A disagreement among Oak Harbor City Council members and staff over plans for the city’s future 75-acre park continued during a meeting June 1 when council members rejected staff’s recommendation to pay for a traffic study that had already been completed.
The council voted 4-3 to reject an amendment that would have added $6,500 to the contract with David Evans and Associates to cover the cost of the traffic study comparing Northwest Elwha Street and Gun Club Road as entry points to the city’s park.
Council members Joel Servatius, Jeffrey Mack, Erica Wasinger and Mayor Pro Tem Beth Munns were the nay votes.
Although the results of a public survey and a city council resolution stated residents would prefer to have initial access on Gun Club Road, Mayor Bob Severns sent a memo to council members on May 14 that city staff recommended Northwest Elwha Street instead.
Severns’ memo said the council’s resolution was contingent on a traffic study and further information from Island County when council members approved it in April, although the resolution itself does not reference either.
It was unclear during the meeting who exactly ordered the traffic study.
City Engineer Alex Warner explained during a May 26 workshop that he was worried the city may not be able to complete the project to build two soccer fields and 50 parking spaces before the deadline to use a $350,000 grant from the state Recreation and Conservation Office if the city proceeds with access on Gun Club Road.
The city will need to widen the road and add sidewalks, which will take time to complete, he said.
Council members aired their frustrations with staff over the change during the workshop meeting, and staff members relented and said they would proceed with Gun Club Road access. Council members noted that Northwest Elwha Street is in a crowded neighborhood and diverting traffic through it would disrupt the area.
Though results of the traffic study were shared during that workshop meeting, Councilmember Servatius said June 1 that he was unaware it had been completed and that he was taken by surprise by the request to pay for work that was already done and not vice versa.
Councilmember Tara Hizon agreed.
“Seeing an amendment to pay for something after the fact is a bit of a surprise,” she said. “It’s the asking to pay for something after the fact that is the hang-up, just philosophically.”
Warner said he would look for cost savings in the consultant’s contract to pay for the traffic study and make an amendment to the contract unnecessary.
Warner also said he would try harder to keep council members up-to-date on the project going forward.