Council gets testy over worn floats

Mayor says Percival Landing needs new ones; others want more discussion

December 6, 2012 

Mayor Stephen Buxbaum is recommending the city spend perhaps $479,287 to replace the floats at Percival Landing, a late addition to the budget discussion that sparked some testy exchanges at Tuesday night’s Olympia City Council meeting.

Councilwoman Karen Rogers said the council should hold off on the project until the city’s parks advisory committee gives input. Comments from the meeting were taken from a city video.

“And until we do, this is not a real barn burner,” she said. “I’d rather wait on them.”

Rogers added that the city should write potential partners on the project, including the Olympia Yacht Club and the Port of Olympia.

Rogers also expressed concern that the item wasn’t in the budget when a public hearing was held. “We have a problem there,” she said.

She suggested putting the money for the floats into a reserve account in the meantime.

The item of replacing the docks first came up at a budget discussion late into the Nov. 20 council meeting, two days before Thanksgiving, which Rogers did not attend.

Buxbaum called Rogers out for “missing several meetings this year.”

He noted that the Parks Department plans to close the floats at the first of the year due to their deterioration.

“This is an issue of commerce,” he said. “It’s an issue of supporting, I think, our most beloved events down on the waterfront. I want to make sure that the floats continue to be open.”

Power was cut to the Percival Landing docks after a 2004 structural assessment found the boardwalk in failing condition. That led to a $14 million first-phase replacement of the Percival Landing boardwalk that was finished last year. The float replacement was planned for the next stage of Percival Landing work, which would cost millions more and hasn’t been funded or scheduled.

Buxbaum advocated for the project to be pulled out of the second phase and funded separately.

City Manager Steve Hall told the council Nov. 20 that after power was cut, boat stays went to 355 a year, down from about 900.

Councilman Nathaniel Jones agreed with Rogers, saying he wanted the public to vet the project.

“If I’m right, the floats were to be closed in January,” he said. “I think we’re facing closure of the floats regardless of whether we establish this budget item or not.”

Buxbaum then objected to the council having the discussion at all, saying it was out of order because it came during the period that council members give reports.

Jones suggested deferring the item until next week, when the council will give first reading to the city’s budget. He said he doesn’t want to take the money out of the budget for the floats.

Rogers said “that could be a lengthy one” because the project is controversial.

Councilwoman Jeannine Roe agreed with Jones, saying she doesn’t remember the topic being brought up on a number of occasions.

Buxbaum maintained that the city has followed a public process. “We’re not going to sneak down there at night time and fix the floats,” he said.

Buxbaum rejoined that several items had been added to the budget since a public hearing, such as replacing the parking pay stations, an item Roe holds dear.

Roe objected.

“We’ve been talking about the parking meters for two years, and I believe it’s been an ongoing conversation,” she said. “I didn’t ever hear about Percival Landing except at 11:30 at night when you (Buxbaum) brought it up.”

The city estimated it would cost $479,000 to replace the floats with water and electrical service and $352,941 without the utilities.

Roe also raised concerns on Nov. 20.

“I want everyone to know that what we’re looking at and how much we’re spending on something that potentially it could go to other areas,” she said.

Councilman Jim Cooper said he was supportive of the project.

Buxbaum said the matter was urgent, and “it’s really we take care of these now or we’re going to close these things down, and I don’t want orange cones at one of the gateways to our community.”

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 mbatcheldor @theolympian.com @MattBatcheldor

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