By Harry Gatjens
The Edmonds City Council tonight approved a number of items Tuesday night, starting with the hiring of Roger Neumaier as the city’s new finance director.
Neumaier, who has served as finance director for Snohomish County since 1999, received yes votes from all other Council members except Joan Bloom. Bloom expressed reservations due to the Council not been presented with three candidates as procedure dictates, and also because she sent comments to Mayor Dave Earling after the council’s interview of the finalists and did not feel that her comments were considered.
Earling responded that he had received comments from several different councilmembers and all were considered.
Neumaier will begin work Wednesday and spend the rest of the week with current interim finance director Ron Cone.
Next, the council approved the city moving forward with acquiring property needed for a new crossing at Highway 99 and 228th Street Southwest. The project will improve safety and traffic flow by preventing drivers southbound on Highway 99 from turning left onto 76th Avenue West. This has been the scene of numerous collisions and is a traffic bottleneck, the city said. The new crossing will put a signal on Highway 99 at 228th Street Southwest, which will control access to southbound 76th. The expected overall cost of the project is $4.8 million, with all but 13.5 percent coming from grants. This measure also was approved 6-1 with Bloom the only no vote.
Next up was a public hearing on adopting new building and fire codes per changes in the 2012 International Building and Fire codes. These codes are adopted at the federal level and then passed down to the state level. The state then can make changes they deem important and then the codes are mandated down to the city. The city can also make changes they feel are important, with the only caveat being that they cannot reduce the safety features of the codes.
A change that caused discussion within the Council was the discovery that Edmonds has been classified as a higher risk than it actually had been in the past. This means that Edmonds’ building codes required buildings to be built to higher standards than was required by the codes. Several councilmembers originally wanted to maintain the higher standards, beyond what was necessary, for safety’s sake. After some discussion it was decided that the best course was to stick with the recommended changes per the new codes. This was passed unanimously.
There’s also a unanimous show of support for the state implementing a new transportation program, including an increase in gas tax over the next three years, that would provide additional funds to the city for general road improvements and several large road projects that are in city plans but not currently funded. The projects specifically mentioned were building a walkway on Sunset Avenue and improving Highway 99 through Edmonds, similar to what has been accomplished in Shoreline.
There was also a public hearing on changes to the Shoreline Management Plan (SMP), something that the city is mandated to do every three years. This review is somewhat behind schedule because it was originally planned to be accomplished in conjunction with the controversial Harbor Square Master Plan involving the Port of Edmonds. As that plan is currently in limbo, there is now some urgency in adopting the SMP. No action was taken, nor expected, as city staff plan on taking the input received tonight to finalize the SMP.
The last action of the night was a decision to increase the time frame to complete a short plat project from five to seven years. The state has already made a similar change to help people whose projects got delayed by the poor economy during the last few years. There was some debate about whether this increase should only apply to projects that were still within the five years but didn’t expect to be completed within that time frame, or whether it should also apply to projects that have already passed their five-year deadline. Ultimately, it was decided that the increase should apply to all projects.