What lies ahead
struggles with growth issues
Express Staff Writer
changing in Bellevue, and no one is more aware of that than the six
members of the Bellevue City Council.
addressed a lengthy agenda Thursday that covered issues ranging from
assessing the state of the city’s finances to considering numerous fee
hikes for various city services. No major legislation was produced, but
discussions repeatedly made one point painfully clear: the city is
experiencing growing pains, perhaps like never before.
months, council members have heard that the city’s water and sewer
systems need various upgrades, the parks need work that city staffers
don’t have time to do, and the computer system in Bellevue City Hall
is sufficiently old and problematic that city employees can’t access
certain databases pertaining to the city budget.
solutions are usually apparent, but council members—and Mayor John
Barton—are all mindful of one governing concern: most actions require
money, and the city’s income is limited.
new business and development plans are being proposed on a regular
basis, lending credence to assumptions that more and more people will
soon reside within the city boundaries, placing additional strain on
city facilities, services and staff.
council has been active in recent months, passing legislation to
purchase open space, encourage the installation of water meters, and
adopt a new Comprehensive Plan to assist in future planning and land-use
decisions. The panel has also shown support for the city to establish
its own Internet site.
addition, certain members of the council have taken leading roles in
other matters pertaining to the city, particularly negotiations with the
City of Hailey and Blaine County over the city’s area-of-city-impact
boundaries—which will in part define how much the city will grow.
members are currently reviewing proposed legislation to change the city’s
requirements for parking provided by businesses and residential
developments—an initiative sparked by Barton’s desire to make
downtown Bellevue more business friendly.
the abundance of issues already before the council that could shape the
future of Bellevue prompted a call for action Thursday by Councilwoman
need to create a vision plan for the city," she said, essentially
challenging the panel to look at the myriad of growth-related challenges
in an integrated fashion, not as piecemeal agenda items.
comment came as council members reviewed an audit report on the city’s
financial status and practices during the 2001-2002 fiscal year, which
closed on Sept. 30.
report provided generally good news, but aroused concern among some
council members because of an apparent lack of funds for large
Stoker, a financial specialist hired to do the audit, told council
members that the city has greatly improved its financial status in
recent years, but still does not have an abundance of cash funds that
could be used for new projects the city doesn’t typically include in
its annual budget.
said most of the city’s assets are based in the value of its utilities
systems, and also warned that the city has only "limited
opportunities" for increasing the amount of money it brings in to
its General Fund each year.
Stoker told council members that the city generally maintains an
adequate cash flow to pay its bills. In addition, he noted that the
coming years will be important ones for the city in how it manages
growth and conducts its business.
city of Hailey went through a lot of growth in the last 10 years, and
Bellevue is knocking on that same door," he said.
assessment is likely correct. Bellevue’s new Comprehensive Plan—approved
and adopted by the council in late September—estimates that the city
will be built out by 2006, and will more than double in population by
current estimated population of the city is 1,980.
the audit presentation Thursday, council members unanimously approved—with
Council Wayne Douthit abstaining—a proposal by city bookkeeper Lori
Turner for the city to purchase three new computers and a new accounting
software system for offices in city hall.
members subsequently gave a vote of support to resident Martin Chandler
to enter into negotiations with the county to purchase a downtown parcel
that includes the Wood River Fire and Rescue building—part of which
the city could lease for its own fire department.
amid lingering concerns over how the city will fund future projects to
accommodate growth, council members deferred any decisive action on
proposals to increase fees for services pertaining to the Planning and
Zoning Commission and for certain entities to use city parks.
Parke Mitchell was particularly concerned with whether the city was
generally charging enough money for its services to pay for programs—and
perhaps save enough to implement new plans.
summed up the meeting—and the city’s overall position—in one brief
comment. "I wish we could solve all of our problems in one night,
but we’re not going to," he said.