The Gig Harbor City Council had the first reading of its 2014 budget last week, and it’s about $1 million less than this year.
The budget totals $56,461,756, down $991,504 from 2013, according to the council budget packet. There were a few changes from original draft that the council looked over during work sessions in October.
• 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 NW.
Council member 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 suggested a line item up to $25,000 that would help buy down the fare to $1.
Council member Steve Ekberg agreed, saying: “If this had come to us earlier, we’d jump on it.”
“I think it’s a great expenditure,” council member Michael Perrow said, who added the trolley was a boon to local hotels during the summer.
The trolleys debuted this summer through a partnership between Pierce Transit, the city, the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Waterfront Alliance and the Uptown Gig Harbor Shopping Center. The funding for the coming year will help the trolleys return next summer 2014.
The system eases traffic downtown during the busy summer months, which are filled with festivals and nice weather, Young said.
With matched money from other agencies, it’s possible the fares could drop to less than $1, Young said.
The city works with Pierce Transit, and Young has served as a representative for small cities on the transportation agency’s board.
There’s a rule called “chartering,” Young said, that prevents Pierce Transit from working with private companies. However, the agency can partner with local governments and its partners.
There was only one comment during the public hearing. Charlotte Gerlof requested the council move some money into creating better public notice for 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 meeting notices on its own website, in utility bills, and it pays for them to be published in legal section of The Peninsula Gateway.
“I know it’s in the newspaper, but it doesn’t seem to be working really as well as it could,” Gerlof said.
Her suggestion would be to create a newsletter for 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. Council member Tim Payne recalled a newsletter in the past, but it was lost due to recession cutbacks.
“I don’t know if a newsletter is the right option,” he said.
Payne said he would like to explore new approaches by sitting down with staff members who are working to improve the city website.
Young remembered a tabloid-sized, six-page letter that may have been used in the past, but he said it cost of about $20,000.
Council member Ken Malich wants “something simple that can be easily managed without a lot of staff time.” He suggested an email and snail-mail signup.
The council will have a second reading and adoption of the updated budget, including the trolley line item, when it meets next Monday.Reporter Karen Miller can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter, @gateway_karen.