Des Moines lawmakers debate charity vs. roads

Lawmakers in cash-strapped Des Moines debated Nov. 29 whether the city’s limited funds should go for charity or roads

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to give money to charity when we can’t even provide basic services,” said Councilmember Jeanette Burrage. “We’re spending more money then we’re taking in.”

Burrage added that constituents voted for her because she said she would fight for better roads and more police officers.

The discussion turned emotional with Councilmember Melissa Musser saying that more people in the community would rather support a battered woman than a block of paving.

“I would much rather keep someone from being hungry than pave a small patch of road,” added Councilmember Carmen Scott.

Councilmember Bob Sheckler reminded the council that an older resolution on the city books stated that a goal of the council was to give one percent of their budget towards Human Services.

The conversation moved back and forth from the food bank to new funding expenditures and the council’s commitment to the city.

“We’re talking about a minimum investment,” said Mayor Dave Kaplan. “This is a time where we’re hard-pressed. There is a limited amount of funds, we’re going to struggle.”

Kaplan added that the Human Services Advisory Committee carefully screens the budget before they present it for approval.

The council moved towards a vote and then decided that although they would not remand the budget back to committee they would wait till the Dec. 6 meeting to make a decision.

In other business, traffic impact fees were frozen and construction and inspection contracts were awarded amid much discussion.

An ordinance was unanimously passed, freezing the phase in traffic impact fee schedule. The traffic impact fee would have increased 10 percent every year until 2017. The council has decided to revisit the issue in 2013.

Regarding the Transportation Gateway Project the construction contract was unanimously awarded to SCI Infrastructure LLC. The total project cost is $9.6 million dollars. The city is only covering 10 percent of the cost with the rest of the money coming from grants, The Port of Seattle and other funding sources.

Construction improvements will take place on South 216th Street, 24th Avenue South to 18th Avenue South including the 24th Avenue S. intersection.

The city of Des Moines initiated design of improvements to South 216th Street and 24th Avenue South to widen these roadways to accommodate multiple modes of travel (pedestrians, bicycles, transit, automobiles, & trucks) as well as accommodate future growth, according to the city website.

The estimated duration for construction is 220 work days or eleven months.

Some discussion was raised over the $560,000 that would be going to KPG for inspection services.

KPG will make sure things are being done right, said Acting Public Works Director Dan Brewer.

Brewer said that KPG was necessary for coordination, documentation, negotiation of change orders and to keep tabs on the contractor.

Council members Carmen Scott and Jeanette Burrage raised several questions as to why to cost was so high.

“Its expensive work,” said Brewer. “Without that daily oversight it could open us up for complaints.”

City Manager Tony Piasecki added that it covers the city’s ability to get reimbursed in case of complications with the construction.

“It astonishes me that the costs have gotten so high,” said Scott. “It’s $100,000 a block just to watch and check on things.”

“There’s so many intricacies, I understand the 10 percent cost,” said Musser.

Mayor Pro Tem Matt Pina stated that with KPG the city would be gaining access to a firm of specialists and would be more qualified to deal with situations, should any occur.

“I think it’s a very effective use of public funds,” Councilmember Matt Pina said. “This is prudent management.”

Sheckler also spoke in support saying that it was essentially an insurance policy.

The vote to give KGP the inspection services contract passed 6-1, with Burrage opposing it.

The Valley Communications Tiburon to Spillman Data Interface Interlocal agreement was passed unanimously after a presentation by Des Moines Police Chief George Delgado.

“It’s a step towards efficiency and technology,” said Delgado.

The agreement would allow Federal Way, Auburn, Black Diamond and Des Moines to share databases allowing for immediate access to information which previously could have taken up to three days to get.

The step will increase officer and citizen safety, said Delgado.

“I really applaud this effort,” said Pina.

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