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Bremerton City Council approves fee hikes, service cuts

Bremerton City Council members approved several measures at Wednesday night’s meeting, including raising fees and rates for city services and closing some city hall service counters one day a week.

Fee and service costs were increased on a variety of items, including burials in the city’s cemetery and admission to the Jarstad Aquatic Center.

Some fee hikes were as low as a 25-cent increase in admission to the Jarstad Aquatic Center, while other increases were significant. The advanced life support ambulance fee went up $100 from the 2008 charge.

City council also approved a 5.8 percent increase for water, wastewater and stormwater fees. Public Works Director Phil Williams said the rate increase, on average, will cost people an additional $4.50 a month.

Councilman Roy Runyon proposed an amendment allowing discounts on utility rates for low-income citizens collecting unemployment. While other council members agreed it was a good plan, they said more research needed to be done and the amendment was defeated.

The final general business item discussed Wednesday night involved closing city hall service counters in several departments on Fridays.

Financial Services Director Laura Lyon said service counters in the Department of Community Development, Human Resources and Financial Services would be closed on Fridays.

“We do realize this is an inconvenience to our citizens and we regret having to do this,” she said. “This is a difficult thing to recommend.”

One Bremerton resident asked why Friday was deemed the best day to close city offices and Lyon said Fridays typically are not as busy as other days in the city offices.

“Our experience in the departments is that Fridays are lower walk-in traffic days,” she said.

Although the service counters would be closed on Fridays, Lyon said staff would still be working and by limiting public access to the offices, they should be able to catch up on their work. She added that the city offices would still answer phone calls from the public.

“We’re still open for business, and we’re still working,” Lyon said. “It is our normal work hours and we’ll be making phone calls and taking phone calls.”

City council approved the change of public access hours at the service counters and Lyon said the change will be effective Jan. 1, 2009.

“I think it’s something that is necessary and hopefully people will quickly learn the new hours,” said Council President Will Maupin.

The proposed 2009 budget also recommends that five city employees are laid off to help fill the projected $4.4 million budget deficit. Lyon said the proposed layoffs would save the city a little more than $411,000.

The council authorized a voluntary separation and reduced workweek program where city employees are allowed to take Friday off, reducing their workweek by eight hours.

The final public hearing regarding the 2009 budget is Wednesday, Dec. 3. City council may adopt the final budget that evening.

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