City Council approves next year’s budget

A long process reached its completion when the Bremerton City Council approved its 2006 budget Wednesday night in a 6-1 vote.

What began early in the year came to fruition at last, with the council heaping plenty of praise upon financial services director Laura Lyon for her efforts in guiding the process.

“The passage of this budget and the process that we’ve all gone through has been the best this city has ever seen,” Mayor Cary Bozeman said following the final vote. “I think Laura and her staff deserve a lot of the credit for that.”

“This budget was designed … so that we live within our means,” Lyon said in her report to the council before they made their decision.

The $128.3 million budget includes about $31 million in the general fund for “day-to-day operations,” Lyon said.

The final figure represented a $2.45 million reduction from the first proposal the Council saw, money which had been designated for the Port Washington trail system.

City Council president Daren Nygren explained that the trails were put on hold because the council needed more time for public input and to evaluate the proposal.

“There’s also a major project proposal out there for expanding the boardwalk. We want to make sure both proposals mesh,” Nygren said. “Leaving (the trails) in could have been considered an endorsement of that particular proposal.”

With the removal of that item, the 1 percent figure for the arts also had to be adjusted accordingly, Lyon explained.

The only snag in the budget discussion among council members came when the matter of the reclassification of city employee Gary Sexton came up. Councilman Brad Gehring argued the matter of re-titling Sexton’s position from economic development director to redevelopment projects administrator, along with an approximately $10,000 salary increase, had not been adequately presented to the council as a whole.

“Not that that position is not deserving,” Gehring said, but rather the way it was presented was where he took issue.

The Council voted 4-3 against removing that item from the budget for further review, with Nygren, Carol Arends, Mike Short and Cecil McConnell voting against the motion and Gehring, Dianne Robinson and Wendy Priest in favor of it. Council members Mike Shepherd and Will Maupin were not present.

“This position has sadly been underpaid over the years for what it’s done for the city,” Short said.

“The committee that examined this issue … unanimously felt Mr. Sexton has done an excellent job as far as redevelopment goes.”

With the budget intact, it stood up for a vote with Gehring the lone vote against its adoption.

“This budget process has been phenomenal,” Gehring said, reiterating he was pleased with the decision except the one small piece of it.

In addition to passing the budget, the council unanimously approved an ordinance allowing integrated fire sprinkler systems and a waiver of fees in new residential construction of two or less units. The decision allows Eastpark developers to go forward with a design for the community that includes narrower streets.

“This goes a long way toward helping developers provide sprinklers,” said Richard Bruskrud of Mithun Architects, which is building Eastpark. “The narrower streets make the neighborhood safer and allows for slower speeds.”

The decision came after wording in the ordinance was stricken that some feared led to confusion, implying all homeowners would be required to install sprinklers.

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