City manager shines light on state of the city

  • Written by Don Mann
In the banquet room of Chateau Ste. Michelle and in front of a large crowd of some of the city’s heaviest hitters — a much larger crowd than normal —  Woodinville City Manager Richard Leahy gave his 2013 State of the City Address at a Woodinville Chamber of Commerce-sponsored luncheon last Thursday.

Leahy noted it was his sixth such event, having come to Woodinville in 2007.

He reviewed the city’s happenings in 2012, including information about the city’s budget, development activity, crime rates and the results of a recently-conducted market demand study.

He also shared some of the city’s goals and outlooks for 2013, including an aggressive capital improvement plan with two major road widening projects, adding an additional police officer to improve the city’s crime rate and several residential and commercial developments coming down the pike.

Leahy began by introducing two new faces at City Hall, Development Services Director Dave Kuhl and Assistant Public Works Director Rick Roberts.

Regarding city finances, Leahy noted a “slight improvement.” The city’s budget is balanced with no new taxes or tax increases for the eighth consecutive year, and no use of reserves to fund operations — which increasingly is occurring in other nearby municipalities, he said.

The city’s biennial budget for 2013-14 stands at $43,575,053 with about $21 million, or 49 percent, designated for capital projects and about the same for operations. The remaining one million, about 2 percent, is for debt repayment of bonds sold to build City Hall five years ago.

Leahy noted that the city currently pays 37 fill-time employees, down from its high-water mark of 67 in 2006.

Capital improvement projects of major significance include the widening of the Sammamish Bridge as well as Woodinville-Duvall Road, and both are currently in design phase and will break ground in 2014, he said.

Regarding public safety, Leahy noted total crimes in Woodinville were down 2.6 percent in 2012 from the previous year. Part 1 crimes, however, those considered more severe, are up 8 percent while Part 2 crimes — those considered less severe — are down 13 percent.

The city will employ an additional patrol officer early this year and will consider using video technology — cameras on the streets — to assist in fighting crime.

In 2012 the Woodinville Police Department dispatched nearly 2,900 calls for service, he said, a figure expected to continue to ascend.

In terms of the city’s economy, Leahy noted recent signs of slight but noticeable improvement, including some movement in single-family residential projects.

Commercial projects of note include development of Woodin Creek Village, formerly known as Canterbury and set to begin in 2014.

There is also reportedly a new owner of the land once reserved for the Woodinville Village project, though the city knows not who, and the two parties have yet to communicate.

Private development, however, is at its lowest point in a decade, Leahy said, with new building permit activity sagging to $5.2 million, down from its high-water mark of $94 million in 2007.

A market demand study recently completed by Texas-based Buxton revealed significant “leakage” when comparing estimated retail demand versus actual retail sales and identified a demand for more restaurants and hotels in town.

The next step for the city, Leahy said, will be to host “open houses” for property owners, realtors and potential developers to establish what type of restaurants and hotels fit the Woodinville market and image.

New downtown street standards have also been updated to establish an overall design plan for future development in downtown Woodinville consistent with its desired image, he said.

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