Arlington waiting on budget decisions

By BRIAN KELLY

Herald Writer

ARLINGTON — Although some projects are already firmly set in the city’s 2001 spending plan, Arlington officials will wait until the beginning of next year before deciding which major infrastructure projects will be funded in the 2001 budget.

"It’s coming a little bit late for us this year," said Kristin Hanson, assistant city administrator.

But that’s by design.

Earlier this year, the city began to evaluate and rank items on its infrastructure wish list. With that effort still under way, council members decided to defer a final decision on the complete capital projects list until the evaluation process is finished, Hanson said.

A final decision will probably be made in January or February, Hanson said, and the 2001 budget will be amended to reflect the changes. The city has approximately $9 million to spend on capital projects next year.

The mix of potential projects includes improvements to the new park in Smokey Point, a new fire station or city hall, and assistance with a new library in Arlington for the Sno-Isle Library System.

Some capital spending, though, such as $1.5 million for continuing work on the city’s new water treatment plant, has already been planned.

Construction of the new facility will cost more than $4 million; $2.5 million was budgeted for the project this year.

"Water plants are not cheap to build, especially when you’re making sure they are the best they can be," Hanson said. A Public Works Trust Fund loan will help pay for the project.

"All the construction should be done in early 2001, and we’ll be online with the new plant," she said.

At least $1.6 million will be set aside for transportation projects. The city has received two grants, totaling more than $1.3 million, for improvements to 67th Avenue NE between 176th and 204th Street NE. The two-lane road, a main arterial, will be reconstructed and expanded.

The budget also sets aside $1.5 million for infrastructure improvements at the airport, including work to renovate and extend aircraft taxi lanes, upgrade a beacon and install new runway lights. The airport’s master plan will also be updated.

The FAA is paying 90 percent of the costs.

"There’s a lot of competition for money, and it’s exciting they are focusing on some general aviation airports," Hanson said. Some of the work may not be completed until 2002, she added.

Arlington’s total budget for next year is $34 million, a 4.3 percent increase from this year. Property taxes will increase 2 percent.

The 2001 current expense fund, the part of the budget that pays for day-to-day operations like police, fire department and public works, is up almost 6 percent to $6.2 million.

Noteworthy changes include a substantial increase in fire protection services and a five-figure drop in animal control costs.

Arlington will make its first payment next year to Fire District 12 for coverage of Smokey Point. The city will pay the district $255,340 for fire service in the newly annexed area, the initial installment in a 10-year contract.

The city also expects to spend $28,500 on animal control costs next year. Arlington shut down its city-run animal shelter earlier this year. The city has been spending more than $100,000 annually to operate the facility.

Although Arlington’s old shelter was reopened by a volunteer group, the city now contracts with the city of Everett for animal shelter services. Whether Arlington will continue that contract in the future or get services through the local grass-roots group remains to be seen.

"The council is still discussing contract options. Hopefully in a month or two they will come to a conclusion … on which way they want to go," Hanson said.

All told, the city will have a total of 111 employees next year if the budget is approved without changes.

Arlington will eliminate one job at City Hall, but create three new positions in 2001. Gone is an economic development coordinator position, a job created this year but never filled. The new positions are an accounting assistant in the finance department, an office worker for water and sewer operations, and an engineering technician for public works.

A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held at the council meeting on Dec. 4. The council expects to adopt the budget at the council meeting on Dec. 18.

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