City Council discusses yet another funding request to finish work on Veterans Plaza

Also at Tuesday’s council meeting, the 2017-18 Edmonds City Council student representative Noal Leonetti, left, is introduced as Councilmember Diane Buckshnis looks on. Leonetti is a senior at Edmonds-Woodway High School.

A request for additional money to complete the final work on the Edmonds Veterans Plaza generated significant discussion during an Edmonds City Council committee meeting Tueday night.

This is the third time that city staff have come to the council for additional money to build the Veterans Plaza, which was approved for construction in December 2016. The plaza officially opened six months later, on Memorial Day 2017, but some construction tasks remain.

The majority of the Veterans Plaza’s $710,000 price tag has been funded through private donations. The city will have covered 20 percent of that amount if the full council at a future meeting approves the most recent request — for $41,000. That amount would pay for completion of electrical service in the plaza as well as a redesign of a maintenance vault for the fountain’s filtration system, to allow for better staff access.

During the plaza’s design phase, the council in February 2016 approved a revised plan for the project — at an additional cost of $30,000 — after some community members complained that the project was “too militaristic” and out of scale for the site.

And in April 2017, the council approved $71,000 in additional funding after construction work on the site uncovered some unanticipated electrical work and parks staff requested changes to plaza benches to lower maintenance costs and reduce liability.

The council also on separate occasions allocated $2,000 and $4,000 from council contingency funds to assist with design and construction costs.

As for the most recent request presented to the council’s Parks, Planning and Public Works Committee Tuesday night, Public Works Director Phil Williams explained that the original plan was to use the electrical power supply from the nearby Public Safety Building — but crews determined that was insufficient for the Veterans Plaza. The good news, according to Edmonds Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite, is that upgrading the power supply will not only meet the Veterans Plaza’s electrical needs but will also be useful for other events like the annual tree lighting, the summer farmers market and the Taste of Edmonds.

Hite said she was originally going to request an additional $31,000 to cover these latest needs, but she amended her request to $41,000 to cover city engineering overhead costs.

During the committee meeting, Councilmember Kristiana Johnson asked whether the Veterans Plaza Committee, which has raised the majority of funding for the project, could contribute the additional $41,000 to cover the costs. Hite replied that she had communicated with the Veterans Plaza Committee, and learned that they are currently fundraising for a plaza informational kiosk instead.

“I’m concerned with the budget creep and the fact that we never said, well what can we eliminate to reduce the cost, what can we change?” Johnson said. “Instead it’s just adding and adding and adding.”

Hite said she would go back to the Veterans Plaza Committee and communicate those concerns.

During the business meeting portion of Tuesday night’s council meeting, councilmembers listened to a presentation by Jay Grant, chair of the city’s Salary Commission. Grant presented the commission’s recommendations for salary increases for both the Edmonds mayor and city council. According to state law, the commission’s recommendations are binding and there will be no changes to them.

Grant explained that the commission had reviewed and discussed current compensation information such as salary, wages, health insurance, allowances, benefits and other forms of remuneration commonly received in return for services from comparative cities of similar population size and forms of government as Edmonds throughout King, Snohomish, Pierce Thurston and Kitsap counties.

Based on that work, the commission determined that the mayor’s current salary was appropriate, but that he should receive a cost of living adjustments (COLA) for 2018 and 2019 based on Seattle Area Consumer Price Index (CPI) annual percent change. The 2018 increase of 3 percent is based on the figure released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in June 2017. It brings the mayor’s salary in 2018 to $121,912 — up from $118,361 currently. The 2019 increase will be based on the CPI released in June 2018.

Grant noted that city councilmembers haven’t had a raise in Edmonds since 2002. As a result, the commission agreed to increase city councilmembers’ base wages to $1,500 per councilmember per year, effective Jan. 1, 2018, bringing their total compensation to $13,500 — from the current $12,000. And the commission recommended that councilmembers receive another $1,500 annually in January 2019, to raise the total annual compensation to $15,000.

Both the mayor and councilmembers also receive the same health benefits package as non-represented city employees, and the salary commission determined that health benefits will stay the same. Those would change in the future “only if the benefits package offered to non-represented employees changes (either plan, or contribution rate),” the commission said.

Finally, the commission said that the additional compensation of council president — now $200 per month on top of the councilmembers’ base salary — should remain the same.

The salary commission includes five citizen volunteers who were recommended for appointment by the mayor and confirmed by the city council earlier this year. Those serving in addition to Chair Jay Grant were Vice-Chair Ava Dubno and members Don Hall, Jeff Hodson and Carl Zapora.

By Teresa Wippel

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