North Bend Mayor Ken Hearing and Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson gave their annual “State of the City” addresses during the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber luncheon on Friday, May 15, at the TPC Snoqualmie Ridge golf club.
From gas explosions to park openings, the upper Valley’s cities experienced growth, drama and city-shaping landmarks since last year’s state-of-the city luncheon on May 16, 2014.
Hearing began by speaking about the halted downtown North Bend hotel, and said winter weather obstructed building progress, but affirmed that a more than 100 luxury-room hotel with a sizable conference center that’s “consistent with the downtown vision” is on the way.
He touched on North Bend-based businesses and groups like Bartell Drugs, Georgia’s Bakery, the Snoqualmie Valley Gardening Club and the envisioned Civic Center that will house city hall, a performing arts theatre and the chamber – “it’s still on the books… still moving forward,” he stated.
Hearing then asked the audience where they were during the infamous explosion on April 23, 2014.
“I know where I was, I was dead asleep,” he joked. “So, where were you when John F. Kennedy was killed… I remember exactly where I was. I remember where I was when the Twin Towers fell, too. And I remember where I was when the pizza place was leveled by a gas explosion.”
He then touched on North Bend’s mission statement to create a highly livable community while preserving rural character.
North Bend growth
North Bend is developing throughout its city limits, with 360 homes built in the last four years and more than 700 on the way. He said the city’s “balancing booming development with that intent, the idea of the rural character.”
Hearing touched on the $1.3 million invested last year in city-wide improvements like the Downing/Park Avenue intersection roundabout, Si View sidewalks, etc. He spoke about replacing pipes, reducing odor and increasing capacity at the wastewater treatment plant.
When the Snoqualmie Police Department took over as North Bend’s patrol, he said, “There was not a bump in the road…. I think this is the best thing we could have ever done.”
Hearing said, as he watched the police force grow to eight officers with the city’s support, he was “amazed by the remarkable increase in the feeling of safety.”
Hearing touched on community spaces like the future trail, workout stations, restrooms, concessions and gathering areas projected for Torguson Park and the Tollgate Park opening to the public.
He said the annual Blues and Jazz Walks are institutions that would have been “unfathomable” to him 10 years ago.
He ended his speech with praise for Mayor Larson and his work as president in the Sound Cities Association.
“He is taking the bull by the horns and putting Snoqualmie on the map and for that I think we owe him a big round of applause,” he stated.
Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson addressed a large group at the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce May 15 luncheon, where he gave his State of the City address. – Allyce Andrew/Staff Photo
Larson jumped right into honoring his city staff when he took the mic.
He thanked city administrator Bob Larson for “herding all the cats (and) keeping things in motion,” planning technician Gwyn Berry, community development director Mark Hofman and the new event planning and economic development consultant Lizzy Billington and council members Chelley Patterson and Kingston Wall.
He later gave shout-outs to retiring finance officer Rob Orton, the city IT manager PJ Rodriguez and the “symbiotic relationship” with the city of North Bend on the police contract.
“It’s a win-win for everybody,” he began, “and it’s a cost-saver because the administrative cost split across two cities is more efficient than it is for the cost of one city.”
Larson described the city staffing level as “anemic,” with the ratio of employees for every 1,000 residents dropping to somewhere between six-and-a-half to eight.
He gave a quick presentation on tax levies, which are stabilizing at $2.64 per $1,000 as property values increases.
He said sales of housing units in 2015 have reached a “milestone,” back to pre-recession levels and touched on other city construction like the new Railway History Center, sixth elementary school, Highland Vistas town homes, Goddard School for early childhood development and the long-awaited opening of Jeanne Hansen Park and the new hospital.
“Anyone unfamiliar with the infrastructure project?” Larson asked cheekily before touching on the three “Rs” essential to updating the downtown infrastructure: “rivers, roads and railroads.”
“(Those are) tremendous assets that are going to get the 2 million visitors who’re coming to the falls every year down in the downtown (area) to see what that has to offer,” he continued.
Larson said the Tokul roundabout is moving along, which will usher in long-term expansion for the Salish Lodge and the mill site.
He spoke on his victory with battling House Bill 1287, which offered property tax exemptions for tribal owned land off of the reservation, and thanked city attorney Bob Sterbank for his work.
He ended with touching on the traffic issues at the Snoqualmie Parkway and I-90 exit on Snoqualmie Ridge, and said that Rep. Jay Rodne’s “putting pressure in the right places” to receive $211 million funding for the interchange.
“This is not just about Snoqualmie,” he stated. “This is a major transportation corridor that serves all of Southwest King County.”