For the past week, the City of Edmonds has been experiencing serious problems with its aging phone and computer systems, resulting in an emergency request to the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night to investigate how much it will cost to fix the issue.
Brian Tuley, the City’s IT manager, told the council that he had been formulating a plan to upgrade the city’s IT services, but decided to escalate the request for help after the latest technical difficulties — the city’s phone system went down last week and this week computer server problems are preventing staff from sending or receiving emails. The culprit is aging equipment — including six-year-old servers, five-year-old storage, an eight-year-old network and a 10-plus-year phone system — that is increasingly unreliable and needs replacement.
“We are basically holding this thing together with Scotch tape and baling wire,” added Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling, “and we need to take some aggressive action to solve the problem.”
Tuley provided a rough estimate of money needed to fix the problems — about $186,000 during the first year for equipment, installation and training — but asked for permission to hire a consultant to provide firmer pricing and options for next steps. The council unanimously approved the request, and a report is expected back at the July 1 council meeting.
At the end of the council meeting, Earling offered an apology to all citizens who had been unable to reach staff by phone or had emails bounce back during the past week — and encouraged them “to try again.”
The council also had a lengthy discussion about the city’s proposed 2015-2020 Transportation Plan — a report the city is required to complete annually by July 1 for all transportation projects likely to be undertaken during the next six years. There were questions raised by Councilmembers Joan Bloom and Lora Petso about the need for additional time to review projects proposed by staff, and ensure that the correct priorities were being set. For example, Bloom noted that the plan included as a priority the Fourth Avenue Cultural Corridor — a concept to link the Edmonds Center for the Arts to the rest of downtown through improved traffic and pedestrian circulation, artwork and other design elements — but did not address the need for new or replacement sidewalks that citizens have been asking for in other parts of the city.
The council should be focused on gathering citizen opinions about their transportation priorities and addressing more important immediate needs instead of “feel-good beautification projects,” Bloom added.
Public Works Director Phil Williams and Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite noted that citizens rated the Fourth Avenue Cultural Corridor as a high priority on the city’s recently approved Strategic Plan, and Hite also pointed out that the Cultural Corridor was not strictly a transportation project, but was meant to be a driver for arts tourism and economic development. Councilmember Strom Peterson added that any future grant funding for the Cultural Corridor would come “from different pots of money,” and as such would not be competing with any funding sources for sidewalks or street overlay projects.
In the end, the council agreed by a vote of 5-1 (Councilmember Kristiana Johnson opposed and Council President Diane Buckshnis absent) to delay approving the plan so that councilmembers could further review the projects included in the proposed plan and have additional discussion at the next council meeting, June 24.
In other action, the council:
– Unanimously approved the extension of a contract with Jim Reid of the Falconer Group, who will continue his training sessions with councilmembers and city staff to improve their ability to work together. Councilmembers spoke about their admiration of — and confidence in — Reid, and how helpful the past sessions have been in improving councilmember communications. Hite noted that Reid is providing a 25 percent discount on the remaining training sessions, which will cost an estimated $8,625 and will come out of the council’s budget.
– Heard a report on final costs for the 2013 Sewerline Rehabilitation Project and accepted the work that was completed under budget, at $151,143.80.
– Unanimously approved an ordinance, required under a new state law, to allow employees to take up to two unpaid holidays for “faith or conscience.”
– Approved a proposed policy for naming of city facilities. You can see the policy here.
During the public hearing on the Transportation Plan, the council also listened with interest to a presentation by Edmonds residents Chuck and Kath Gold about a concept for addressing the congestion caused by increasing train traffic along the Edmonds waterfront — a train trench similar to ones that have been built in Reno and Vancouver, Wash. The Golds are lobbying for the city to conduct a professional engineering feasibility study and cost estimate for such a project. You can read more at their website here.
Also during that same public hearing, several people testified in support of installing a “wayside horn” at each of the city’s two railroad crossings, which emits far less noise that a locomotive horn.