More than 100 attend annual town hall meeting

November 2, 2012

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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NEW — 10:40 a.m. Nov. 2, 2012

About 115 residents armed with electronic voting clickers responded to real-time poll questions at the annual town hall meeting held Oct. 29 at The Golf Club at Newcastle.

City Manager Rob Wyman presented information about the 2013 preliminary budget and future development in the city, while Newcastle Police Chief Melinda Irvine offered information on community safety, crime prevention and Newcastle police staffing levels.

With the electronic voting devices, residents had the opportunity to offer their feedback about the city’s performance.

Residents were asked how satisfied they were with the services that the city provides. The majority of respondents said they were somewhat satisfied with city services at 52 percent of the vote, 36 percent said they were very satisfied and 12 percent said they were unsatisfied.

The majority of respondents also said they were somewhat satisfied with the City Council’s performance with 65 percent of the vote, 19 percent said they were very satisfied and 16 percent said they were unsatisfied.

When it came to development, 67 percent of residents polled at the meeting said they see Newcastle as a bedroom community with basic services, while 33 percent said they have a vision of the city as a bigger downtown area with multi-story buildings.

The evening ended with a question-and-answer session, where topics discussed included annexation to Bellevue, how the City Council prioritizes the city’s capital projects and the development of the Mutual Materials site.

Councilman John Dulcich called the development of the Mutual Materials site “one of the biggest decisions facing the city,” and residents were vocal about what they wanted to see in the site’s development.

One resident pushed for heavy commercial development of the site, setting the stage for a strong commercial tax base for the city.

Another resident wanted to make sure the site strikes the proper balance between commercial and residential development. He stressed the importance of the Newcastle lifestyle, known for its neighborhoods and easy living. The resident questioned how a commercial development of that size would impact the community-oriented atmosphere in Newcastle.

But ultimately, the city won’t have a great deal of say in what happens to the site, Councilman Bill Erxleben said.

“The problem is we don’t control what goes in there, the owners do,” he said.

The topic of Bellevue annexation came up again when a resident asked if the City Council was considering it.

Mayor Rich Crispo acknowledged that there was a difference of opinion among the council members in terms of Bellevue annexation. But Crispo added that if the city got to that point, it would be up to the residents to determine what to do with the city going forward.

The city has posted the PowerPoint presentation from the meeting, along with results from the poll questions, at its website here.

An audio recording of the meeting is also available here.

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