Group to recommend future capital projects at Kennewick council Tuesday

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldDecember 9, 2013 

The Kennewick City Council will get some advice on how to go about meeting the city's future capital projects needs Tuesday from a group of local residents and community leaders.

The eight-person Blue Ribbon Commission will present recommendations for the next six years as well as the next two decades during the 6:30 p.m. workshop at Kennewick City Hall.

The committee was handed a wish list of 100 projects and then faced with the challenge of prioritizing them during the past 15 months, said Tom Moak, a member of the committee and commissioner-elect for the Port of Kennewick.

It wasn't quite as simple as just dividing the "must haves" from the "nice to haves," he said. Committee members also had to look at how the projects could be paid for.

The committee met with community leaders, city staff, elected officials and representatives form the Port of Kennewick, Tri-City Development Council, Kennewick School District, chambers of commerce, Benton County and Tri-Cities Visitor & Convention Bureau as part of the process, said Kris Watkins, a committee member and president and CEO of the bureau.

It also took into consideration priorities set by the council, said Moak, a former Kennewick councilman.

The committee examined projects important to public safety, economic development and quality of life, said Don Miksch of Kennewick, a Blue Ribbon Committee member. That includes police and fire needs, controlled and sustainable growth, city parks, the Three Rivers Convention Center and a possible performing arts center.

Safety is especially important, because without it, the entire community can deteriorate, Watkins said.

Among the capital projects considered were paving roads, downtown Kennewick revitalization, the Three Rivers Convention Center, police vehicles and fire department rigs, Moak said.

City staff also have said that new fire stations are on the committee's list of considerations. Kennewick Fire Chief Neil Hines said earlier this year that Kennewick may need to add three fire stations and update two others by 2025 for services to keep up with city growth.

The recommendations focus on the entire community, from Southridge and downtown Kennewick to the Three Rivers Entertainment District and Vista Field Airport, Miksch said.

Moak said the committee is providing guidance on potential sources of funding, which could include grants or taxes and fees. Some may be options the council could do, while others may need voter approval.

State budget cuts have trickled down to the cities, taking out revenue that Kennewick could once count on, officials have said.

That, combined with federal budget issues, have added a layer of difficulty to the process, Moak said.

Miksch said the committee hopes to provide current and future city councils with a template that can be used to examine projects as they come up.

Having a vision for the next 20 years could help keep the city open to opportunities that will help make the various projects happen, Watkins said.

Watkins said she hopes the work by the committee will be a useful tool for the city council as it moves forward on plans for the city's future.

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com

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