The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night approved an amended 2018 city budget that includes half a million dollars to address homeless and opioid addiction issues, $106,000 for a new police officer, a $41,250 contribution to the Snohomish County Health District and $130,000 for a climate/renewable energy consultant.
In addition, the council voted unanimously to appoint Councilmember Mike Nelson as its 2018 president, replacing 2017 Council President Tom Mesaros. Nelson, who was just re-elected to the council after running unopposed, has served for the past year as president pro tem.
Both Diane Buckshnis and Neil Tibbott were nominated to replace Nelson as council president pro tem. Buckshnis was elected to the job on a 4-3 vote.
Many of the budget additions approved by the council Tuesday night had been proposed by Nelson, and the council also passed some of the spending cuts he had proposed to pay for the new initiatives.
Those votes were not unanimous, however. Councilmembers Teitzel and Tibbott in particular expressed reservations about allocating $250,000 each toward addressing homelessness and opioid addiction when there was no accompanying plan for spending the money or for council oversight. Council President Mesaros proposed reducing the dollar amount to $150,000 for each of those funds — with the idea of adding more money later as plans are more fully developed — but that idea was rejected twice on a 3-4 vote (Councilmembers Fraley-Monillas, Buckshnis, Nelson and Kristiana Johnson opposed).
Councilmember Buckshnis, who supported full funding of both measures, likened it to a fund the council established several years ago for Edmonds Marsh restoration — before there was a plan to use the money.
Added Fraley-Monillas: “This council put $200,00 away to help with the issues around the marsh and I think the least we could do is save the lives of women and children and families that are living on our streets for $50,000 more than what we did to save the marsh.”
The council cut several significant items that Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling and city staff had proposed as part of the draft budget. Among them: $72,000 for a federal lobbyist, $128,000 for a new capital projects manager to oversee upcoming parks and recreation initiatives, and $40,000 to remodel city conference rooms.
Nelson had also proposed cutting an assistant engineer position requested by the public works department, but that proposal failed on a 2-5 vote (Nelson and Fraley-Monillas voting for). And Nelson withdrew his earlier proposal to cut $253,00 designated to replace the city’s outdated phone system.
Some councilmembers questioned Earling’s effort, as part of his proposed budget, to assign $2 million for the future development of Civic Field. Buckshnis argued that the council should have a say in whether that money is designated for that purpose. “”That’s a lot of money,” she said.
“I believe that it’s our budget and we get to make the decision,” Councilmember Johnson added. “For myself, i would like to see us set aside for open space. And I would like to see more money for sidewalks. I would support a lesser amount (for Civic Field) to accomplish other goals.”
Johnson acknowledged that the $2 million committed by Earling to Civic Field as part of his budget may have helped the city get a recent $1.5 million contribution to the project from the Hazel Miller Foundation. “But boy, if we cut it in half I don’t think it will hurt us.”
Replied Earling: “If you diminish that $2 million I will veto the budget.” That $2 million “was made with a certain dynamic and it’s already gotten us another $1.5 million,” he added. “We need to show serious commitment. It’s not an intent to fritter away $2 million.”
In an attempt to address council concerns, Councilmember Teitzel made a motion to set up a specific $2 million Civic Field fund, but that measure was defeated 2-4 with Councilmember Buckshnis abstaining. Buckshnis said she abstained from voting ‘because the mayor said he was going to veto our budget; so it’s no longer our budget.”
“Let him veto it,” Fraley-Monllas added.
Among the other budget additions approved by the council Tuesday night:
– From Kristiana Johnson, $14,485 to increase the half-time parking enforcement officer to a three-quarter-time position.
– From Dave Teitzel, $15,000 for two radar feedback signs to assist with traffic calming.
– From Diana Buckshnis, $100,000 for a new Edmonds Marsh fund to support future restoration efforts.
– Also from Buckshnis, an amendment that changes the percentage of the budget that the city allocates to its contingency reserve fund from the mayor’s suggested amount of 16 percent to 14 percent.
– Councilmember Tibbott withdrew his proposal to designate $300,000 to fund an in-house crew of city employees that could keep up with sidewalk repairs and start to address the city’s compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. “I’m hopeful this is something we could add to the budget the following year,” Tibbott said, after additional planning is completed.
The council also:
– Agreed to a one-month extension of the city’s current agreement for backup police services with the Town of Woodway, while the two sides continue negotiating a new contract. Woodway separately is also trying to negotiate a contract with the City of Mountlake Terrace, Earling told the council. You can read more on that issue here.
– After a lengthy discussion, authorized the mayor to sign a professional services agreement for $917,494 with Parametrix for design services for the Edmonds Street Waterfront Connector. The project includes a one-lane bridge from Edmonds Street to Brackett’s Landing that is aimed at providing an emergency connection when the railroad tracks are blocked. The rest of the time, the bridge can be used as for pedestrian and bicycle access to and from the waterfront.
The measure was approved 5-1 with Buckshnis voting no. (Councilmember Fraley-Monillas had to leave the meeting by the time this issue was raised.) Buckshnis said she can’t support the current project and instead favors having a crew of first responders stationed on the other side of the tracks.
Speaking about the project, Earling made it clear that he wasn’t pleased about the council’s decision to cut the lobbyist, stating that federal influence is critical to the city obtaining grant funding for key transportation projects. The city will work to acquire additional state funding for the estimated $30 million project, and that money will be used to show “good faith” for acquiring federal dollars.
When the state Legislature learns the city no longer has a Washington, D.C. lobbyist to work for federal funds, “we’re beginning to bury ourselves,” Earling said. “If we don’t have a federal lobbyist carrying the weight of probably $24-$25 million, it will provide a problem for us.”
Nelson replied that since the council had indeed eliminated the lobbyist, he had confidence that Earling could work with state and federal legislators to secure the needed funding. The mayor responded that he would be bringing Nelson — as the new council president — with him to lobby for such requests.
– Authorized a contract change order of $700,000 for the 76th Avenue West and 212th Street Southwest intersection project due to unanticipated work on a sewer line in the construction area.
– Approved the 2018-2023 Capital Facilities Plan and Capital Improvement Plan.
– Received a presentation regarding a U.S. Department of Energy award recognizing the city’s efforts to promote solar energy.
– Approved the Edmonds Downtown Alliance 2018 budget and work plan.
— By Teresa Wippel