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Yelm’s City Council received news last night that three improvement projects are over-budget. City staffers explained in each instance that construction costs have sky-rocketed due to petroleum related products, i.e. asphalts, steel, etc.

1. Yelm Prairie Line trail bid
The current cost estimate exceeds the original bid by $56,000.
Approved was $65,000 from the Capital Reserve Fund, which includes a $9,000 contingency.

When Mayor Harding asked for questions from the Council, Council member Don Miller asked, “Can we afford it?”
This observer in Council Chambers thought that an interesting question from a Council member for 2 reasons:
A. Does a City Council member not know the budget with which they are given responsibility, instead relying on a a city staffer to answer the question?
B. That a City Council member asked such a question is bold, as this is a question that needs to be examined about every item in Yelm’s budget, since this city has been spending alot of money against the backdrop of a national, state and county economic downturn.
Mr. Miller, I applaud your asking the question, especially as the City Council approaches working with the 2009 budget this Fall!

2. Coates Avenue Reconstruction
This little over $1.025 million project is over-budget due to unexpected right-of-way cost, the replacement of some undersized water line and the addition of new water and sewer lines. The $75,000 in under-runs on Stevens & West Streets projects is expected to cover the overages on this Coates Street project. The road will be open during construction, which will occur during the school year. This road gets alot of school bus barn traffic and others using the inner loop to bypass Yelm Ave. West morning traffic.

3. Longmire Park reclaimed water line
A $40,800 budget amendment increase was approved bringing this job total now to $408,800. Yelm Public Works Director Time Peterson told the City Council his department is currently trucking water to the park 8-10 hours a day. The added expense is necessitated by the fact that water, sewer and reuse water lines all have separating requirements down the same street, so the reuse water line to Longmire Park will have to go down the center of the street, increasing asphalt/repaving costs. There is a 15% contingency in this bid.

While the City Council has funded some wonderful projects, look for greatly reduced spending next year as the slowdown trickles down to Yelm. Continued project overruns and funding from the city’s reserves should serve as a red flag, just as Councilman Miller naively asked, “Can we afford this?”

What say you?

UPDATE: The Nisqually Valley News carried this front page story in their July 25th print & web editions.

Posted by Steve on July 23, 2008 at 6:15 am | Permalink

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