Public Works Projects on Track as Yelm Extends Financial Forecast Due to COVID-19

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Despite the spread of COVID-19 in many cases keeping people at home and off the streets, staff at the city of Yelm’s Public Works Department are keeping busy with a number of projects that are underway.

At a regular city council meeting on Tuesday, Patrick Hughes, project manager with the department, gave a lengthy report on recent and upcoming projects. He also gave an update on the city’s effort to retrofit its wastewater treatment facility.

The following is a broad list of updates Hughes gave to the council.

• Public Works is busy processing data and compiling a report in its bi-annual traffic count, which is done in odd years. The count was done last October at various locations around the city.

• The department is currently working on its annual overlay and pavement management preservation program, which looks at the maintenance needs of its roads throughout the city.

• Yelm is currently in the acquisition phase of the Mosman Avenue improvement project. An offer to purchase property owned by Tahoma Valley Golf and Country Club is currently being examined by the Washington State Department of Transportation. Once that offer is approved by the state, it will go forward to the property owner. Hughes said the hope is that they’ll start construction in a year. The city is still seeking funds for the project.

• The Mill Road sidewalk improvement project received about 12 bids on Friday, April 24, Hughes said. The project seeks to improve the pedestrian sidewalk along the area of road near Mill Pond Elementary with a quarter mile of 6-feet-wide sidewalk. The chosen contractor will likely be able to start earlier, Hughes said, due to statewide closures of K-12 schools over COVID-19 concerns. A majority of the project is being funded through a $300,000 grant from the state Transportation Improvement Board. A construction agreement is due to the council at the May 12 meeting.

• Public Works is also looking at a possible water mains extension project that would help service the eastern part of the city, including parts of Walmart Boulevard. The city is looking at the possibility of acquiring a portion of land that’s being developed for the Nisqually Landing Apartments to put a possible water storage reservoir. The property is about 1.34 acres, and Hughes said the goal is to begin construction on the reservoir by late 2021.

In addition to these updates, Hughes said Public Works is also looking at completing collection improvements on the city’s wastewater treatment facility.

Hughes said four different rate models to pay for the new wastewater treatment facility are due to the city’s Public Works Committee. The city is planning on applying for state grants and loans to help pay for a $22.2 million fix for the facility.

The impact to ratepayers is still not yet known as the city is still working out the details, he said.

“We don’t know that yet, we are not there yet, but the idea is that we would plug in different scenarios, grants and loans and see how it would potentially affect the sewer rates. We’re doing that now,” he said.

In a financial outlook update to the council, City Administrator Michael Grayum said the outlook on the city’s financial revenues was on track and that the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak show minimal impact to the city’s collection of property taxes in 2020 and 2021.

Most of the city’s revenue comes in the form of sales taxes, B&O taxes, and property tax collections.

The city has also been working to reduce expenditures as staff expect a decline in revenue starting the second quarter of 2020. Hiring for new positions at the city has largely ceased, although the staff is still working to fill crucial vacant positions.

Grayum also noted that city staff are currently developing a long term revenue forecast to continue to model the impacts of COVID-19. The forecast will look out through 2030.

The Yelm Farmers Market is still on for this summer and autumn, Grayum said, and will likely be the only city-backed event through the rest of the year.

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