Kenmore to move public works in house

Its contract with the city of Lake Forest Park is expiring in 2019.

The city of Lake Forest Park will no longer provide public works operations services to Kenmore after this year, meaning that these services will need to be provided “in-house” in 2019.

Public works operations manager Jennifer Gordon noted at a Kenmore City Council meeting last month that though it represents more work for her and the city, she is “truly excited” about the switch.

The department provides a range of services, currently through private and public contracts primarily. Other contracts, such as the one with King County, will continue even as the Lake Forest Park one terminates.

Notable public works services include street maintenance, surface water, parks maintenance, facilities maintenance and fleet management.

“We are optimistic about this change and believe it will result in improved local control of public works services for the same or less cost, especially over the long term,” according to the council’s Aug. 13 agenda bill.

However, the city does need to find a place to house its new public works crew and equipment. City manager Rob Karlinsey said that city-owned property can be used on an interim basis but that Kenmore is on the lookout for properties that can serve that purpose in the long term.

The city also needs about $850,000 in startup costs to hire employees, purchase equipment and supplies and prepare a temporary site. It’s planning on using the back of the post office in Kenmore for office space and a site near SR-522, at the corner of 67th Avenue Northeast, for storage.

A coffee shop on the latter site will need to close or relocate, Karlinsey said, though the city could try to offset some costs, as it is moving a private business to make way for a public use.

The city had one site in mind over the summer for its public works garage: 6646 NE 202nd St. It is a 5.5 acre property, located in a residential area. On June 11, the Kenmore City Council authorized the city manager to enter into a purchase and sale agreement to potentially acquire the property, with a 90-day feasibility study set to end in mid-September.

However, a letter notifying neighbors in the area about the potential purchase resulted in vocal opposition. Given the response, Karlinsey recommended that the council either not buy the property, use it for open space purposes or eventually resell it.

The council voted 6-1 to purchase the land, with an option to “dispose of any residual property back to the private sector,” with council member Joe Marshall opposed.

Karlinsey said he was working with the state Recreation and Conservation Office to get a stronger sense on whether this property would work for open space credit. In the meantime, the council needed to move forward with authorizing positions and salary ranges for its public works positions and approving startup costs. It was set to do so on Sept. 10.

Based on a level of service analysis, 12 employees are estimated: five maintenance workers, an administrative employee and six seasonal employees.

The contract with Lake Forest Park started in May 2001, when Kenmore was still a new city. Since then, it has been amended 14 times, but “as demands on workload and competing priorities for each city have increased, it has not worked as well in recent years,” according to the city.

Kenmore spends about $924,000 annually for its public works services through the city of Lake Forest Park, but estimates that it will spend about $647,000 per year on in-house services, resulting in yearly savings of $277,000 once the department is fully up and running.

The city added a “public works shop” project to its Capital Improvement Program and the Capital Facilities Element of its Comprehensive Plan, which the council also discussed on Sept. 10. The preliminary budget is estimated at $6.5 million for land acquisition and development.

“There will be several years where we will be paying a net increase because of the operational and the capital costs,” Karlinsey said on Sept. 10. “I think the number we showed back you in August was in the $170,000 range extra per year for several years, but then after that we start heading back into positive territory again.”

According to the Sept. 10 agenda bill, a 1.5-acre site will be needed, though “the city has not yet identified a property for the shop and will not be ready to do so for several months.”

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This story was updated at 2 p.m. on Sept. 11.