I want to thank you again for your 25 February 2020 vote on Motion 2020-04. As you know, this action was taken to accelerate your sound insulation program (known as Port Packages) and also take advantage of new State legislation HB2315 which enables the Port to provide updates and repairs to existing systems.
We are entering the all-critical budget season and I am asking today that you make this commitment a reality by allocating money in your 2021 Budget for 200 systems–and include a mix of updates along with new installs.
Where we’re at now
I also want to remind you that you explicitly instructed that Director Metruck and his team create the infrastructure to make these goals possible. As you know, the Port has not worked on anything close to that number of projects in many years, so having that system of people and processes in place was the necessary first step towards achieving your goals. Unfortunately, however, that preparatory work has not been done.
Obviously, I cannot say why this has not happened, but perhaps there is something of a ‘chicken or egg’ situation going on. In discussions with Director Metruck and your staff, I have been given several possible answers: One was the obvious reduction in revenues from COVID-19. Another was that expected Federal legislation had not yet passed to enhance the AIP Grant program to allow for reimbursements on existing systems (although that of course has no bearing on your ability to obtain reimbursements on new Port Packages.)
Regardless of the circumstances, they do not explain why the Port staff has not done what your vote expressly instructed them to do: Stand up a system to enable more projects (new or updates) to be done. Even if financial constraints made it difficult to accelerate construction, that should not have prevented your team from creating the ability to get to work the moment funds became available.
Make it real…
The communities have been waiting for the Port to make good on its sound insulation promises since the Second Runway. A bit of history: the failure of the Port to address its commitments in that previous expansion, was in fact, the major hold-ups to approval of the Third Runway by the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC). The PSRC wanted to see proof that the Port would provide fair sound mitigation. We are still waiting.
Let’s be blunt: there is always a reason to put community interests last on your budget priorities. Recessions, 9/11, pandemics. The fact is that the world is constantly unpredictable. But the negative impacts from Sea-Tac Airport are not; they persist regardless of any other events. Reasons can always be found to put off commitments to local residents because we have so little power. All we have is your word.
I am demanding that you make good on that word and do two things:
- Instruct your staff to do what you already directed them to do: implement Motion 2020-04. That may well involve re-thinking the program in innovative ways such as using more off-the-shelf products (which would provide home owners with better warranties), opening up the bidding process to far more local contractors, reducing the reliance on specialists. All these would significantly lower costs for the Port Of Seattle (and taxpayers) and enable you to assist more homeowners.
- Put money on the Budget sufficient to complete 200 projects in 2021. That is nowhere near the work that needs doing, but it is a significant number and adequate to show the community that you are sincere in your efforts.
We all understand the severe stress the entire world of aviation is under and we all need to make sacrifices. You know that many of us are working in the most cooperative manner possible to increase your Federal funding and reduce the financial pressures in any way we can.
But as Dr. Martin Luther King often said, “Budgets are moral documents”. Unless something is on the budget, it’s just not real. The airport communities have gotten almost nothing in terms of promised mitigation for many years and you cannot call your commitments to Motion 2020-04 real unless there is a significant non-zero number allocated to Port Packages on the 2021 Budget.
The Real World
I want to close by briefly trying to make the situation of existing homeowners more ‘real’ for you. Attached are pictures of just one home in Des Moines which has suffered from a bad Port Package. As you can see, the problem goes far beyond ‘bad seals’ or ‘foggy windows’. In this case, the entire wall needed replacement because of a poor installation. When these types of windows (which are especially heavy due to their sound-absorbing properties) are not properly framed, it leads to deformation, leaks and then a breakdown of the underlying structure which has nothing to do with the window itself. And this is but one of several broad classes of problems.
Please remember that this is just one out of over 170 homes that SeatacNoise.Info has documented with structural issues directly related to poor products and workmanship.
I have tried many times, without success, to get your staff to do a site visit when one of these homes are repaired. As you can appreciate, these opportunities do not come up every day and it’s disappointing that I have been unable to get someone from the Port to ‘see for themselves’. If you, the Commissioners would be willing to do this, I would be happy to let you know when the next constructions project is underway. However, I must share my deep frustration by pointing out that every time a homeowner can no longer wait for the Port to act and is forced to pay these costs, we consider it another failure of the Port to deal fairly with the Community.
So often, we deal with these sorts of issues in a technocratic manner from a very high altitude. But these are real people dealing with serious issues concerning their most important possession–their home. Dealing fairly with the sound insulation program is perhaps the easiest and best way for the Port to begin re-establishing trust with the community. Unlike issues of the airspace,this is the one area of contention over which you have complete control. On behalf of the community, I look forward to your positive reply.