TBD votes to fund Lower Wheaton Way Project

The Bremerton Transportation Benefit District board, a group made up of city council members that is a separate legal entity and independent taxing district, voted last week to approve up to $250,000 worth of funding for the Lower Wheaton Way Project.

Roy Runyon was the lone “no” vote.

“It was stated earlier during the council meeting that we’re going to get more money into the street fund without raising your taxes,” Runyon said. “The truth is, we’re going to raise your utility rates and generate more funds for the street fund through the PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes Program). I have no problem fully funding this project. My concern is what pots of money we take the money from.”

Runyon then went on to outline a specific plan to help fund the Lower Wheaton Way Project without using TBD dollars.

“I’m going to suggest, there’s an $80,000 contract, I believe, that we want to let for herbicide treatment around our sidewalks,” he said. “Delete that, transfer that over to this project and borrow the $170,000 balance from Equipment Rental & Revolving fund or utility capital funds.”

It was at that point that Eric Younger called for a point of order, noting that the TBD board shouldn’t be discussing city council business. Runyon disagreed.

“I’d like a determination from the council as to whether I’ve violated the rules,” Runyon said, before the rest of the board unanimously agreed that he had.

Two members of the public spoke in favor of funding the $2.3 million Lower Wheaton Way Project with up to $250,000 dollars from the TBD during a public hearing.

The project entails constructing a 10-foot-wide sidewalk on the waterside from the Manette Bridge to Lebo Boulevard, intermittent walks on the uphill side, along with curb and gutter on both sides, bike lanes, overlaying the roadway, and some utility (storm, sanitary and water) work.

Former city council member Jim McDonald testified in favor of funding the project.

“The TBD board has obviously got a tremendous challenge,” McDonald said. “You’ve got $6 million a year worth of projects without even $1 million to fund them. I do want to lobby, though, to fully fund the Lower Wheaton Way Project however you can get it done. These are legacy projects. They are once-in-a-lifetime projects and if we don’t get it done now, really it will never get done. It’s a matter of doing it right or doing it poorly and we’ve seen some of the problems when we don’t do a project fully.”

Former Bremerton business owner Robert Parker also spoke in favor of TBD dollars being used.

“As we look back some of the projects we’ve done in the past, we’ve been so tight on funding, or gone into them underfunded, that we haven’t been able to really pull them off as well as we wish we could have,” Parker said.

City officials recently discovered that there was a funding shortfall for the project and recommended closing that gap with TBD dollars.

Public Works Director Chal Martin told the board about a recent meeting at city hall, where officials got feedback on the project from members of the public.

“The primary feature that people were very concerned about and for sure wanted included in the project was the full length sidewalk on the east side of Lower Wheaton Way,” Martin said. “The next project feature that people were very concerned about is lighting. They want lighting along the entire length of the project. So, those are two features for sure that the add funding could be used for.”

At the start of the TBD meeting, Dino Davis was elected as chair of the board and Mike Sullivan was chosen as vice-chair.


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