Economy prompting new look at city's neighborhood enhancement program
September 23, 2010 · 1:18 PM
In view of budget constraints, the Bellevue City Council on Monday discussed less costly alternatives to the 22-year-old Neighborhood Enhancement Program (NEP).
Since 1988, the NEP has provided regular opportunities for neighborhoods to propose and select their own small capital improvements. The program cycles throughout the city every three years, allocating $4.5 million for projects in four to five neighborhood areas each year.
With the city budget shrinking, project costs increasing and other factors, staff proposed replacing the program with something more focused next year. In recent years, staff noted, construction and maintenance costs have made the most desirable neighborhood projects impossible to build within the NEP budget.
Staff proposed a public engagement program focusing intensively on the needs of one neighborhood area each year, as opposed to four to five.
Individually, council members expressed concern about changing a long-standing, popular program. Much discussion was focused on the issue of equity, which council members feared would be forfeited with a program focusing on only one neighborhood each year. Staff noted that other Neighborhood Outreach services and programs, including the Match and Fitness “partnership” programs, are equally available to all neighborhoods.
Council member Claudia Balducci suggested placing NEP on temporary hold until budget conditions change. Mayor Don Davidson said he believed the proposed change was “on the right track.” Other council members said they would need more information before making a decision.
The matter will continue as part of upcoming discussions on the proposed operating and capital budgets.