Tacoma City Business Preview - Week of August 25, 2015

Innovative Grants Program

Tacoma's Neighborhood Small Innovative Grant program, put on hold during the tight 2013-2014 budget cycle, returned for the current biennium. The break allowed staff to address a backlog of 86 projects, and to identify program improvements based on priorities and findings from a 2012 review of the Neighborhood Council Program.

Program improvements include:

  • General Fund support at $320,000
  • 10% of total allocation set aside for maintenance
  • One application cycle with $36,000 allocated to each Neighborhood Council for the biennium.
  • Increased flexibility for project eligibility as uses are not restricted to capital improvements.
  • Increased impact with 18 month project deadlines.
  • Minimum and maximum project amounts have been eliminated to better reflect total project costs.
  • A simplified application with emphasis on abutting neighborhood and community support, maintenance plans and identified life cycle costs.
  • Restrictions on multiple funding allocations to one project or group.
  • Program guidelines call for equitable distribution of funding within each Neighborhood Council area. 

At this week's Tacoma City Council study session, the council will hear about the City's enhanced Innovative Grant Program funded in the 2015-16 biennium, including an overview and outcomes of this round of the application process.

 

Gun Safe T

Tacoma's Gun Safe T campaign, launched a little over a year ago, aims to build awareness of gun safety issues, including the 18 children and young adults every day in the US who die of firearms injuries. The program provides education on the safe use, storage, and surrender of firearms to Tacoma youth and the wider community. At this week's study session, staff will provide the council with an update on the program.

 

PSE Gas Pipelines

An ordinance on this week's regular council meeting agenda for a first reading would grant a nonexclusive franchise to Puget Sound Energy for the construction, maintenance, removal, replacement, and repair of pipeline facilities in public rights-of-way. The pipeline would be used for the transportation, distribution and sale of natural gas. According to the request for the ordinance, PSE began operating a similar franchise in 1984. The term of that franchise expired in 2009, and apparently the City and PSE have been negotiating terms for a renewal for existing and future PSE gas lines and facilities since then. Those negotiations have finally concluded with terms both sides can agree to.

 

Property

In 2005 the City purchased a 4,000 square-foot triangle of land near where North Alder meets Ruston Way, agreeing to hold it to facilitate Puget Creek restoration efforts by the Puget Creek Restoration society. The project envisioned hasn't moved beyond the conceptual phase, and in 2013 the City was considering selling the piece of land to the abutting property owner. PCRS objected, and the City gave them until July 2014 to submit documents establishing project viability. Documents were submitted, but the City deemed them not up to the level asked for, and moved forward with the sale to the nearby property owners. A resolution on this week's council meeting agenda would declare that 4,000 triangle of land surplus and sell it to the property owners for $6,141.

Two ordinances that previously got first readings on this week's council meeting consent agenda for final readings. The two ordinances 

  • The first would vacate a portion of South 49th Street between South Wilkeson and I-5 for fire and utility access, and for additional parking for construction of a 44,500 square foot furniture store and associated parking on the adjacent property. 
  • The second would reclassify the property located at 4722 35th Street NE from an “R-2” Single-Family Dwelling District to an “R-3” Two-Family Dwelling District to allow for the conversion of a single-family dwelling into a two-family dwelling.

 

Wood Stoves

In 2009 the EPA found that the Tacoma-Pierce County area was out of compliance with the Clean Air Act due to the severity of fine particle pollution, which is caused by older wood burning devices. The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency operates its Wood Stove Program to help residents within a targeted area of Pierce County, known as the Smoke Reduction Zone, replace their uncertified wood-burning devices with cleaner heating options. The program provides education, outreach, and financial assistance. 

The Smoke Reduction Zone is back in compliance, but under watch by a 10-year monitoring plan, which requires continued efforts to remove pollution causing devices. The Wood Stove Program is currently on hold, having exhausted its grant funding. More funding is expected to become available in September, but the PSCAA announced in May that it will eliminate its funding for the Pierce County program. As currently operated, the Wood Stove Program costs about $200,000 annually.

Councilmember Mello is proposing the Council use $100,000 of its contingency fund to pay $50,000 per year for the continued operation of the program for the next two years, with the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department expected to contribute $100,000 a year for two years. Funding after 2016 would be reassessed. A resolution authorizing Mello's proposal appears on this week's agenda for council consideration.


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