A larger-than-normal crowd of spectators were on hand for Tuesday evening’s Edmonds City Council meeting, with seven speakers requesting that the city ban crumb rubber athletic fields in the future. During council comments at the end of the meeting, Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas said she would add the issue to the agenda for the Nov. 10 meeting.
Councilmember Lora Petso wasn’t happy with that option, and instead suggested that the city attorney prepare an ordinance banning crumb rubber fields in the City of Edmonds. Councilmember Joan Bloom agreed, stating that an ordinance should be ready to go. Several councilmembers said that Petso and Bloom were jumping the gun a bit; the council should have a discussion first and then come up with the ordinance. Petso turned her suggestion into a motion, which Bloom seconded. After a somewhat heated discussion, the motion was defeated 5-2. Bloom, frustrated at that, made a similar motion when it was her turn to make council comments. That measure was also voted down 5-2.
The meeting included a proclamation of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and approval of rezoning portions of three lots on the west side of 75th Place, just south of the old Haines Wharf property, to give the property owner more flexibility in plans for building a new home. The vote on this item 6-1, with Petso opposing the rezone since the property was in a critical area potential landslide zone. City Attorney Jeff Taraday suggested that Petso’s concern would be addressed if and when a building permit is requested.
The council also approved a contract with Tetra Tech to begin the analysis of options for the Edmonds waterfront emergency access due to increasing train traffic. This item generated a lot of discussion, with Councilmembers Bloom, Petso and Johnson stating their concerns that the city be more proactive in getting input from the citizens about the options.
In addition, councilmembers heard a presentation from the Edmonds Downtown Alliance (Ed!), which presented both 2015 achievements and its proposed 2016 budget. Ed! has been running an advertising campaign on public transit buses and was happy with the results. It was also mentioned the alliance had a number of meetings with their membership and have included in their 2016 budget a commitment of $10,000 to help the city pay to add a new downtown public restroom.
Councilmember Bloom, who has a by-appointment business that is within the alliance boundaries, questioned whether the group had considered either lowering fees for by-appointment businesses — which already pay a smaller amount than retail businesses — or if they had figured how those businesses might get better benefits from the alliance. The presenter mentioned that service- type businesses benefit from having a more vibrant downtown, but that the issue would continue to be addressed.
Next came the first of many upcoming budget discussions. This is basically a description of how the budget was derived for several departments, with questions from the council to be on hold for a couple of weeks until after all the departments have made their presentations. The departments presenting their budgets Tuesday night were the Police Department, the City Clerk’s office, the Mayor’s Office, the City Council’s budget and finally the various departments of Finance and Administration.
A couple of financial highlights from those presentations were an increase in the budget for the Police Department, with the restoration of the “street crimes” department; and adding one-quarter person to the City Clerk’s office to deal with records requests.
In the City Council’s budget, there was $42,000 to have a part-time legislative assistant, $11,000 for council travel and training expenses, and $1,850 for extra pay for the camera operator record council meetings.
The Finance Department is requesting the addition of one person in accounting to deal with the workload and an increased level of financial analysis. The information technology group is requesting $47,000 to ensure the city remains current with licenses of software products, along with $22,500 to upgrade wiring to the latest higher standards and $32,000 to upgrade various analytical software pieces.
Next was the non-departmental budget, which is where items go that are not specific to one particular department. Included in this budget was the city’s Property and Casualty insurance premium, which is going up 10 percent or about $80,000. A significant portion of this increase comes from the city’s claims experience. Also in this budget is expenses for Fire District 1, which shows an increase in its base rate of 2.9 percent to a little over $7.5 million. Unfortunately, there is another $800,000, which is the final payment on the large invoices the city got back in 2014 for prior cost increases. The good new is that this $800,000 will fall off the budget in 2017.
— By Harry Gatjens