The Edmonds City Council made it official Tuesday night: The city will once again have a director of human resources.
The council voted 6-1 to bring back the job, which was eliminated in November 2011 due to what the council described as a cost-cutting measure. Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling at last week’s meeting asked the council to restore the position, citing an increased department workload and an increasing number of city employees.
Mary Ann Hardie, a former HR analyst, was permanently appointed as HR Manager in April 2012. Since that time, in lieu of having a full-time HR director, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite has been receiving an additional 5 percent of her parks director salary — or about $6,000 a year — to provide high-level guidance and work with the council on HR policy issues.
If Hardie applies for the director job and is appointed, the $6,000 that Hite receives would be applied to Hardie’s current manager salary, making the position addition cost-neutral for the short term. If Hardie is not hired, Hite said the plan would be to reorganize the HR department, which would require additional funding.
Council President Kristiana Johnson, who voted against bringing back the position, said she worried that over six years the addition of the new HR job could cost the city $150,000, after annual “step” increases in pay take effect.
“I don’t think it’s in best interest of city to make this incremental decision at this time,” Johnson said.
But Johnson was overruled in the council’s 6-1 vote, and Earling announced Wednesday morning that Hardie would serve as Interim Human Resources Director while Hite works with the mayor to open the position and evaluate candidates.
In his Wednesday announcement, Earling noted that since the director position was eliminated in 2011, there as been an increase in staffing levels, additional state and federal regulations, additional HR programs implemented (safety, wellness, light duty program, stay at work program, ergonomic assessments), organizational training and development needs, labor relations, and considerable work completed on health benefits for employees.
According to Wednesday’s announcement, the mayor expects to bring two to three final candidates forward to city council for review in the next month
In other business, the council spent an hour hearing from two Washington State Department of Ecology officials who have been working with the city on proposed updates to its Shoreline Master Program, and asking questions about the department’s findings.
Ecology Shoreline Planner David Pater and Wetlands Specialist Paul Anderson formally presented the department’s findings and conclusions, which have raised concerns among some councilmembers and citizens. Among the issues are Ecology’s recommendations to reduce the size of buffers and setbacks around the Edmonds Marsh and how the marsh is categorized using Washington State’s wetlands ratings system.
During the public comment period prior to the Ecology presentation, Edmonds resident Joe Scordino, a retired fisheries biologist, said the council “should reject the changes that have been suggested. I don’t think they are based on science.” Scordino also said the Ecology Department doesn’t provide justification for rating the marsh as a Category 2, which provides less protection than a Category 1, a rating that the marsh has held in the past.
At the heart of the Shoreline Master Program is how the city defines, regulates and protects critical areas such as the Edmonds Marsh. The State Growth Management Act requires jurisdictions to review, evaluate and, if necessary, revise their critical areas ordinances according to an update schedule. The City of Edmonds update was due in 2015.
After months of grappling with buffer zones, construction setbacks and a higher construction base to provide for expected sea level rises, the council approved a critical areas ordinance in May. That was then folded into the current Shoreline Master Program proposal, which was then submitted to the Ecology Department for review and approval.
In its written comments to the city, the Ecology Department identified several changes as prerequisites to approval. Details of these and other findings and conclusions are available on the Ecology website here. The council may choose to either accept the Ecology Department’s changes or submit an alternate proposal.
During the presentation, Pater highlighted three significant proposed changes Ecology has requested — all of which are related to the Edmonds Marsh:
– Proposing a 50-percent redevelopment threshold that would trigger buffer enhancement on properties adjacent to the Edmonds Marsh; this would provide incentives to nearby property owners to focus on improvements, such as stormwater treatment, that could improve Marsh water quality.
– Removing the council-approved interim Shoreline Environment Designation, which allowed for the larger buffers that Ecology doesn’t believe are necessary.
Responding to concerns about the marsh rating as a Category 2 wetland, Anderson explained that it wasn’t a matter of Ecology intentionally downgrading the designation from a Category 1 as part of their current response. Rather, the marsh designation is part of the state’s 2014 rating system, which was originally updated in 2004.
Pater noted that while the city is officially required to respond within 30 days to Ecology’s findings, the department will grant an extension to allow for further discussion. City Development Director Shane Hope said she had scheduled time during two future council meetings — July 19 and Aug. 3 — so that the council could have additional time to decide next steps.
Also on Tuesday night, the council agreed to move to next week’s consent agenda the following items:
– Approval of the schematic design for the Edmonds Waterfront Center, a multi-generational facility planned for the site of the current Edmonds Senior Center. You can see detailed drawings of what’s planned in our report from the June 22 open house here.
– Acceptance of a private property donation to the city, located at 9th and Main.
– Approval of an amendment to the interlocal agreement for work on the Edmonds Fishing Pier, as well as a supplemental agreement for engineering consulting on the project.
– Acceptance of a sole-source contract for acquisition of U.S. stone to be used for Edmonds Veteran’s Plaza construction.
– Authorization for the mayor to execute a lease agreement for postage meter equipment.
The council also agreed, after hearing a presentation on the status of planning for Five Corners development, to forward the matter to the Edmonds Planning Board for discussion.