FOLLOWUP: King County finalizes plan for new Department of Local Services
With annexation apparently not on the horizon, White Center and the rest of unincorporated North Highline will be relying on King County for some time to come. The plan for a county Department of Local Services – announced last January – is now officially on the way to reality. Here’s the announcement:
King County Executive Dow Constantine thanked the Metropolitan King County Council for its unanimous vote to establish a new Department of Local Services to improve the coordination and delivery of services in unincorporated areas of the county.
The new department will consist of a Permitting Division for development permit reviews, code enforcement, and subarea planning, a Road Services Division with responsibility for 1,500 miles of County roads and 182 bridges, and the Community Services Area program.
“Our new department will help us deliver the highest level of customer service to the nearly quarter-million people who live in unincorporated King County, which would be the second-largest city in our state,” said Executive Constantine. “We are creating a go-to agency for the people who live in rural and urban unincorporated areas for direct services that improve the quality of life in our region.”
The ordinance approved today establishes the new Department of Local Services effective Jan. 1, 2019 — the same date on which Metro Transit becomes a stand-alone department. Executive Constantine expects to name the first director of Local Services in October following a competitive recruitment process.
“Our staff members have met with community councils and associations throughout unincorporated King County, and heard from residents at ten recent community town halls,” said Harold Taniguchi, Director of the King County Department of Transportation, who has been leading the transition to the new agency. “Thanks to their insights, the new department will be ready to hit the ground running in January.”
“I’m excited for the new Department of Local Services and eager for the opportunity we have to create the best-run local government,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, whose district serves a wide area of urban and rural northeast King County, said. “For the first time, unincorporated residents will have a director in the Executive’s cabinet dedicated to addressing their ongoing and emergent needs while delivering the high-quality services they deserve.”
“As a former city mayor, I understand the importance and complexity of providing local government services, such as roads, surface water management, and police,” said Councilmember Claudia Balducci, one of the co-sponsors to the ordinance. “As a County Councilmember I appreciate the challenges of providing local services to our far-flung unincorporated area. The creation of a new Department of Local Services provides us the opportunity to be more coordinated and more responsive to the residents for whom King County is the only local government.”
“From White Center to Vashon Island to the foothills of the Cascades, our unincorporated areas have unique and equally important needs,” King County Council Chair Joe McDermott. “Our residents there deserve flexible and proactive service from their local government, making the creation of this department an exciting step forward for the County.”
Executive Constantine also thanked Senior Deputy Executive Fred Jarrett for leading a Local Services Initiative that studied ways to improve how the county delivers direct and contracted services in unincorporated areas, including road and bridge services, public safety, clean water, and increased access to opportunities.
The Department of Local Services will be funded by existing revenues, and will be included in the 2019-2020 biennial proposed budget that the Executive will send to the Council on Sept. 24. The council is scheduled to adopt a King County budget by Thanksgiving.
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