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Top priorities for Federal Way legislators in 2010

With another tough session ahead of them, Federal Way's state legislators discussed with council members the city's top 2010 priorities.

An annual legislative breakfast, held Jan. 7, provides the council a chance to share with District 30 State Sen. Tracey Eide (D) and State Reps. Skip Priest (R) and Mark Miloscia (D) its 2010 state funding requests. In turn, the legislators alert the council to their key initiatives and how they expect the session to play out. The state is facing a $2.7 billion budget shortfall.

"Last year was by far the hardest session I've been through, and I expect this session to be just as hard or harder," Eide said.

In 2010, the city council hopes to see state funding to support endeavors in the following areas: Economic development, transportation, stormwater obligations and auto theft prevention. The council's main focus is revitalizing the city and creating jobs for its residents, mayor Linda Kochmar said.

"Our focus is on jobs, jobs, jobs," she said.

Economic development has been a top priority for several years. The council has successfully begun work and even secured a portion of funding for a few projects, but none have come to fruition. This year, the Symphony project seeks movement. A business incubator and a medical incubator are both progressing. The World Championship of Sand Sculpture competition will visit the city in September. But revitalization is needed.

"This council really is behind economic development in our downtown," deputy mayor Dini Duclos said. "Once we get something going, everything else will fall in place."

More priorities

Transportation is another area in which the council has repeatedly requested state funding. Money is needed for projects such as the Highway 161/Highway 18/Interstate 5 interchange, also known as the triangle project, and the Interstate 5/South 320th Street interchange.

Funding for stormwater obligations is new to the council's yearly priorities list. Per state law, the city must implement the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Stormwater Program Phase II. This regulates stormwater discharges from municipal storm sewer systems, construction and industrial activities. State funding is needed to help the city assess and maintain its stormwater infrastructure, among other things, parks director Cary Roe said.

The council also asked the legislators to try their best to maintain funding for the Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority. The effort to significantly decrease auto theft in the state began in 2007. Funding for the authority was sliced since then. But the team, which includes a prosecuting attorney, insurance agent, police and general public members, continues to drastically lessen auto theft.

"This is one of the great success stories," city manager Brian Wilson said. "The goal is to maintain what (funding) we have."

Last year the council achieved all its top goals. The state's assault statute was altered, making the law tougher on individuals who point a look-alike gun at police officers. The city also approved an agreement with the Washington State Department of Ecology to fund seaweed removal from Dumas Bay and was awarded two grants, totaling $70,000, to assist with the cleanup. Triangle funding ($109 million) was preserved. The city was awarded $5 million to be put toward a performing arts, conference and cultural center. The Federal Way Coalition of the Performing Arts, a grass-roots group, also received $325,000 from the Legislature to help establish the venue.

The city was the recipient of state funds meant to boost the economy. The area near South 336th Street and Pacific Highway South was designated a Local Revitalization Area. It gave Federal Way the ability to pursue state matching grants to construct a commercial roadway connecting the area to Celebration Park and the Federal Way Community Center. The work is part of a mixed-use project called Federal Way Village.

"2009 was a great session for the city," Kochmar said.

This year's legislative session begins Jan. 11.

"Our main job this next session is making sure we can balance the budget," Eide said.

Miloscia said his personal goal this legislative session is to begin planning for the long term and preparing the state to deal with dipping revenues and tough budgets in coming years.

"Sixty days can go very fast, but let's at least get the conversation going in the right direction," he said.

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