By Elon Glucklich
Reducing crime, fixing aging park equipment, improving downtown buildings and hiring a new airport director top Redmond city leaders’ list of short-term priorities, as the city prepares to draw up its budget for the next fiscal year.
The heads of Redmond’s city departments submitted their list of budget priorities to the City Council last week, outlining some of the challenges their departments face. The priority reports came in advance of formal budget requests, which are expected in April.
Some of the items submitted last week represent crucial safety needs. Redmond has a “significantly high crime rate,” with about 50 out of every 1,000 residents committing some sort of crime against another person or property , the document covering police department priorities reads.
Redmond is in the final stages of hiring two additional patrol officers, City Manager Keith Witcosky said.
The city’s goal is to reduce the crime rate by 10 percent in the next fiscal year, focusing extra patrols to track repeat offenders and cut down on street crime in the city.
The rest of the documents focused on needs ranging from downtown improvement projects to park repairs to sidewalk fixes.
Mayor George Endicott said finding a permanent Redmond Airport director and financing a major runway overhaul topped his list of priorities.
Robert Noble has served as interim director since replacing Kim Dickie in October. Endicott said more continuity is needed, especially as the airport starts a $20 million overhaul of its primary runway. More than half of the money is expected to come from state and federal grants.
“Being the primary commercial airport in the region, it’s really important we keep that airport in very good physical condition, so it’s important to get the runway rebuilt,” Endicott said.
He and several city councilors said remodeling the vacant Evergreen Elementary School building is a major priority.
The city last month announced a $13 million urban renewal effort to fix up neglected buildings across the city to make them more attractive to businesses and private developers. The urban renewal work is expected to include a complete overhaul of the Evergreen building, which has been vacant since 2010. Conversations have centered on possibly relocating the Redmond City Hall into Evergreen, along with another organization like a business or school.
“I’m really anxious to continue the discussion around a new city hall, potentially moving into Evergreen,” Redmond City Councilor Joe Centanni said. He said the urban renewal work, if done right, could give Redmond the economic shot in the arm it needs as the city crawls out of the recession.
“It’s an exciting thing, because now we can really work toward those public-private partnerships in our (downtown) core area,” Centanni said.
The recession’s impact on the city goes beyond rundown, vacant buildings. Councilor Jay Patrick said various city departments are grappling with staff shortages.
Job losses after the 2008 housing market collapse meant less tax revenue coming into the city. That’s led to layoffs in areas, such as the Community Development Department and other administrative areas.
Patrick said he’s heard complaints from some Redmond residents about long waits for help with utility and billing issues.
With the economy picking up a bit, Patrick said the city should consider adding staff for departments seeing more customers.
Other issues included taking on a growing backlog of park maintenance needs. Endicott said the city would work this year to fix up Sam Johnson Park off Southwest Evergreen Avenue.
“Parks sort of suffered under the recession, without the money” needed to keep them in better shape, he said.
Just because city leaders have pointed out an area of need doesn’t mean the work will be done this year. Redmond’s budget committee is set to meet next month to start outlining the city’s budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year.
— Reporter: 541-617-7820, firstname.lastname@example.org