Edmonds City Councilmembers rolled up their collective sleeves Tuesday night and began suggesting amendments to Mayor Mike Cooper’s proposed 2011 City of Edmonds budget.
All suggested amendments, which were submitted in writing to City Council President Steve Bernheim, will be posted on the City’s website so the public has a chance to review them. The council will hold a public hearing on the budget next Tuesday, Dec. 7.
A couple of ideas councilmember put on the table focused on reducing costs related to the city’s arrest and processing of criminal suspects. Councilmember Diane Buckshnis suggested cutting by $100,000 the amount of money the police department currently spends on “prisoner care” – essentially the care and feeding of those booked into jail.
And Bernheim said he’d like to see police reduce the number of “discretionary bookings” so that fewer non-violent criminals end up in jail in the first place.
At the request of Councilmember Michael Plunkett, Police Chief Al Compaan came to the microphone to clarify whether either of those ideas were feasible or would result in a cost saving to the department.
Compaan said that he believes that some money could be trimmed from the prisoner care budget “without compromising public safety,” although probably not $100,000. And he noted that Bernheim’s suggestion “tends to imply that the department has not been employing discretion already.” The department doesn’t routinely book people for crimes such as marijuana possession or driving with license suspended, but instead has them agree in writing to appear in court, he noted, and “if there’s a bench warrant, they go to jail.” Most of the people who spend time in jail are there as a result of Edmonds Municipal Court action, not police, Compaan said.
In other action, the Council:
-Heard an update from Sustainable Works, which is providing reduced cost or free energy audits for residents in the cities of Edmonds and Lynnwood, followed by retrofit to make homes more energy efficient. So far, 189 people have signed up for audits, with 109 of those in Edmonds. The program runs through the end of January, so those who are interested should sign up soon before more cold weather hits. You can learn more at a Sustainable Works open house Dec. 15 at 941 36th Ave. W. in Lynnwood, or sign up by visiting www.sutainableworks.com or calling 206-575-2252.
-Received testimony from several members of the city’s Economic Development Commission, requesting that the council find enough money to fund the development of a strategic plan for Edmonds. Commission member Marianne Zagorski, also a Port of Edmonds Commissioner, told the Council that such a plan “would use scientific methods to get at what are the next priorities for the city,” and now is the time to do it since construction costs are low. Ron Clyborne, president of the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber support “prudent and fiscally responsible funding of such a plan. And Bruce Wittenberg, also a commission member, cited the City’s drawn-out debate about whether to purchase the Skipper’s property earlier this year “may have had a different outcome if the city had a strategic plan.”
-Mayor Cooper noted that the council met tonight with two finalists for the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Service Director job recently vacated by the retiring Brian MacIntosh. The Mayor hopes to make a final hiring decision and have the new person on board in first part of January
-The Council discussed proposals by Councilmember Lora Petso to pay off bonds used to build Edmond’ City Hall and remodel the Frances Anderson Center, but decided to defer a decision until after receiving some guidance from bond counsel.