City budget surplus turns into a deficit

August 5, 2010

The nearly $53,000 budget surplus the City Council created earlier this year through cuts has turned into a nearly $44,000 deficit due to unanticipated expenses, according to the city’s second-quarter budget report.

The report estimates the city will have a $100,000 budget shortfall by the end of the year.

The city’s largest financial problem continues to be sales tax, which is down almost $65,000 from last year.

Retail and construction, respectively, are typically the two largest producers of sales tax revenue. In comparing the first six months of this year to last year, sales tax revenue increased from about $53,000 to about $58,000, but construction revenue plummeted from almost $59,000 to about $2,000.

However, revenue from building permits and the time the city charges to review them have already surpassed budgeted amounts. Permit fees have brought in more than $72,000, 111 percent of the budgeted amount for the year, and the time charged for their reviews has brought in more than $60,000, 144 percent of the budgeted amount.

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Police Blotter

August 5, 2010

Going for a scenic drive

Police responded to a scene at 11:55 p.m. July 3 where several people witnessed a large brown motor home crash through the fence of U-Store Self Storage, 16610 S.E. 128th St., and travel east on Southeast 128th Street before crashing at Southeast 143rd Street and 196th Avenue Southeast, hitting several fences and telephone poles. Two male suspects in hooded sweatshirts fled, and one had a Sony DVD player in a box under his arm, although he left the box behind a telephone pole nearby. The suspects cut the fence to the storage grounds and crawled through sticker bushes to get inside. Several other motor homes were easier to get to, but were not touched. The suspects started the motor home with a key and cut a hole in the windshield to see. The owner said no keys were left in the motor home.

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Newcastle Days returns with new and classic activities for all

August 5, 2010

Several months ago, the fate of this year’s Newcastle Days celebration was up in the air. The city had little money for community events, and without a special-events producer on staff to collect sponsorships, the city was in a pinch.

However, thanks to extra effort from city staff members and volunteers, Newcastle Days — which this year marks the city’s 16th anniversary of incorporation — will be a two-day celebration featuring a sidewalk sale and festivities in Lake Boren Park.

The celebration kicks off at 3 p.m. Sept. 10 with a sidewalk sale in Newcastle’s downtown area. Those who purchase items at surrounding businesses will be entered into a raffle to be held at Sweet Decadence later that evening.

“Now, it really becomes ‘Newcastle’ Days,” said Sweet Decadence owner Sandra Wixon, as the sidewalk sale expands the celebration beyond Lake Boren Park. “Friday’s going to be a great kickoff for Saturday.”

She said the sale will also help residents get better acquainted with the local business community.

The festival picks up again at 11 a.m. the next morning in Lake Boren Park with classic Newcastle Days festivities, including live music, face painting, massive inflatable bouncy houses and pony rides. This year will also feature a pet parade, which Newcastle Days has not had before, and a beer and wine garden, a common attraction years ago.

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Search forges on for new city manager

August 5, 2010

The application period for the city manager position ended July 18, and the city received 65 applicants from 11 different states.

Among the applicants is interim City Manager Rob Wyman.

Next, the City Council will work with recruiter Greg Prothman, whom it hired to handle its search, to find the best candidates. Final interviews are slated to take place mid-month, and the council may select its new city manager before the end of the month.

Former City Manager John Starbard was fired at the Jan. 12 City Council meeting. That night, the City Council hired former Community Development Director Rob Wyman to take over as interim city manager.

Parks Commission looks to fill staff vacancies

August 5, 2010

The Parks Commission will have four vacancies as of Sept. 1.

Themis Boaventura’s, Suzi O’Byrne’s, Peggy Price’s and Tony Peacock’s terms all expire at the end of the month. However, Boaventura resigned last month.

Price said she will seek another four-year term on the commission, but O’Byrne will not, Parks Program Manager Michael Holly said. Peacock has not given notice of whether he will seek reappointment.

Mayor John Dulcich will appoint new members to the commission, and the City Council will confirm his decisions. To apply, submit an application to the Office of the City Clerk at City Hall, 13020 Newcastle Way, by 5 p.m. Aug. 20.

Get an application at City Hall or on the city’s website at www.ci.newcastle.wa.us in the documents section.

Call Holly or City Clerk Bob Baker at 649-4444 for more information.

The Parks Commission consists of nine members and meets at 6 p.m. the second Wednesday of each month.

The commission serves as a review and advisory body to the City Council for city-owned park planning, design, and construction; park and facility development; renovation; trails and paths; recreation programs; and special community events.

Library undergoing approval process

August 5, 2010

The Newcastle Library is continuing to work its way through the permitting process with the city, and is concurrently undergoing its site plan, site design and building permit approvals.

“It’s going along pretty smoothly so far,” interim City Manager Rob Wyman said, adding that the city has not encountered any barriers in the process to this point that could keep the library from breaking ground this fall.

“There’s nothing we have seen so far that will preclude them from meeting that schedule,” he said.

Wyman said most projects don’t undergo multiple stages of approval at once, but the library and the city have worked heavily together, and are trying to get the project through the permitting process as quickly as possible.

After the permit process is complete, the King County Library System will need to go through the bidding process for the project. Then, the project will be ready to start the yearlong construction process, KCLS Director of Facilities Development

Letters to the Editor

August 5, 2010

Award-winning parkway project still has two problems to overcome

I think Coal Creek Parkway came out really well, and the award is deserved. The design is functional, and it seems like it should hold up reasonably well. The artistic elements (rock-look concrete and bridge arches) seem more aesthetically pleasing than plain concrete.

The primary problem is economic. We spent so much being the lead agency that we’ll be paying it off for a long time, significantly reducing the funds we have available for maintenance and services. If King County had been the lead agency, the road would probably have been designed to be a plainer highway, so there was a tradeoff.

The other problem is related to the first. The planting strips require more maintenance than the city can afford if they are to be kept up in garden fashion.

It might be necessary to plant a thick ground cover or shrubbery (not ivy) along with the street trees, and do weeding only once or twice a year; or mow it. Volunteers probably shouldn’t be working in the middle of Coal Creek Parkway, at least during the day, and there seems to be more work there than we can expect of volunteers on a regular basis, anyway.

If we can get past those two problems, I think we will be enjoying the parkway for a long time.

Peggy Price, Newcastle

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Council OKs six-year Transportation Improvement Plan

August 5, 2010

Coal Creek Parkway improvements, alternate Windtree entrance cut

The City Council approved its Transportation Improvement Plan for 2011-2016 at its July 6 regular meeting. The plan’s adoption was required by the state Department of Transportation.

The plan details the city’s upcoming transportation projects, which includes numerous ongoing projects as well as six new ones. The new projects call for the completion of a pedestrian gap near the Coal Creek YMCA, a study of 118th Avenue Southeast, and pedestrian improvements to 116th Avenue Southeast, Newcastle Way, 112th Avenue Southeast and 125th Avenue Southeast.

The existing projects include those that call for a new traffic signal to be installed at the intersection of Newcastle Way and 129th Avenue Southeast, and expansion of Southeast 84th Street.

The Pavement Management Program — which calls for repair, rehabilitation, reconstruction and maintenance of existing streets — is the city’s top priority.

The Pavement Management Program is also one of the most expensive projects, costing upward of $566,000 per year.

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Rapid Response

August 5, 2010

The City Council passed a resolution at its July 6 meeting opposing a countywide increase in taxes to fund public safety. What do you think of this resolution?

I’m sure they had their reasons.

— Trina Sooy, Newcastle

It is impossible to place a price on public safety services, but I totally support this resolution in view of our current economic downturn. The City Council has a tough job of making sure we don’t overspend while balancing the city’s budget.

— Thomas Tan, Newcastle

I’m all for improving public safety. I would like to know specifically what that means for Newcastle.

— Troy Anderson, Newcastle

The Parks Commission decided to move forward with building a dog park in the city. Next, it will look at possible locations in the city for the park. Where do you think the park should be located?

The north field of Lake Boren Park seems like a good location to me.

— Trina Sooy, Newcastle

What? So, we have funds to build a dog park in the city?

— Thomas Tan, Newcastle

Family’s allergic to dogs and cats. How’s the Newcastle border with Bellevue or Renton?

— Troy Anderson, Newcastle

The city recently adopted its 2011-2016 Transportation Improvement Plan. It originally called for a second entrance to the Windtree neighborhood to be built at Southeast 88th Place, but the City Council cut the project. What do you think of the decision?

I’ve always heard about Windtree, but don’t exactly know where it is after living here for 10 plus years. Instead, I’d like to see funding for a complete sidewalk or at least a widened shoulder along 116th from Newcastle Way to 88th, and along 89th/88th from Coal Creek to the west.

— Trina Sooy, Newcastle

I don’t know… thinking about the “public safety” aspect of a dog park!

— Thomas Tan, Newcastle

I’m still waiting for the park facility Sonny Putter promised when I moved into Newcastle 10 years ago; I remember it being in a plan once.

— Troy Anderson, Newcastle

Music and movies continue in August

August 5, 2010

Although the Concerts in the Park series concluded Aug. 4, the YMCA organized a teen concert to take place at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 11 in Lake Boren Park. Several local teen bands are scheduled to perform.

Also, Movies on the Green continues at The Golf Club at Newcastle with “Night at the Museum” Aug. 13. The film begins at dusk on the green of the ninth hole of the Coal Creek course. Admission and popcorn are free.

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