City Council to dely action on docks at Sammamish Landing

October 7, 2012

By Caleb Heeringa

New: Oct. 7, 10:16 a.m.

The fate of the docks at Sammamish Landing park will be decided at the Oct. 9 council meeting.

At an Oct. 2 Sammamish City Council meeting, Councilman Ramiro Valderrama and Mayor Tom Odell moved to freeze the funding of a $541,000 contract for the rebuilding of two docks at the waterfront park, saying the benefits do not justify the cost and that the city should hold onto the money for the potential YMCA-run community and aquatic center.

“This is a pocket park with limited access for many of our citizens,” Odell said. “It’s primarily serving people who use the trail … Our priority at this point should be the community center.”

The docks, one 90 feet long and the other 60 feet, are to be used for fishing, swimming and docking and launching small boats. They are the final facet of the first phase of development of the park, which opened to the public earlier this year. The two docks are currently in a state of disrepair and fenced off to the public due to the potential safety hazards, Parks Director Jessi Richardson said.

But the idea of stopping the project in its tracks after city staff spent months arranging permits from the state to do construction work in Lake Sammamish did not appeal to the rest of the council. Richardson said the city had spent countless staff hours and approximately $72,000 to date on permit and design work that could be useless if the city puts off construction plans this fall and winter. State regulations require that all in-water work be finished by the end of the year.

Councilwoman Nancy Whitten said the time for fiscal austerity was during the master plan process, not in the middle of a project.

“Why let staff waste their time designing (the docks) if we’re not going to go forward with it?” Whitten asked.

Valderrama and Odell echoed earlier concerns about the lack of access to the park, which is only accessible from the East Lake Sammamish Trail. The nearest public parking is nearly a half-mile away on 187th Avenue Northeast. Later stages of the park’s master plan call for a 36-stall parking lot on the other side of East Lake Sammamish Parkway, but the council has yet to earmark money for the lot.

Richardson said she had been pleasantly surprised by recent counts of park users – something several councilmembers have been pushing for at all Sammamish’s parks. A count at the end of August showed an average of 15 people an hour using the park, with a maximum of 54 people an hour on a sunny Saturday in early September.

“For a passive park, that’s high usage,” Richardson said. “Even with the accessibility challenges, the park is being used heavily.”

Valderrama said he had only seen three or four people at the park the times that he visited and said most of those he questioned at the park were not Sammamish residents. He questioned why the city was investing in a park used by residents from outside the city.

Whitten pointed out that much of the land for the park was donated to the city – both from the city of Redmond and from private landowners who wished to see a public waterfront park in Sammamish.

“This was always meant to serve the broader public in addition to Sammamish residents,” Whitten said.

Building the docks will also put the project over its original $650,000 budget. Approximately $314,000 of that fund is left; city staff is proposing that the remainder of the $541,000 bill for the docks come from an $850,000 contingency fund for parks projects.

The debate became mired in procedural hurdles – state law requires that a majority of the seven-member council approve all contracts, but Councilman John Curley and Deputy Mayor John James were absent from the meeting. With Odell and Valderrama dissenting votes on the approval of the docks, the remaining councilmembers in favor – Whitten and Councilmen Don Gerend and Tom Vance – did not reach the four-vote threshold. The council agreed to readdress the matter at their Oct. 9 meeting, when they hope to have a full council.

 

Reporter Caleb Heeringa can be reached at 392-6434. ext. 247, or cheeringa@isspress.com.

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