Council tags new budget ceiling for city hall

POULSBO — The Poulsbo City Council has drawn a budgetary “line in the sand,” unanimously setting a not-to-exceed mark of $15.9 million on its new city hall project.

The allowance, put into motion by the council’s Finance Committee, also stipulates bonds to pay for the project not exceed $6.1 million at an interest rate of no more than 4.77 percent.

Originally the city planned to take out $9.5 million in bonds to pay a total $16.9 million on the downtown project, which will sit at the corner of Third Avenue and Moe Street.

The savings, said council and city hall project team member Dale Rudolph, aren’t just numbers from the sky. The new budget plan is in large part taking advantage of a competitive construction bidding climate. Many projects have come in below estimations recently, even up to 20 percent under what was expected.

“There’s not a miracle here, there’s a lot of hard work,” he said.

The decision came after what council and finance committee member Becky Erickson termed a “stalemate” of sorts; she and council member Linda Berry-Maraist had been most vocal in their concern over the city’s ability to pay for the building and its size.

The council’s approval stipulates the sales of three city properties, proceeds from the district court presence within city hall, savings and construction fees and sales tax will be dedicated to paying for the project.

Both the existing city hall pad and Mitchusson (or Klingle) properties will be sold; the third city property, land on 10th Avenue originally slated for the new city hall, was recently purchased for Harrison Medical Center’s new cancer care campus, with proceeds on the sale reaching $700,000.

Berry-Maraist said the budgetary plan addresses her concerns, and sets a true bottom line.

“This shows a compromise that I’m willing to support,” she said.

Council and Finance Committee member Ed Stern said the decision puts the city’s project on “a big diet and a stringent allowance,” and “limits the exposure” of taxpaying citizens.

“This is an attempt at a pathway to certainty for the city hall project,” he said.

Now, he also pointed out, the city’s total bonding will reach $11.2 million (including an original $5.1 million taken out in 2005), which is comparatively lower than the expected $12.9 million in bonds when the city hall was destined for 10th Avenue. That plan was axed in 2006 after a citizen advisory vote shifted the focus back downtown.

Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade lauded the council for acting with “courage and conviction,” and said the move “confirms the city’s faith in the future of our community.” The construction project will help to add jobs during a difficult time, stimulate the city’s economy and help it weather the global financial tailspin, she said.

Council and Finance Committee member Connie Lord gave a nod to Erickson and Berry-Mariast for “bulldogging it through.”

“Nobody’s going to be able to say that we didn’t attack this from every single angle,” she said.

All present council members concurred on the budgetary allowance; Council Member Jeff McGinty was absent.

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