Kirkland is restructuring management of its Public Works Department, with the city Thursday naming a new interim director and adding a deputy director position to help take on several major infrastructure projects underway and launch a major review of transportation needs.
Current Public Works Director Ray Steiger will move to the new deputy director spot, while Pam Bissonnette -- a former colleague of City Manager Kurt Triplett at King County -- has been hired to serve as interim director.
Bissonnette, who has considerable inter-agency experience, is being hired on a contractual basis to handle major projects. They include completing construction of the city’s new public safety building in the Totem Lake are, securing funding from the state Legislature to relieve traffic congestion by adding new NE 132nd Street ramps to Interstate 405, implementing voter-approved street maintenance and pedestrian projects and completing the master plan and interim trail for the Cross Kirkland Corridor.
Triplett said Thursday that the Public Works Department several years ago had a deputy director, but the position was eliminated by budget cuts. Since that time, facilities and fleet maintenance duties have been added to the department’s responsibilities, and the city has taken on several major projects.
“So the department has grown dramatically, and then we had annexation, which has increased demand on the department,” he said. “I also felt we needed someone with regional experience, since a lot of these projects require coordination with agencies such as the departments of Ecology and Transportation, along with the Legislature.
Bissonnette most recently worked as as executive director of NORCOM, a regional public safety communications agency, which serves Kirkland and other north King County cities. Before that Bissonnette worked for King County as its first Director of Natural Resources, managing regional wastewater and solid waste programs as well as storm water, river, flooding, agriculture and forestry programs. Before coming to Kirkland, Triplett worked for several years in King County administration, serving for a time as interim county executive.
Bissonnette spent most of her career working for the city of Bellevue as drainage utility director and utility director, where she was responsible for water, sewer, garbage and storm water utilities as well as Bellevue’s cable franchise programs. She also held the positions of interim fire chief and deputy city manager.
She retired in 2007 and was brought back as a consultant to King County Executive Dow Constantine for the intended purchase of the Eastside Rail Corridor. The 5-plus miles of the corridor in Kirkland, of course, were purchased by the city in 2012 for use as an interim trail, renamed the Cross Kirkland Corridor.
The search for a permanent public works director will begin in 2014, and Triplett said he would bring a proposal to the City Council before that time for long-term funding of the deputy director position.
“Pam is being brought in on a one-time contract,” Triplett said. “I’ve talked with all the council members, I will be bringing a budget proposal to them in the future.”
Triplett said the shakeup does not represent a demotion of Steiger, who has been with public works since 1989 and was named director in late 2011.
“Ray and I reached the decision together,” he said. “We both agreed the department needed both a director and a deputy director. “There wasn’t anything broken. He is encyclopedic and he knows Kirkland. But the stuff on the plate is regional. I need someone with regional expertise and experience. Ray was a real professional about it.”
Noting that public works was the only city department of its size -- 120 employees -- without a deputy director, Triplett said adding the position will help launch several necessary initiatives, most of them in transportation needs.
- Hosting a Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Summit and creating an action plan.
- Developing a city-wide Transportation Master Plan.
- Developing a Surface Water Management Master Plan.
- Implementing the Development Services study to improve permitting in Kirkland.
- Completing the 85th Street Corridor project including a major new water line.
- Completing the NE 120th Street extension and multi-million dollar culvert replacement project, both in the Totem Lake Business District -- a major city focus in recent years.
- Implementing an Intelligent Transportation System to relieve congestion.
- Initiating Juanita Drive and 100th Avenue NE Corridor studies in the annexation area to identify safety and capacity improvements on these key arterials.