We promised additional information regarding the City Council’s 5-2 vote Tuesday night to purchase the vacant Skippers property across from the Edmonds Ferry Terminal. Here’s the latest on this topic, which has generated a healthy debate here and on our Facebook page.
Councilmember D.J. Wilson, who along with Councilmember Strom Peterson voted against the measure, sent an email to constituents Wednesday describing the decision as “Fiscal Irresponsibility Like I’ve Never Seen It.” Declaring that “we simply don’t have the money,” Wilson included a link to a spreadsheet that shows the city with a $500,00 budget deficit by 2012 and noted that the city council had to cut more than a million dollars from the budget last year and furlough employees.
“We’ve already made major cuts at the City, including selling our fire department,” he said. “Where else are we going to cut to be able to afford this purchase?”
In addition, Wilson said, since the city hasn’t had time to appraise the property, no one knows how much it is really worth. “There is no plan in place to develop the parcel. No pro forma to determine whether it makes sense financially. Absolutely no vision for turning that property into a useful asset,” he wrote.
Councilmember Diane Buckshnis, a former banker who has prided herself on fiscal accountability to taxpayers, voted for the measure and said in a phone interview Wednesday she sees no conflict between her vote and her desire to maintain a balanced budget for the city.
For starters, Buckshnis said, she can’t support Wilson’s assertion that city is going bankrupt – at least not yet. That’s because she is not confident that the financial data provided by city staff is accurate and she believes that the budget numbers offered to the council so far this year are “unsubstantiated.” In addition, because there were competing offers being made on the Skippers property, including one for a fast food restaurant, those supporting the measure felt it was important to act quickly to ensure that the property is under city ownership, Buckshnis said.
She said she is confident that the city will be able to find creative ways to fund the purchase, possibly through a bond sale or a public-private partnership or even grant money, depending on how the property is eventually developed. The bigger issue, Buckshnis said, is preserving that parcel of land “for future generations of Edmonds residents.” While there are no current plans to develop the property, Buckshnis said she supports the idea of using it as a cornerstone for an environmentally friendly development that could include parkland or other “ecotourism” features.