Kent City Council’s May 21, 2024 meeting celebrated local giving, essential workers, and informative goodbyes.

Kent employees generously donated to mental health through their Spring Fling fundraiser, while Mayor Dana Ralph acknowledged the unseen heroes of the Public Works Department during National Public Works Week.

Senator Karen Keiser, on her way out after a long career, shared achievements like a strong state budget and boosted police training funds before bidding farewell.

Buckle up, though, because road closures due to bridge repairs and roundabout construction were also on the agenda.

Kent Employee Charity Contribution

Kent employees hold charity fundraisers twice a year. At their recent Spring Fling fundraiser, they were able to raise $2,662. Members of the Kent Employee Charity Committee presented a giant check to their chosen recipient, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Proclamation for National Public Works Week

Mayor Dana Ralph read the proclamation honoring National Public Works Week, and it was accepted by Kent Public Works Director Chad Bieren. Mayor Ralph said the majority of their work is often done behind the scenes; she added that you know the Public Works department is doing a great job when you don’t notice them. Bieren said that Kent employs more than 200 Public Works professionals, where they do vital work for the community. He shared that there are many great jobs and careers in Public Works, and those seeking good jobs should consider this field.

Legislative Update From Senator Karen Keiser

Senator Keiser, who is retiring later this year after decades of public service, gave Council her final legislative update. She said unlike what you see in national politics, 95% of bills in Washington State are passed with bipartisan support. She said during the short, 60-day legislative session that just ended, lawmakers were able to pass a balanced budget, with a financial reserve and rainy-day fund. Excellent budgeting has allowed the state to earn a coveted AAA bond-rating. In addition, Washington was listed as a top-ten state for businesses nationwide, while also being selected as a top-five state for employees.

Keiser reported that she was unfortunately unable to get enough support for a bill she introduced for Kent, which would allow for a slight sales tax increase to fund increased public safety. She added that this bill still has potential in future legislative sessions. 

Senator Keiser said the state will be covering 100% of police officer training now, rather than just a portion of the cost. Also, state law now allows police departments to let experienced police officers work part-time if they prefer. Senator Keiser hopes this increased flexibility will allow the state to meet its goal of 30% female police officers by 2030.

Keiser reported that there were also air quality, port package replacement, and affordable housing bills passed, as well as legislation to increase gun safety and reduce catalytic converter theft.

Following her update, councilmembers took turns sharing how much Senator Keiser’s leadership and representation has meant to them over the years. Mayor Ralph said Senator Keiser has always been a responsive, caring, and involved representative. It was enough to bring tears to the senator’s eyes, and she received a standing ovation.

Council Updates

Mayor Ralph reported that a new business is coming to the city. Top Pot Donuts will be moving their production to Kent Valley. According to Ralph, Top Pot will be baking 40,000 donuts a day at this facility.

Councilmember Brenda Fincher shared updates on some traffic projects coming this summer. She said the Green River Bridge will be entirely closed for repainting starting in June, and that notifications are being sent out to area residents so they can plan alternative routes. In addition, Reith Road will have temporary lane closures that will likely slow traffic as roundabouts are installed.

Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) Updates

The city’s TIP plan was updated to remove completed transportation projects, and to add new ones that are intended for the next 5 years. Four completed projects include the addition of sidewalks along 240th St, pedestrian improvements along Russell Road, enhanced crossing lights on 104th, 240th, and two spots along Central Ave, as well as work on 76th Ave S.

There are six recommended projects which Council voted to add to the TIP, including an overlay along 132nd St, which will add a curb for safer walking. They will also be building bike lanes between Meeker & James St, completing a connection for continuous safer biking. This project is fully funded by grants.

Bids Approved

Two bids were approved, including the Green River Bridge repainting. Public Works Director Chad Bieren explained that the project includes replacing the decking of the entire bridge, as well as repainting the metal components. The bridge will be wrapped in a plastic sheath to ensure that no debris falls into the river below as they remove old paint and decking. 

The bridge was built in 1958, and last repainted in the 1990s. Bieren expects this repainting project to help the bridge last another 30 years. This project was funded almost entirely by federal grants. He did add that the project will have a significant traffic impact over the planned 2 month period, beginning in June.

Mellow DeTray

Mellow DeTray is a Seattle native who has spent the last 17 years raising her family in the region. For many years she published a moderately popular cooking & lifestyle blog, and she had a brief stint in political journalism during a local election. Clear and informative writing has always been a side hobby of Mellow’s and she looks forward to bringing you unbiased coverage of City Council meetings.

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