When Sammamish officials in the summer of 2014 lopped around $19m off its 2015 Six Year Transportation Improvement Plan from four long-standing road projects, they had already pledged to improve and widen Issaquah-Fall City Road along the entire length of the east side of the Klahanie Potential Annexation Area if voters there agreed to annex to Sammamish.
Klahanie PAA voters rejected a plan the previous January to annex to Issaquah. Sammamish, which campaigned against the Issaquah vote, promised to take on the road project if a subsequent vote to annex to Sammamish was held and approved. King County at one time placed a price tag of $32m on the project. Sammamish officials studied the plan and concluded King County had double-counted some of the work in a two-phase plan and estimated the cost was closer to $23m.
For several consecutive TIPs, costs for four key projects within Sammamish remained constant. Facing the Klahanie project, the 2015 TIP cut$19m from these projects. Another $3.6m was further reduced from the 2015 TIP for the 2016 TIP, approved last month.
The analysis that revealed City officials shifted $22.5m from road projects to fund the $23m Issaquah-Fall City road widening to fulfill a commitment for the Klahanie area annexation appears to go back on a pledge to Sammamish residents that they wouldn’t be impacted by the annexation.
It also appears to be an effort to mask early statements by City officials that Sammamish would have to issue $23m in bond debt to pay for the Issaquah-Fall City/Klahanie road widening project.
When Sammamish early this year was asked by the Boundary Review Board how the $23m widening of Issaquah-Fall City Road on the eastern length of the Klahanie annexation area would be paid for, Sammamish said it would have to issue bonds (debt).
Council Member Ramiro Valderamma, a proponent of the annexation, nonetheless began raising questions about issuing bonds. He also began asking for a public Council discussion about how this, and other road projects would be paid for, raising concerns over new bonded indebtedness.
The Council leadership, which is comprised of Mayor Tom Vance, Deputy Mayor Kathy Huckabay and City Manager Ben Yazici, refused to put the subject on the agenda. Nor could Valderrama muster four votes on the Council to bypass leadership. Under Council rules, this is an alternative option. But Vance, Huckabay, Council Member Tom Odell and Council Member Bob Keller comprise the ruling majority on the Council, aka the Gang of 4, and Valderrama can’t get the fourth vote he needs from the Gang.
Now, however, Yazici wrote Council Member Nancy Whitten that a discussion can be held after the election.
The shifting of $22.5m in road project costs from long-standing legacy Sammamish projects to the Klahanie annexation road project that costs $23m hardly seems a coincidental figure.
Even including $20m in grants the City assumes will be forthcoming over the period, the new Six Year Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) (2106-2021) is forecast to have an ending fund balance of just $107,000. Shifting costs from legacy project–reducing them by a remarkable 26% to 42%–to the Klahanie project and assuming the grants means, on paper, no new bonded indebtedness is required.
But this then leaves open how to account for such dramatic cost reductions in legacy projects and how to pay for them if these costs are restored–and this brings us back to the need for bonded indebtedness, new taxes or postponing projects for legacy Sammamish–something the City Council vowed wouldn’t happen.