City SeaTac council questions Dept. of Commerce airport study
City of SeaTac mayor Erin Sitterly and the City Council have issued a letter to the Washington State Department of Commerce questioning the methodology, timing and expenses incurred in the current airport study by the agency. They are seeking a response to their questions by Dec. 10.
November 27, 2019
Assistant Director, Local Government Division
Washington State Department of Commerce
P.O. Box 42525
Olympia, WA 98504-2525
Re: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Study
Dear Mr. Barkley:
This letter is sent on behalf of the City of SeaTac City Council to express its concerns regarding the process by which the Sea-Tac Airport Study is being conducted under the management of your agency.
As you know, the City of SeaTac is funding 50% of the participating cities’ share of this study and 25% of the overall project cost. This amounts to $150,000. As elected officials, it is our responsibility to ensure the City’s financial resources are being spent wisely.
Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill (ESSB) 6032 from the 2018 session clearly defines the study to be delivered to the legislature on December 1, 2019. The study deadline has already been extended once to June 1, 2020. Based on the information presented at the November 6, public meeting and current additional interviews the project consultant is proposing, the City of SeaTac is concerned that Commerce will not be able to deliver the requested detailed analysis as specified in the Scope of Work and directed by the Legislature by June 1, 2020. The City wants full assurances from Commerce that the Study will be completed on time with the degree of thoroughness as defined in the Scope of Work.
Additionally, we also understand the consultant project lead is located in Dallas and therefore, flies out for each TAC and public meeting. It is reasonable to assume these trips are not inexpensive. Minimizing those costs should be a goal moving forward, another reason to stick to the original proposal of having public review of a draft document, rather than inviting input prior to completion of work.
It is our understanding that at the outset, the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) recognized the total $600,000 of funding would likely not be sufficient to provide the degree of thoroughness that would be desired for a study of this nature. The City of SeaTac shares that concern. Please provide a report of the project’s current budget status, a complete list of how funds have been expended to date and the amount of funds remaining to complete the study. Included in this report, the City would like a full accounting of all travel related expenses for Stantec consultants to fly from Dallas to the SeaTac area.
Several City Council members and SeaTac citizens attended the November 6, 2019 public meeting held in Burien. The councilmembers and citizens were frustrated with how the information was presented. More importantly, there are serious questions about Stantec’s data gathering and questions about its relevancy to the airport, given the location of monitoring stations which lie outside of the clearly defined study area, as defined in section 1.1.1 in the Statement of Work document, of SeaTac, Burien, Des Moines, Tukwila, Federal Way and Normandy Park.
The City of SeaTac is concerned Stantec has strayed from the original scope of work which is a technical study on the impacts of airport operations. One noted concern is we understand Commerce and the consultant are planning to meet with certain “expert” community members in early January, prior to publication of a draft report. This study was to be technical in nature, to help inform policy and legislative activities, and, as such, the work and ultimate product should be primarily for the consumption of the participating municipalities’ elected officials and staff. While certain public input is essential (i.e., through the cities’ carefully chosen constituent representatives), the City believes data and facts should drive the process and results, not the court of public opinion. We believe it would be most cost-efficient for the consultant to finish a draft report and then present that document to the TAC for its review. After TAC review is complete and edits are made, then the draft should be presented to the public. Allowing additional public input before document publication would not be an effective use of limited project funds.
The City of SeaTac requests a response from Commerce to our requests in this letter by 2 p.m. December 10. In summary, we are concerned this study is not going in the right direction and we want to redirect it before further taxpayer funds are expended.
Mayor Erin Sitterley
City of SeaTac
Cc: City Council
Airport Advisory Committee
Representative Tina Orwall
Senator Karen Keiser
Representative Mike Pellicciotti
Gary Idleburg Department of Commerce