The Gig Harbor City Council had the first reading of the 2014 budget at its meeting Tuesday night.
The budget totals $56,461,756. That’s a $991,504 decrease from 2013, according to the council budget packet. There were a few changes from original draft of the budget looked over during council work sessions in October. Changes include:
• Increased security for the Municipal court.
• Upgrades to the city website.
• Increases to the concert in the park objective as part of the Parks Operating Division.
• Deferment of the Harbor Hill Park Property design and development until 2015.
• Installation of public art at the Bogue Viewing Platform.
• Addition of a sidewalk on Point Fosdick Drive.
Councilman Derek Young thanked the council for the Point Fosdick sidewalk, saying he could “finally retire in peace.”
Young asked that some money be included for the trolley system. He’s asking for a line item up to $25,000 that would help buy down the fare to a dollar. Councilman Steve Ekberg agreed with the last-minute line item, saying, “if this had come to us earlier we’d jump on it.”
“I think it’s a great expenditure,” Councilman Michael Perrow said. He knows the trolley is a boon to local hotels in the summer.
The trolleys debuted this summer through a partnership of the city, the chamber of commerce and the Downtown Waterfront Alliance. The funding for the coming year would mean the trolleys return in the summer of 2014. The system eases traffic downtown in the busy summer months filled with festivals and nice weather, Young said. The money would help buy down the fare to one dollar, Young said, but with matched money it’s possible the fares could drop even lower.
The city works with Pierce Transit. There’s a rule called “chartering,” Young said, that prevents the transit system from working with private companies. However, transit can partner with local governments, in this case Gig Harbor and its partners.
There was only one comment during the public hearing. Charlotte Gerlof requested that the council move some money into creating better public notice of meetings. She would like to see the group of people without access to the Internet have better notification of upcoming council decisions. The city posts notice online, in utility bills and in the legal section of The Gateway.
“I know it’s in the newspaper, but it doesn’t seem to be working really as well as it could,” she said. Her suggestion is a newsletter, creating easier access for community members who may not be online.
“I feel like it’s really imperative that the news goes out,” she said. “If people don’t want to attend a meeting that’s their prerogative, but they need to know it’s happening.”
The council considered her request. Councilman Tim Payne recalled that in the past there was a newsletter, but it was lost in recession cutbacks. “I don’t know if a newsletter is the right option,” he said. He would like to explore new approaches by sitting down with staff who are improving the city website.
Young remembered that there was a tabloid, 6-page letter that may have been used in the past, but he said it had a cost of about $20,000.
Councilman Ken Malich wants “something simple that can be easily managed without a lot of staff time.” He suggested an email and snail mail sign up.
The council will have a second reading and adoption of the updated budget — including the trolley line item — at it’s next meeting Nov. 25.
Reporter Karen Miller can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter, @Gateway_Karen.