and support growth.
“Despite the economic situation, it doesn’t mean we don’t have growth,” Hays said. “I’m not sure if lowering fees would make a huge difference.”
“If there was a fire sale of fees, I couldn’t support that,” Hays said. “It’s not fair to those who are paying fees, and the fees have been below what it should’ve been for decades.”
City Manager Steve Burkett said some of the city’s issues with lowering fees include finding a balance of supporting operating costs, outstanding debt worth $800,000 from expanding the Water Reclamation Facility, and the rising cost of water.
Burkett said city staff would bring fee proposals during budget season later in the year.
The contract between the city and the Sequim Visitor Information Center increased to $70,000 this year with an additional $1,500 for the city to promote the center. Last year, the contract was $66,000.
The Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce, 1192 E. Washington St., operates the visitor information center to promote tourism business in the city.
Shelli Robb-Kahler, executive director of the chamber, said its job is to educate visitors and answer questions.
“Our goal is to keep visitors in Sequim and encourage them to come back again,” she said.
Robb-Kahler said the $4,000 budget increase helps pay for a new copy machine and storage materials and matches rising costs of materials.
City crews are planning to keep duck and goose droppings away from high-traffic areas.
Jeff Edwards, city parks manager, said they are going to spray a nontoxic product, Migrate, in the Albert Haller Playfields and around ponds in Carrie Blake Park at the end of January and mid-February. Migrate is made of grape seed extract that puts a bitter taste in the grass, leading the birds to go to another area.
“We are not chasing them away from the park forever,” Edwards said. “We’re moving them from one side of the park to the other.”
Edwards wants to keep the new playfields clean so that when they open, children won’t be in danger of sliding in droppings.
A one-year contract keeps the city disposing of Sunland’s bio-solids for one more year.
City staff anticipates about $50,000 worth of bio-solids to be treated in 2012 with Sunland paying 6 cents per gallon of bio-solids and a pro-rated one-year plant capacity participation fee of $12,967. Haines said a long-term agreement is being negotiated but they’ll need more time to reach an agreement. The city has disposed of Sunland’s bio-solids since 2004.
The Sequim Police Department is set to purchase two new patrol vehicles. Councilors gave the go-ahead for two 2011 Ford Crown Victoria sedans from the state’s police vehicle contract. The department uses mostly Crown Victorias but Ford discontinued the Crown Victoria line last year.
The budget holds funds for two patrol vehicles as part of a multi-year vehicle maintenance and replacement schedule. The Ford sedans cost $26,260 each plus tax. Both cars will be black and white. An additional amount for up to $20,000 is available for installation expenses on both cars for items such as light bars and sirens.
Despite some opposition, city councilors endorsed the Association of Washington Cities recommendations for the state Legislature this session.
Councilors voted 5-2, on Jan. 9, with Miller and Erik Erichsen opposed, for Mayor Ken Hays to sign a letter of support with the endorsement.
Some items in the letter include reforming the State Environmental Protection Act process, fostering job-creating growth, easing restrictions on how local governments spend their own revenue and creating clarity on medical marijuana enforcement.
Opposed councilors wanted to separate items off the list. Erichsen said medical marijuana is a federal issue that must be dealt with before the state can act.
Miller said he’d rather see SEPA enforced first locally rather than reforming it. He told the Gazette he endorses most of what the AWC does for its cities, however.
For more information, visit www.sequimwa.gov.
Reach Matthew Nash at email@example.com.