State of Kirkland looking brighter, says Kirkland City Manager
By MATT PHELPS
Kirkland Reporter Regional Assistant Editor
July 11, 2012 · 4:34 PM
Kirkland City Manager Kurt Triplett gave the State of the City address at the Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon at The Woodmark Hotel on Tuesday. But in Triplett’s way of thinking, it is more of a state of livability address.
“Kirkland is a quality of life city,” said Triplett. “For businesses, two-thirds are here because the founder or owner lives here.”
He said the state of the city is looking brighter, but there is still more work to do.
With the economy no longer in steep decline, the city has moved forward with the 2012 Work Program that includes many needed improvements to keep up with last year’s annexation, needs in the business community and regular city-wide maintenance.
Triplett explained that the city received $16 million in sales tax revenue in 2007 but that income declined to $12 million last year. There is still a forecast of a 4-5 percent reduction in the budget this year as well.
“The good news is that this is based on very conservative assumptions,” said Triplett.
The city is attempting to resolve some collective bargaining agreements that would help in closing the continued budget gap.
“We have had a great relationship,” said Triplett of recent negotiations that resulted in wage freezes.
Triplett said that King County instated health care reforms, which has saved $61,000 and the city is attempting to do the same.
The Kirkland City Council is also expected to pass two ballot measures for November on Tuesday. The measures will let voters decide if they want to fill the budget gap for road maintenance and parks with new property tax levies.
A recent survey the city conducted showed that 85 percent of Kirkland residents surveyed said the city is a very good or excellent place to live. Triplett showed the survey results to his son, who is in middle school.
“He said that we got a ‘B,’” said Triplett. “I told him that if a ‘B’ isn’t good enough in his report card it is not good enough for me or the council.”
Survey participants expressed that funding public safety is their top concern. The city is preparing to renovate a building in the Totem Lake neighborhood for a new public safety building, which will house the police department, jail and courts. The project will cost an estimated $40 million.
“Our AAA credit rating saved us a lot of money on this project,” said Triplett.
Renovating the building, as opposed to building a brand new one, also saved the city an estimated $12-15 million, said Triplett.
Triplett also noted other large city projects to improve Kirkland’s livability, such as the Northeast 85th Street Corridor improvements and the Cross Kirkland Corridor Master Plan.
The city purchased the old BNSF rail line earlier this year to be used for pedestrians and other modes of transportation.
The project could have an estimated $3 million in funding for renovations of the old rail line. If the parks levy passes, it would substantially add to that total.
The survey also showed that recycling is also very important, said Triplett, as a Waste Management official in the audience agreed.
But along with recycling, the survey showed concern for street maintenance, along with attracting and keeping local businesses.
Triplett talked about how the city dodged a big budget cut as the annexation sales tax credit remained intact through the state’s budget cuts.
Totem Lake continues to be a priority for the city as it rezoned much of the business neighborhood to make it “easier to bring in jobs,” said Triplett. The city has also done work to make sure that Totem Lake Boulevard does not flood during heavy rains as it did in 2010.
“We have done some dredging and removed some beaver dams,” said Triplett. “When we had the record rainfalls, we did not have a single road closure.”
Much of the Totem Lake issue revolves around the Totem Lake Malls’ land, which is mostly out of the city’s control as the property’s co-owners are in court with a large lawsuit.
Park Place is also at a standstill with redevelopment as developer Touchstone is currently seeking anchor tenants for the property, said Triplett.
He hopes those anchor tenants will also add to Kirkland’s livability.
Contact Kirkland Reporter Regional Assistant Editor Matt Phelps at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-822-9166 ext. 5052.