Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling and his department heads gathered at the Corner Coffee Bar and Cafe in Edmonds’ Perrinville neighborhood Thursday night, and it was standing-room only for the mayor’s first-ever Town Hall meeting.
Earling started by recapping the difficult financial times the city faced when he took office in 2011, requiring across-the-board, 4-percent budget cuts that resulted in the loss of 12 staff.
Fortunately, Earling noted, “the economy has begun to turn, our sales tax numbers are going up, the property values are beginning to stabilize and in some cases starting to go up.” As a result, the city has been able to hire back some staff and focus on delayed infrastructure work, including $1.2 million for street repairs.
As another sign of an improving economy, the mayor also pointed to several large construction projects now underway in the city, including a 77,000-square-foot expansion of Swedish/Edmonds, which will soon cut the ribbon on its multi-story parking garage; Jacobsen Marine’s relocation to the Edmonds waterfront and the redevelopment of the downtown post office property to accommodate multi-family housing. See our previous story on that plan here.
In addition, the Salish Crossing property, also known as the Antique Mall, just north of the ferry terminal will be undergoing a major renovation, Earling said. The former Safeway building will be divided into four separate pieces and part of the development will be an art museum with a focus on Northwest art. Calling it “a large project with large intentions,” the mayor said three other businesses will be located there, along with “a central atrium with a fire pit and places to sit and relax.”
A main focus for the city now is implementing elements of a citizen-driven, city-wide strategic plan, which includes 86 priorities, and a consultant has been hired to keep that process on track, Earling said.
He admitted to the crowd that due to past budget cuts, the city is now playing catch-up with delayed projects and that not everything can be addressed at once. He pointed to much-needed repairs for Perrinville’s North Meadowdale Beach Road from 76th to Olympic View Drive, “it’s a God-awful mess,” Earling said. “But guess what. If we did just a 2-inch overlay it would cost approximately $1.1 million just to do that street,” adding that the city plans to spend $1.2 million to do street work city-wide this year.
“You can see the size of the problem,” Earling said.
The mayor then turned the meeting over to his department directors, who provided an update on their respective projects.
Edmonds Police Chief Al Compaan started off by posing the question, “Nothing ever happens in Edmonds, right?” — then went on to share the city’s crime statistics for 2013: 18 robberies, 197 assaults, 230 burglaries, 706 thefts, 55 motor vehicle thefts. The department answered almost 22,000 dispatched calls, investigated 710 traffic collisions and wrote 5,300 traffic tickets plus issued another 132 citations for driving while intoxicated.
Compaan noted that his officers work to earn the public’s trust. “We don’t take that for granted,” Compaan said. The police chief’s goal for the 2015 budget year is to reinstitute the department’s street crimes unit, which was cut during the budget downturn. He described the unit as a plainclothes patrol that addresses “the real irritants — vehicle prowls, vandalism, prostitution, street drugs — things that are illegal but really impact the quality of life in our community.” In addition, Compaan said he’d like to get a School Resource officer back at Edmonds-Woodway High School, another victim of budget cuts that was a 50-50 cost share with the Edmonds School District.
Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite said at the top of her list is the renovation of City Park at 3rd and Pine, with a “community build project” coming next Friday and Saturday involving 80 people who will “roll up their sleeves and help us build the playground.” A spray pad will be installed next year, she noted. Other parks plans on the horizon, with five grants submitted for funding — include the acquisition of Civic Stadium in downtown Edmonds, now owned by the Edmonds School District; rehabilitation of Edmonds Fishing Pier, a 30-year-old facility that needs a $1.5 million facelift, and collaboration with the City of Lynnwood to upgrade the Meadowdale playfields with turf.
Development Services Director Shane Hope, who recently came to Edmonds from Mountlake Terrace, said her office oversees building permits, development projects and code enforcement, “making sure that people are building appropriately or following the zoning regulations as well as looking at plans for the future.” Among the priorities for her office are updating the city’s comprehensive plan in 2015, plus updating development code and the tree code, which involves regulations on how trees are managed citywide.
Public Works Director Phil Williams noted he oversees the biggest department in the city, taking up about half the city’s budget with 80 employees. A main focus for Williams is upgrading the city’s aging infrastructure — including replacement or repair of water and sewer lines. He promised residents that the final paving on 76th Avenue West in Perrinville, as well as a permanent sidewalk, would be finished soon. Next year, Williams noted, the city will undertake grant-funded projects to redo the intersection at 76th and 212th, including new turn lanes and signals, and build an east-west corridor from Mountlake Terrace to Edmonds at 228th Street Southwest and Highway 99 — a $6 million project that is completely funded through federal grant money, with no city match.
Finance Director Scott James, who just finished second-month anniversary with the city after serving in the same job with the City of Mukilteo, talked about the challenges faced by the city IT department, which he also oversees. The city routinely receives 5,000 to 10,000 cyber attacks every day and implements two or more security updates per hour “to keep those bad guys out,” he noted.
The mayor and staff also addressed many questions from citizens, from sidewalk and road repairs to the future of the forested land in Perrinville that had at one point been proposed as a Planned Residential Development known as Angler’s Crossing. Look for a video of that question-and-answer session to be posted soon.