Council meeting another step down road to City Hall

POULSBO — It’s back to budget basics as Poulsbo City Council members prepare to meet tonight to discuss three city hall development proposals presented during a special public open house June 25. With proposal numbers running from $12.2 million to $16 million, council members face the challenge of working an option into their allotted $10.1 million budget.

“In the end, you have to live within your budget,” said Poulsbo City Councilman Ed Stern, who believes settling the budget issue is even more important than choosing a location. “There are other responsibilities of the city. We can’t throw everything and the kitchen sink into this project… I need the proposers to get real with the numbers.”

The city began with a budget of $12.75 million, but directed $2.65 million of that toward feasibility, architecture, engineering and land acquisition, Stern said. The land acquisition being the 2005 purchase of 10th Avenue property on slated for the new city hall. The location of the building was pushed downtown after voters had their say in November 2006.

Now the choice must be made whether to construct just a city hall, or to develop the plan further, potentially including add-ons such as extra parking, a convention center and a hotel. For Stern, until the budget is nailed down, any extra additions must be put on hold.

“City hall is the core drive here,” he said. “It’s who can give us a guarantee… who can deliver city hall and associated parking on budget, on time.”

Stern said he’ll expect the three developers to adjust their proposals in accordance with the city’s financial needs. Depending on which option can provide that, the question of location (the original city hall site or near the current parks and rec center) may sort itself out, he said.

“The numbers did not line up with the budget the city had on hand,” Stern said. “I need to be satisfied on that… that’s how I’m going to approach this.”

City Councilman and finance committee member Dale Rudolph had a more positive take on the budget, and said the time between now and actual construction of the site will allow the city to rebuild its funding for the project.

“I think we can afford it, we just have to prove it to ourselves,” he said. “By the time we’re ready to execute, our bonding will be better. Our finances are in good shape.”

Rudolph said while a financial analysis still needs to happen, he believes the Pioneer plan to be the best option, and, like Stern, thinks a more focused approach is necessary.

“We need to go forward and not get caught up in all the other future possibilities,” he said. “City hall is priority one.”

Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade said she will not push the council to make a decision tonight, though she does hope enough information can be gathered so they can begin to focus on one of the three proposals.

“I do want a decision by the end of the summer,” Quade said. “It depends on if they want to focus on only city hall or if they want to have a larger impact… They’re going to need to engage in a lot of discussion for a consensus.”

Councilman Jim Henry said while he feels the budget needs to be addressed, his main concern is getting the project up and going.

“Let’s just get a building up somewhere,” he said. “It’s going to depend on how adventurous they feel with financing… but let’s get going on it.”

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