Former Edmonds City Councilmember Lora Petso was appointed to fill a vacant seat on the City Council Tuesday night, receiving the necessary four-vote council majority. Casting votes for Petso to replace Dave Orvis, who resigned for personal reasons in May, were Councilmembers Michael Plunkett, Steve Bernheim, D.J. Wilson and Diane Buckshnis.
“I think it’s important to have experience, and Ms. Petso brings experience,” Buckshnis said following the vote.
An attorney, Petso served on the council from 2000-2004 before losing her seat to the late Councilmember Peggy Pritchard Olson. She ran again in 2009, when she and Adrienne Fraley-Monillas beat out incumbent Ron Wambolt in the primary. Fraley-Monillas defeated Petso in the general election.
Petso was sworn in and took a seat on the council immediately after the vote. She made it clear, however, that she would abstain from most votes during the evening because she hadn’t had an opportunity familiarize herself with the issues. During a break in the meeting, she said she looks forward to using her strong analytical and budget skills to assist the council in navigating the city’s upcoming budget challenges.
In other significant action Tuesday, the Council voted 5-1 (Plunkett opposed, Petso abstaining) to raise the city’s water and stormwater rates to cover the costs of improving the city’s water system infrastructure (including aging water pipes and insufficient water pressure for firefighting) and to meet increasing regulatory requirements related to stormwater runoff.
Starting Aug. 1, rates will go up 7.5 percent for water and 8 percent for stormwater, and will increase an additional 7.5 percent and 8 percent respectively for the next two years (Jan. 1 of 2011 and 2012). Sewer rates will remain unchanged. The average Edmonds utility bill will increase $8.76 per month under the new rate structure.
After showing photographs of the city’s deteriorating water mains, City Public Works Director Noel Miller said that the city must invest in its infrastructure to ensure its reliability and to protect it “for future generations.” In the case of stormwater, the city is facing an increasing number of federal, state and local regulations that require extra staff to ensure compliance. In addition, the city needs more staff time devoted to educating citizens about how their everyday actions— from washing their cars in the driveway to using weed killer on their lawns— results in contaminated stormwater runoff that travels into area lakes, streams and Puget Sound.
The council also approved an update to the city’s storm and surface water comprehensive plan that includes funding for a variety of projects that address stormwater runoff. Councilmember D.J. Wilson, who founded the multi-jurisdictional Lake Ballinger/McAleer Creek Watershed Forum to address pollution issues in the lake, asked that the budget for Lake Ballinger-associated projects be increased from $40,000 to $100,000 a year.
Also on Tuesday, the council:
– Voted 6-0 (Petso abstaining) to support amendments to the city’s sign code that will clarify the definition and criteria for wall graphics and murals, including murals planned by the Edmonds Mural Society.
– Appointed six members to the eight-member council levy committee, which will be charged with helping the council determine content and direction for levy likely to go before voters in early 2011. Petso requested to delay her pick until she had a chance to study the candidates who applied, and the eighth selection will be delayed until a new mayor is appointed. Those appointed, and the council members who chose them, include: John Reed (Fraley-Monillas), John Carlin (Plunkett), Bill Vance (Peterson), Evelyn Wellington (Wilson), Darrol Haug (Buckshnis), and Harry Gatjens (Bernheim). The council also approved specific direction for the levy committee, which can be found by visiting the July 6 council agenda here.