Yakima makes certain big ticket projects spending priorities

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Yakima's changing plans on some big ticket items that have been in the works. The city's considering spending millions on improvements and new facilities. But, that money only stretches so far. KIMA breaks down the city's priorities.

Yakima has a long to-do list. Fixing N. 1st Street. Building a pool. And, installing LED streetlights.

"We have limited fixed resources, so it's a question of their prioritization," said Yakima City Manager, Tony O'Rourke.

Topping the list is N. 1st Street. Improvements are a go. City Council already greenlighted an $8 million bond for them.

That leaves roughly $5 million to manage debt for a new pool. Yakima could work with a private business to control costs.

By now, you've seen the work on the streets. The city is spending millions on that, too.

But, those LEDs will have to wait.

Streets and Traffic Operations Manager, Joe Rosenlund, tells me the lights won't make the 2015 budget. The city planned to replace 4,000 old sodium streetlights for roughly $3 million.

"I'm a little disappointed. I think the LED replacement project is an excellent way for the city to improve our infrastructure and improve public safety to some degree."

But, Councilmember Rick Ensey says the city shouldn't spend a dime. Not until the utility tax is cut from six to four percent.

"It hurts the poor more than it hurts the rich. And, so the top priority should be to refund that money."

That money would cost the city roughly $800,000 in revenue.

"The projects aren't going to be put on hold by refunding this money. That's an argument that everybody's been making and I just refuse to believe it."

"It reduces our flexibility to address other capital demands, but in the scope of a $217 million budget, we can offset $800,000," said O'Rourke.

A big budget, but not enough room for everything.

Ensey also proposed amending the city charter to set aside $750,000 a year for Parks and Recreation. Voters will decide that in November.