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Tacoma City Business Preview - Week of September 17, 2013


A joint Tacoma City Council/Utility Board study session is scheduled for this week. Among topics discussed will be a status update on infrastructure projects including the Cushman Hydroelectric Project powerhouse and fish collection facility and Tacoma Water's Green River water filtration project. Also on the agenda is a presentation on highlights of a recent Habitat for Humanity ductless heat pump study, how the study aligns with Tacoma Power's ductless heat pump program, and how the market has been influenced so ductless heat pumps are less expensive in our service area than others.


Link Fares

Link fares will be the main topic of discussion at this week's regular City Council study session. Council will hear more from Sound Transit staff about the recent proposal to charge fares on Tacoma's Link, including a potential timeline and public outreach efforts. If you have a question or an opinion, you can still attend this Thursday's open house and/or public hearing or submit your comments in writing by September 19. The Sound Transit Board is scheduled to take up the issue on September 26, including a discussion or whether and how much to charge and mitigation measures to address impacts on low-income riders.


Charter Review

A resolution on this week's agenda would officially mark the beginning of Tacoma's charter review process by designating the City Charter Review as a special project of limited duration, and designating general salary classifications and benefits for persons employed on the project. The City of Tacoma is required to complete the charter review process once every 10 years, which means it is once again time to review how our city is run. The designation in this resolution allows for the hiring of one position to staff and support the Charter Review Committee.


Shoreline Master Program

The long process of updating Tacoma's Shoreline Master Program is nearing completion. The City submitted its draft of the SMP to the Washington State Department of Ecology, which came back with a "conditional approval." The City and various stakeholder groups have reviewed the terms of that conditional approval, and come up with a response, which largely accepts Ecology's required and recommended changes, including several limited amendments to use allowances and development standards for aquacultuire; amendments to specific definitions to bring them into alignment with the WAC, and amendments to the S-9 Puyallup River Shoreline District.

The City response would propose an alternative intent statement for Ecology's required changes amending the S-6/7 Schuster Parkway Transition Shoreline District. 

The draft SMP originally submitted by Tacoma included an area-wide re-designation and re-zone of the S-7 Schuster Parkway district, which created a transition zone between S-6 (Ruston Way) and S-7 (Schuster Parkway). The transition district was designated an Urban Conservancy enviroment, prohibitting new layberth uses and activities. The Department of Ecology response required that the City allow those uses through a conditional use permit process. Given that, Tacoma had the choice of accepting those changes, or proposing its own alternative. Council directed staff to develop an alternative intent statement to add clarity to the long-term vision for the S-6/7 shoreline district and to provide further direction for evaluating future permits in the district.

This most recent Tacoma SMP amendment process began two years ago. We seem to be down to one last sticking point. The alternative offered by the City will be considered in a resolution on this week's Council meeting agenda.


Streets Funds

As the City continues to work to get the word out about Tacoma's Proposition 1, which would impose an additional 2% tax on utility company earnings, part of the message is about drawing a clear line around collected revenues to protect and designate the funds earned for streets improvements alone. An ordinance on this week's agenda would introduce changes to support that message of sustainability and transparency for revenue collections and expenditures related to transportation infrastructure and maintenance by creating two new funds.

The existing fund for street repairs - the Arterial Street Fund (Street Fund) - includes all revenue and expenditures for street and transportation infrastructure projects, regardless of source. In order to improve transparency and accountability for street project funds, the City is proposing to create two new funds: the “Street Operations and Maintenance Fund,” and the “Transportation Capital and Engineering Fund.”


The “Street Operations and Maintenance Fund” would segregate revenues collected related to gross earnings taxes (that 2% utilities earnings tax) for the sole purpose of funding basic street maintenance an safety upgrades. To further improve transparency and accountability, the City will create a six-year Infrastructure Management Plan to track expenditures from this fund and provide regular updates on revenues and expenditures related to the fund.

The “Transportation Capital and Engineering Fund” would segregate and track capital and grant funds, and engineering costs related to major transportation improvement projects.


Purchase Resolution

Two items on this week's purchase resolution:

  1. $1,457,938 plus sales tax, budgeted from the Radio Communications Fund and the CIP LTGO 2010 Bond Fund, for a one-time purchase of TDMA/SmartZone radios and dispatch consoles; and
  2. $102,600 for a cumulative contract total of $404,342, budgeted from the General Fund, to increase the contract for security guard services for the Tacoma Municipal Building and Tacoma Municipal Building North.

Item 1 would replace the analog radio system currently used by Public Works with a new digigal system. The replacement is being requested to keep the system compatible as Tacoma Police and Fire are upgraded from analog to digital through a South Sound 911 countywide public safety communications upgrade project.

Item 2 would increase an existing contract for security to provide a full-time presence on the first two floors of the Tacoma Municipal Building.


Final Readings

Two ordinaces are scheduled for final readings this week, both of which had their first readings last week. The first would make housekeeping changes to Tacoma's Electrical Code to update and clarify electrical licensing requirements and exemptions. The second would create a new chapter of the TMC to give the City additional tools to save Tacoma's historic structures from demolition by neglect.

Other Items

The Mayor will make two proclamations this week. The first will proclaim Friday, September 20, 2013 as POW/MIA Day in the City of Tacoma. The second will proclaim Sunday, September 22, 2013 as Downtown to Defiance Sunday Parkways Day in the City of Tacoma.

A pair of resolutions this week make appointments: the first appoints Bennish Brown to serve on the Greater Tacoma Regional Convention Center Public Facilities District Board of Directors to fill an unexpired four-year term through October 31, 2016. The second appoints Shalisa Hayes to serve on the City Events and Recognitions Committee for a three-year term to expire July 31, 2016.

The next installment of the City's Tacoma Prop 1 info sessions is scheduled for this evening, Monday, September 16, at 6:00 p.m., at Meeker Middle School.

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I heard an interesting piece a couple of days ago on the radio in regards to Seattle inching closer to one of the top five most expensive cities to live in.  Average small studio $ 1,600 and new construction around 2k a month.  People were speaking of how they can’t find a rental and their funny ways of attempting to entice lanlords on letting them have the space.  This probably does not apply to every neighborhood, but in many of the nice ones.  I wonder if Tacoma had a specific campaign to show these people the available housing here and a realistic study of how long commutes would take on the Sounder depending on which parts of town they choose to live in.  Maybe something that can be inserted into the Seattle newspapers with specific graphics.  Something serious, not the usual tourist trap info that pamphlets have.  I know that a neighborhood like Lincoln, that is close to the Sounder and others surrounding the downtown core could do very well from this.  A nabe like Lincoln in Seattle is much more expensive.  Just a though, sometimes the obvious is not seen by many.  There are already many commuters from here, but there are also many that don’t have the realistic information necessary to make the move.

September 19, 2013 at 7:50 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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