The Pierce County Council agreed Tuesday to unfreeze $2.9 million needed for projects related to the Chambers Bay Golf Course, partially putting to rest a clash with County Executive John Ladenburg.
The council's 6-1 vote means Ladenburg can spend county sewer funds for construction of an entry road to the golf course and the rest of the Chambers Creek Properties, as well as for infrastructure for the course and other development, and a trail.
The contractor, Heritage Links, will be told today it can resume work on those parts of the project, county Public Works Director Brian Ziegler said after the vote.
Work on those three elements halted Jan. 1 as a result of the council's decision in November to freeze more than $19 million earmarked for projects related to the golf course, which Ladenburg proposed as a way of jump-starting development of the former gravel mine for public use. Council members complained that Ladenburg hadn't kept them informed about spending at the 930-acre waterfront site, and that he signed a contract with Heritage Links that went beyond the $20.8 million golf course bond.
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Council members hailed Tuesday's vote as a sign of progress.
"Hopefully this marks getting back on the same sheet of music, " said Councilman Calvin Goings, D-Puyallup. "I'm pleased with this document and I'm looking forward to better discussions in 2006 for this project that I voted for and that we have to make work."
Councilman Terry Lee, R-Gig Harbor, called the move a "great way to start the year."
"It's time to move on to other projects" on the property, he said.
Council Chairman Shawn Bunney, R-Lake Tapps, said during a study session earlier Tuesday that the issue was never about whether to build the road and the trail and to make infrastructure improvements, but rather how to account for their cost. Council members want to ensure that the golf course budget is used to pay for anything related to the course, and that sewer rate payers don't end up paying for the course.
Under the plan approved Tuesday, the council said Ladenburg can tap the sewer fund for $1 million for the entry road, $1 million for water and electric infrastructure and $889,000 for part of the trail. Golf course revenues will have to repay 30 percent of the road and infrastructure costs, though the percent is subject to change.
Bunney said the council "bent over backward" to accommodate Ladenburg's request that it act quickly, while still making sure it had time to study the issue.
Councilman Dick Muri, R-Steilacoom, cast the dissenting vote.
Ladenburg said Tuesday that he worked hard over the last few weeks to provide council members with more detailed information.
By freeing up the money now, Ladenburg said the county can save money because the contractor already has millions of dollars worth of equipment on-site.
The vote doesn't completely resolve the issues between Ladenburg and the council.
Several other elements that Ladenburg put in the 2006 county budget remain frozen, including construction of a planned maintenance facility, a pair of parks, a water system and money needed to change the location where BNSF stores trains near the site.
The council agreed to discuss the maintenance facility later this month.
The question is whether to build one facility that would initially be shared by the golf course and the county's adjacent wastewater treatment plant. That's the option Ladenburg favors. Other options include building separate maintenance buildings.
Chambers Bay Golf Course is scheduled to open in May 2007. Construction of the course itself, which began last fall, continued while the other projects were frozen.
County officials feared the budget freeze and the work stoppage jeopardized the opening. But Ladenburg said only six working days had been lost and he is optimistic the impact will be minimal.