The Edmonds City Council’s proposal to purchase the vacant Skippers restaurant property across from the Edmonds waterfront for $1.1 million is dead — at least for now.
The Council had voted 5-2 during its April 14 meeting to purchase the property pending the outcome of an appraisal and feasibility studies. During executive session at the end of Tuesday’s council meeting, the council learned that Cascade Bank did not accept the city’s counter offer, submitted last Friday, which addressed the amount of time the city can take to conduct its “due diligence” activities on the property before deciding whether to actually buy it. The city had originally requested 90 days to perform due diligence activities such as an appraisal and environmental assessments but the bank had countered with a 60-day period.
The council decided not to make another offer for the property Tuesday night, effectively putting an end — at least temporarily — to an issue that has drawn both fire and support from Edmonds citizens since the April 14 vote was taken.
The bank did have a second offer from another potential buyer, which was for less than the council’s offer of $1.1 million but would involve a two-year contract rather than the city’s offer, which would be in cash. Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, who has staunchly supported the Council’s decision to at least investigate the Skippers property, said after the executive session that the proposal could come up again depending on the outcome of the other offer. It all depends on what the bank says, she said.
In other action, the council discussed the procedures to follow in determining whether to place a levy before citizens. No decision was made on timing, but members of the council’s finance committee — Michael Plunkett and Diane Buckshnis — proposed forming a seven-member commission to study the city’s current financials, look at long-term projections and make a recommendation after a thorough review.
The discussion led to a testy exchange between Councilmembers Wilson and Fraley-Monillas, as Wilson stressed the urgency of placing the measure before voters sooner rather than later, given the city’s looming budget deficit. “If we don’t take a vote in August or November, then we are going to be taking a vote that will put us into 2011 or 2012,” Wilson said, adding that “by 2012 we will be deeply in the red.”
“I will not be bullied or pushed into a levy until I have numbers in front of me,” Fraley-Monillas responded, noting that the budget situation may not be as dire as Wilson suggests. “We don’t have a clue what we are doing.”
Mayor Gary Haakenson assured that council that the budget he will present to them in the fall will contain “severe budget cuts that reflect the city’s projected shortfall. It’s not panicking, it’s not “the sky is falling,” Haakenson said. It’s a fact that we’ll be in the red in 2012.”
The council also decided to hold a public hearing in the next few weeks on Plunkett’s proposal to change the city’s governance structure from a mayor-council to city manager-council form of government. Plunkett said that he believes the timing is right to introduce such a measure, since Edmonds Mayor Gary Haakenson is nearing the end of his third term and has already stated he doesn’t plan to run again. (Haakenson’s term expires at the end of 2011.) If approved by the council, the measure is likely to appear on the November 2010 ballot.