Pierce County Council members are working on a plan to settle a political dust-up and release money for four construction projects related to the Chambers Bay Golf Course.
Construction was under way on three of the projects when the council rejected County Executive John Ladenburg's request last month to unfreeze millions of dollars needed to pay for them.
The projects include an entry road, a trail through and around the course, and water and electric infrastructure.
Work on the entry road, trail and infrastructure halted Jan. 1 as a result of the council's decision, raising the cost of the overall project and possibly jeopardizing the planned May 2007 opening of the high-end waterfront course in University Place.
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Work is continuing on the rest of the of the 250-acre Scottish links-style course.
The move highlighted friction that has developed between Ladenburg and the council. The council froze spending on $19.1 million worth of projects in November, saying they were surprised to see that Ladenburg included money for some of them in the 2006 county budget, and that he signed a contract with the golf course contractor for more than the $20.8 million bond issue.
Council members complained that Ladenburg had not fully informed them about his spending plans for the course and surrounding area, known as the Chambers Creek Properties.
Ladenburg said the spending freeze was driven in part by the desire of some council members to see the controversial golf course project fail.
Since the last meeting, Ladenburg has met with Council Chairman Shawn Bunney, R-Lake Tapps, and Councilman Terry Lee, R-Gig Harbor, to discuss a strategy for how the council might release some money at its first meeting of the year Tuesday.
The plan requires political compromising.
Council members expect to call up a resolution rejected in December that would unfreeze some of the money.
The council likely will remove any mention of funding for a planned maintenance building, with a promise to hold more discussion on that piece later in the month. That would address concerns some council members have about the need for the building - it's intended to serve the course and the adjacent sewer treatment facility - and its cost.
To address Ladenburg's concern, the council also might double the amount of time the golf course would have to repay the sewer fund for its share of road construction from five to 10 years, or remove the time element but pledge to continue that discussion later.
Bunney said the proposal is consistent with what council members were prepared to approve last month before Ladenburg pressed to include money for the maintenance facility.
By approving funds for the projects under way, it addresses concerns about how a delay in construction could drive up the cost, Bunney said.
But it also gives the council the opportunity to keep talking about the sources of funding for the projects, he said.
The issue is not whether to move forward with projects such as the road and trail, Bunney said. Rather, it's about the cost accounting.
"Over the last three weeks, we do have a better understanding, " Bunney said, adding that the vote to keep the funding frozen was "not an effort to torpedo, but to postpone and understand to a better degree."
Councilman Calvin Goings, D-Puyallup, indicated he would support a plan that didn't include money for the maintenance facility and ensured that the golf course budget would pay its share of road construction into the property.
But he had some concerns about the way the council might accomplish it.
Goings said he would prefer they introduce another resolution rather than revive the one that failed last month. That way, the public would receive more notice.
But Ladenburg is pushing the council to move fast to minimize the delay.
It's not clear how much the delay might cost the county. Project Manager Tony Tipton asked the contractor for an estimate, but has not received an answer.
Company officials are aware that the council is expected to take up the issue next week and are waiting to see what happens, Tipton said.