Council approves interim finance director; Petso says councilmembers need to get along
By Harry Gatjens
The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night approved the hiring of Ronald Cone as the interim finance director. Cone has spent the last 14 years as finance director — and 24 years in the finance department — for the City of Moses Lake. He retired last year and is available to step in with the departure of Edmonds’ current finance director, Shawn Hunstock.
Cone was interviewed by councilmembers for 30 minutes before they adjourned to executive session to discuss his appropriateness for the position. They came back and agreed to hire Cone.
During the interview process. Cone was asked about the relative size of Moses Lake (20,000 residents, 180 full-time employees), his supervision of IT staff, direct experience in Budgeting for Objectives and preparing for levies, as well as his strengths and weaknesses.
Cone answered that Moses Lake never needed a levy and that he didn’t have direct experience with Budgeting for Objectives, although he was familiar with many similar budgeting systems such as “Zero-Based Budgeting.”
Following Cone’s hiring, the council had a limited schedule but still had some major items to discuss.
One of the audience comments had to do with the lack of a downtown grocery store. Mayor Dave Earling responded both then and in his Mayor’s comments that My Edmonds News reported that a new grocery store was opening at the current Petosa’s location on April 1, so the problem should be short-lived.
A budget amendment for the end of 2012 and a new one for the beginning of 2013 was discussed in quite detail. The bulk of the changes, however, had to do with moving of dollars to the 2013 budget for items that were originally scheduled to be done in 2012 but for one reason or another did not get accomplished that year. This left unspent funds in 2012 in the general ending fund balance, which was then reallocated to the unfinished projects in 2013.
One item moved from the consent agenda was the accounting of costs for the Haines Wharf Park project. All of the work and litigation has been resolved so the council had to move to accept the final report. This was removed from the consent agenda as the public has had great interest in this project and Councilmember Joan Bloom thought it important to discuss the subject in a more public way.
Phil Williams. Edmonds Public Works Director, went over the accounting, noting that the final cost of the entire project was $3,704,000. The actual parks construction cost $2,888,000 vs. an initial project budget of $1,643,000. There were numerous issues that came up and caused the overages, including extension of the sidewalks and poor quality soils.
Williams was then asked to explain what procedures have been instituted, not necessarily prevent the issues but to prevent such variations from being a surprise to the council. Williams went over new procedures that were instituted in June of 2012.
An item of interest in closing Council comments was Council President Lora Petso publicly admonishing the council for “acting dysfunctionally” and even suggested councilmembers consider meeting for a session of therapy on how to get along.
She asked that all councilmembers act in a manner to promote performance of the entire council and to concentrate on individual goals and accomplishments. She also suggested that councilmembers treat each other with more respect and resolve problems directly rather than behind each other’s backs.
Petso said she hoped that raising the issue during Tuesday’s council meeting would persuade the councilmembers to act more as a team.