Council reverses course, OKs Pine Street lighting as part of 2017 budget

Area where lights will be added, on the west side of Pine Street along Highway 104.
Area where lights will be added, on the west side of Pine Street along Highway 104.

Shortly after a group of Point Edwards residents testified about the dangers of walking after dark along Highway 104 near Pine Street, the Edmonds City Council reversed a decision it made a week earlier and approved adding to the draft 2017 city budget a $20,000 lighting project for the area.

Since last week, the council has been working its way through 2017 budget changes proposed by individual councilmembers. At its Nov. 15 meeting, the council had rejected by a 5-2 vote the Pine Street lighting proposal, which had been initiated by Councilmember Tom Mesaros, a Point Edwards resident. The council had a change of heart, however, after hearing from several Point Edwards residents on the challenges of navigating the area of Pine Street and Highway 104 — located at the bottom of the Point Edwards development — after dark.

“I walk to the bus stop, to the waterfront, to the senior center and downtown to do my shopping every day,” said Kay Hogan. “I try to be home before dark to avoid having to walk on that section of Pine Street.” The path is “pitch dark and…actually it’s very scary,” Hogan said. “The sidewalk is uneven and a portion of it slopes down and in the dark you can’t see that slope. I’ve fallen once in that area, scraped my knees and hands, but I worry that I’m going to fall and break some bones.”

“It seems to me that funding for this project would affect the lives of a lot of people in very positive ways and keep people safe,” Hogan added. “I would appreciate you reconsidering your decision on that and look into it a little bit more closely.”

Tom Graff, a board member of the Point Edwards Homeowners Association, noted that there are 436 people currently living at Point Edwards with an estimated 100 additional residents coming once construction of the new Building 10 is complete. With the fish  hatchery on one side of Pine Street and a wooded area on the other, “there are no street lights whatsoever,” Graff said, adding that most Point Edwards homeowners “do not feel safe walking at night.”

Some on the council noted that dark neighborhoods are a problem in many parts of Edmonds, and that residents often carry flashlights to address the problem. Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas asked Public Works Director Phil Williams if the city kept an inventory of which neighborhoods need lighting; Williams said the city did not but he would certainly be open to hearing from other neighborhoods that would like to have lighting problems addressed.

“How do you suggest we balance that so it’s not just a councilmember’s neighborhood that gets the crosswalks or the lighting?” Fraley-Monillas asked. “That it is a balance across the city?”

Williams replied that in many neighborhoods, there are existing PUD power poles on which additional lights can be added, at a small cost to the city. The Pine Street area on the west side of Highway 104 is unique in that it does not have existing power poles, and the plan is to work in conjunction with Snohomish County PUD to install underground lighting, Williams added.

The final vote on the proposal was 4-2, with Councilmembers Kristiana Johnson and Dave Teitzel voting against and Councilmember Buckshnis abstaining.

The council also agreed to move forward several other items for inclusion in the final budget, including an additional $50,000 for the city prosecutor’s contract to address increased caseloads; and $15,000 for a pedestrian safety training program. The latter proposal came out of a recommendation from a mayor’s pedestrian task force formed following two high-profile fatal pedestrian accidents in recent years.

And councilmembers continued their discussion from last week regarding the need for an additional parking enforcement officer at a cost of $82,300, to address ongoing complaints about parking issues — and lack of enforcement — citywide.

In the end, after hearing from Police Chief Al Compaan, it was agreed that the best course of action would be to hire a part-time traffic enforcement officer at about half the cost — around $40,000. However, City Human Resources Director Mary Ann Hardie reminded the council that establishing such a position would need to be negotiated with the police guild.

As for coming up with money to pay for all of the council-requested additional items — including several approved last week — there was some discussion about possible cuts to the 2017 budget. But it was agreed that staff would develop a list of ideas for the council to review prior to the next meeting Dec. 6. (There is no council meeting Nov. 29 because it falls on the fifth Thursday of the month.)

Also on Tuesday night, the council:

— Approved a 1 percent increase in the property tax and a utility rate increase, and a 5.7 percent 2017 emergency medical services (EMS) tax. These items — along with several others — were pulled from the consent agenda so they could be voted on separately. You can see details on those rate increases here.

– Reviewed proposed 2016 Comprehensive Plan Amendments, with a public hearing set for Dec. 6

– Approved renewal of an inmate housing agreement with Yakima County Department of Corrections.

– Approved a supplemental agreement to cover additional work by consultant David Evans & Associates for the 76th and 212th Intersection improvements project. The project was delayed after bids initially came in higher than estimated. City Engineer Rob English shared that the city last Friday received an additional $2.2 million grant to cover higher expected costs when the project is rebid early next year. The city also decided to repackage the 76th and 212th Street project with an already planned Verdant bike lane project on 76th Avenue. “So we are actually going out to bid with both projects at one time, trying to get economy of scale with construction work,” English said.

– Learned from Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling that the city is very close to reaching an agreement with Snohomish County Fire District 1 on its 2017 contract for fire and EMS services. Citizens will have a chance to share their views on the proposed agreement during a public hearing set for Dec. 6.

— By Teresa Wippel

 

  1. Good Morning Teresa, would you happen to have the list of who voted for and agianst the 3 tax measures.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

    1. Apologies for leaving that off earlier. Vote for 1 percent property tax was 6-1, Councilmember Teitzel opposed. (He also opposed measure in vote last week, expressing worry about the cumulative effect of recent tax increases including Sound Transit.) Vote for EMS tax was 7-0. Vote for utility rate increase was 4-3, with Councilmembers Fraley-Monillas, Nelson and Buckshnis voting no. As before with the utility rate increase, the argument was whether it’s better to pay now by raising rates to replace aging infrastructure, or to bond the work and pay interest, which according to Councilmember Tom Mesaros would end up costing the city twice as much in the long run. Essentially, do we burden current ratepayers — including low-income and seniors who may not be able to afford — or future ratepayers? The city does have the ability to financially assist those on reduced incomes, as Public Works Director Phil Williams noted in an earlier story.

  2. Thank you for the question, Mr Murdock. The issue I had was the lack of thoughtful and pragmatic processing of these rates in lieu of new rate increases due to Sound Transit. Three years ago when we entered into this theory of being debt free for pipe replacement-we spent months in committee reviewing the rates and comparable rates at other cities. This year, it seemed rushed and even though I asked for different rate scenarios in a earlier meeting, the public never received that data – only Council did in an email.

    Listen to what Council Member Fraley- Monallis says on this topic – it is food for thought. This was not a due or die decision that had to be done by year-end. I am sorry that my frustration regarding this issue and many others have been evident on camera.

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