Seattle Courant

Seattle City Council Seeks to Reverse Vote Lifting Mercer Mess Spending Restriction

By Keith Vance
March 27, 2009 07:03PM

There isn't enough money to complete the Mercer project; it's between $20 and $50 million short. So to avoid starting a project that can't be finished, the City Council put a proviso on the funds.

Supposedly, only when all of the money is available to complete the project is the proviso to be lifted.

However, a few weeks ago, a majority of the City Council members were convinced by Councilmember Jan Drago and Mayor Greg Nickels - proponents of the South Lake Union project - to remove the spending restriction.

Council members who voted to lift the proviso did so because they were under the impression that federal stimulus would be coming via legislators in Olympia, and that by eliminating the spending restriction the pot would be thoroughly sweetened - ensuring the Mercer project make the list and be fully funded.

It didn't turn out that way, and at the time Sen. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, said that Nickels and Drago knew that Mercer wasn't going to get any money from the feds before the City Council vote on Feb. 23.

And now that the Mercer project isn't fully funded, the bill today, if it passes the full council, will restore the spending restriction. Unlike the previous proviso, however, the city's Dept. of Transportation can start the bidding process to find a contractor for the work.

The full council is expected to discuss and possibly vote on the proviso at the April 6 session.