Some on Sumner council upset over opting out of Pierce Transit
The City of Sumner no longer falls within Pierce Transit’s boundaries, yet some controversy lingers over whether opting out was the right call.
City Council members Nancy Dumas and Randy Hynek say it wasn’t. And they say Mayor Dave Enslow acted on his own to withdraw the city as part of the boundary revision process, never seeking formal council direction.
“This was too critical of an issue not to bring to the City Council for a vote,” Dumas said.
Enslow, however, says he kept the council updated throughout the process and sought members’ input, but never got much interest.
“There were many, many opportunities for the council to state an opinion (about wanting to stay in), and they didn’t,” he said.
Enslow said it wasn’t fair for Sumner residents to contribute a 0.6-percent sales tax – the same as other communities inside Pierce Transit boundaries – yet receive little service. He said the city now can pursue other transit options.
Pierce Transit, faced with recessionary losses and the failure of a proposed sales tax increase, made significant service cuts in the last year.
The new boundaries, which also exclude other areas with little or no service, took effect in early May. Other East Pierce cities that now fall outside the boundaries include Bonney Lake, Buckley and Orting.
Pierce Transit’s board initiated the boundary revisions last fall in the wake of the cuts. Elected officials were picked from within their communities to settle on a new boundary map, which went to a March public hearing before becoming final.
The Sumner council picked Enslow to represent the Puyallup Valley city.
Dumas and Hynek said the mayor should have sought direction in the form of a council vote. The council is supposed to set city policy, and “we were not given the opportunity to do our job,” Dumas said.
She said Enslow didn’t make the boundary revision timeline clear or notify the council or community of the March public hearing, which essentially was their last chance to weigh in before it was too late for the city to change course.
“I think it’s too bad,” Hynek said. “The people who need (transit service) the most are the ones who are going to hurt the most.”
But Enslow said he kept the council updated through briefings at council meetings. There also were numerous media reports and public notices, he said.
Enslow acknowledged council members never formally voted on withdrawing, but he said they didn’t have to.
“What they did vote on was to make me their representative,” he said.
Deputy Mayor Steve Allsop said he and his council colleagues “certainly were aware of where things were headed (with the boundary revisions)” and that he “felt very informed throughout.”
Some Pierce Transit buses still run through Sumner. Local Route 409 will continue making stops into September. And commuter Route 496, which travels between the Sounder station in Sumner and the Bonney Lake Park & Ride, will continue into early June, when Sound Transit will take it over.
Enslow said commuter bus service is needed to ease parking congestion at Sumner’s train station. He said he tried to do the right thing for his city through the transit boundary process and can’t help but feel the criticism leveled now is political.
Dumas said she’s raised the issue for the sake of transparency.
The deal with Sound Transit may help commuters, but she said other Sumner residents are left in the lurch.
Now, she said, the city must figure out a plan to address public transportation needs in the city of nearly 9,500 residents.
On that, Enslow agrees.
“We need to look forward and be constructive,” he said, adding that he wants to hear what service residents want.
“This isn’t a loss, it’s a gain,” he added. “A loss would be to continue paying for service we don’t get.”