Time waits for no one — including the Mayor and City Manager — so we’re jumping head first into 2017 with a promise that no City project will get left behind.
Our flagship project in 2017 will be the new Police building, which barring any unusual weather or late inning construction surprises is still on track for a grand opening by the end of 2017.
That’s a big deal so it will be a big day for the Police Department and 28,000 of their closest friends that call Kent home and supported this really important project at the ballot box. Can’t wait.
Kent Parks and Rec is finalizing their new Community Rec Center concept plan and I hear that they’ll spend the better part of 2017 presenting and discussing it with the public in hopes of a successful Parks levy initiative in fall 2017 to fund it. If it can be funded, it looks like the new Rec Center will find a home on Middlebury Road across from the current Park Offices at Fred Fuller Park.
With the Police building project shifting into full construction mode in 2017, we should have more administrative staff time to devote to focusing on the new City Hall project. In 2016 we collected a lot of data from residents, Council, and the staff, so we’ll spend the first half of 2017 using that data to work with Council to reach consensus on where to locate the building, what City services to include in the new facility, how big to make it, and how to pay for it.
That’s sure to be a lively discussion with no easy answers for the future of another important community building. If all goes well, that should carry us into the second half of 2017 when we would look to hire an architect to start designing the new City Hall building with construction to follow in 2018 and hopefully another grand opening sometime in 2019.
In addition to our ever-vigilant focus on job creation in Kent, I think Council’s multi-cultural initiatives are likely to emerge in 2017 as some of the most meaningful and impactful community building work we’ve taken on in years. I’m proud to have an opportunity to participate in such an ambitious and timely community effort to put unity in the center of Kent’s abundant diversity.
The excellent housing study work completed in 2016 will be put to good use in 2017 as Bridget Susel, Director of Community Development, will use that data to lead a major re-write of the City’s zoning and comprehensive plans. With so much transformative redevelopment completed in Kent the last 5 years, this is a critical time to update the City’s comprehensive plan to make sure it reflects current conditions and aligns with the community’s vision for the next 5-10 years in Kent.
In 2016 the City’s new IT Manager, Gary Bishop, was busy evaluating our technology systems and defining our technology needs. Assuming that funding challenges can be resolved (no predictions on that yet), I expect to see some investments in 2017 in our public safety communication systems, including next gen 911 dispatch upgrades and (hopefully) some early acquisitions towards the conversion of City safety radios to the 800 mega-hertz format — both of which represent significant enhancements to the ability of our Fire Personnel and Police Officers to locate and respond to emergencies anywhere in our community.
We had a few long term City employees retire in 2016 and a few more are likely to follow in 2017. It’s always hard to lose quality people but I’ve been encouraged by the fresh ideas and energy that our new hires, like Melanie Baker as Public Service Director, have brought to Kent.
Times of transition are good opportunities to evaluate organizational structure and I’m looking closely at department workloads and responsibilities to make sure we’ve got the right balance to optimize and cultivate the talent we have on staff.
Thankfully we got Council approval to add 3 new firefighters in 2017 and we can’t bring them on fast enough to fill a critical shortfall and keep pace with the unprecedented pace of activity in Kent.
No chance of slowing down in 2017, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.