Council discusses potential of annexation
October 4, 2012
By Christina Corrales-Toy
Most council members feel the discussion is ‘premature’
The Newcastle City Council decided against taking any exploratory action toward a possible annexation by Bellevue, at least for now, at its Sept. 4 meeting.
In a discussion that lasted more than an hour, the City Council debated whether the issue of annexation was even appropriate to discuss at the current time.
The prevailing sentiment among the council members was that the discussion was premature.
Councilman Bill Erxleben, who made the initial motion to get the discussion on the agenda, started the conversation by arguing that it was important to explore whether annexation by Bellevue was a viable option, given Newcastle’s financial forecast based on numbers from the council’s June budget retreat.
“What I’m urging now is that this city, which is facing a difficult financial future, check out its options,” he said. “This is a proposal in the interest of full disclosure to our citizens to protect the city by checking out its options.”
Councilmen Steve Buri and John Dulcich, in particular, were more optimistic about the city’s financial future and said they felt the Bellevue discussion was premature.
“I don’t dispute that it’s a good discussion to have. I think it’s a discussion that we would be much better informed on, three to five years from now,” Buri said. “We’ve anticipated deficits every year that I’ve been on this council. Every single year, we’ve anticipated deficits. We’ve never anticipated a surplus, and every year we’ve come close to a balanced budget.”
Dulcich added that the city of Newcastle can be a city if it wants to be a city, especially if the local government is willing to roll up its sleeves and work, and manage through tough economic times.
“One thing I’m sure of, this talk on Bellevue annexation is way premature, it’s a distraction. We’re not in such situation where we should even be considering this option,” he said. “It’s not time for the city of Newcastle to fold its tent.”
Councilwoman Carol Simpson agreed that such discussion was a distraction when the city should be focused on other matters.
“It’s a huge distraction to keep having this discussion keep popping up,” she said. “I would like to put it to bed that we’re not going to discuss it for a while, and we’re going to focus on going forward and making our city a doable city. That we’re going to solve our problems and go forward.”
Deputy Mayor Lisa Jensen said she appreciated the discussion, but like Buri, she felt it would be more realistic to explore it at a later time.
“The question is about timing,” she said. “While I may not be as far down the road as Councilmember Buri, in the three- to five-year time frame, I still think at least in the six-month to one-year time frame, it may be more realistic to look more closely at this question.”
Mayor Rich Crispo and Jensen said they both believed that many residents choose to live in Newcastle for a reason.
“There is something unique about the city that a person chooses to live in, and a lot of people have chosen to live here because it is Newcastle and because it is a small city and because they like running into their councilmembers at Safeway or Bartell’s or Sweet Decadence, and there’s just that community feel,” Jensen said.
“I think most of the folks that have moved into this city in the last 15 years had choices to go other places,” Crispo added. “In general, it’s because they like what’s here.”
Erxleben said that the Newcastle area could still have that sense of community if it were to be annexed by Bellevue, as evidenced by the Newport Hills community.
“I want to point out Newport Hills,” he said. “It has a community center, it has an annual festival, it has a separate name, it has ball fields, it has a dog park. So they haven’t lost their, quote unquote, community identity.”
Erxleben maintained that he was not urging the city to consolidate with Bellevue. Rather, he hoped to further explore whether it was a possibility.
Councilman Gordon Bisset agreed with Erxleben and added that, to do the exploration, it would have to start early so voters could be properly informed of the alternative.
“All we are asking for here is that we investigate whether this is another alternative that we can tell the voters about,” Bisset said.
Toward the end of the discussion, Erxleben made a motion to appoint an ad hoc committee of three members of the council to begin informal discussions with Bellevue concerning annexation. It was seconded by Bisset, but the motion failed 5-2.
Later in the meeting, Erxleben made a motion that the city’s annual town hall meeting include information on the option of annexation by Bellevue. The motion, however, was not seconded.