Budget discussions heat up as council debates Edmonds funding priorities

    Neil Tibbott

    Some heated discussions (literally) were in order Tuesday night as Edmonds City Councilmembers discussed their ideas for changes to the city’s proposed 2018 budget.

    Councilmember Neil Tibbott stated that Councilmember Mike Nelson’s proposals to allocate $250,000 toward a fund that could be used to address homelessness reminded him of his recently microwaved lunch of Thanksgiving leftovers — a good idea but half-baked, since Nelson didn’t have particulars to share on how the fund would work.

    “I’d like this to be more cooked before we commit to $250,000,” Tibbott said.

    Mike Nelson

    Nelson came back in kind when Tibbott later proposed designating $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.

    Nelson asked Tibbott how such a fund would be utilized and how big the crew would be.

    Public Works Director Phil Williams jumped in to explain that such a crew would likely be made up of two staff members for $150,000, with the rest of the money going toward supplies. Williams added that while he was interested in pursuing Tibbott’s idea, it may take a while to work out the details.

    Nelson’s reply: “While this apparently is still being baked, I am still nonetheless intrigued.”

    Then it was Tibbott’s turn. “This whole discussion has got me thinking about my lunch again,” he said to council laughter. “My intention obviously is to move forward as forcefully as we can with our walkway projects and yet maybe the timing isn’t quite right for this plan,” Tibbott said, adding he hoped it could be included as part of the 2019 budget.

    As for Nelson’s plan regarding a city contribution to a regional homeless fund, councilmembers offered varying degrees of support for that suggestion.

    Councilmember Adrienne Fraley Monillas said she was in favor of allocating the full $250,000, noting an increasing number of homeless veterans, children and families in south Snohomish County. The idea, she said, is to give the city a pool of funds from which to draw when a regional funding opportunity to address homelessness arises.

    Some others echoed Tibbott’s concerns that they needed more details regarding how the idea would be carried out and whether the dollar amount was appropriate.

    “I think it’s the right thing to be doing,” said Council President Tom Mesaros, who congratulated Nelson for bringing the idea forward. However, Mesaros added that he would likely be offering an amendment to reduce the allocation to $150,000, since it is meant to be part of a regional effort with other contributors. The council could then add to the fund in the future if needed, Mesaros said.

    Councilmember Dave Teitzel said that while supportive, he would like more details on how such a fund would be administered. That would help determine whether the $250,000 is the right amount, Teitzel said, noting that less or even more could be needed.

    “Until I see a bit of a framework around how this money will be used, I’ll have a hard time supporting this,” Teitzel said.

    Nelson replied that the city and Edmonds taxpayers are already covering the cost of homelessness through increased visits to emergency rooms and police incidents. “It’s a problem and we need to address it and we need to start putting money away for it,” he said.

    He also alluded to his earlier statement that the city could postpone a $253,00 allocation to replace its outdated phone system to help fund what he considers to be more important matters. Whatever the council decides to allocate to homelessness, “I should hope it’s more than what we’re going to do for the phone system,” Nelson said.

    That system was one of five items Nelson had proposed deleting from Mayor Dave Earling’s budget, suggesting that money be used instead for things like hiring a second police officer to fill an open K-9 position and a consultant to assist Edmonds in reaching renewable energy goals. In addition to the $250,000 fund for homelessness, he also proposed that $250,000 be designated to address opioid addiction.

    Other items that Nelson recommended for deletion include two new proposed Public Works Department positions — a capital projects manager and an assistant engineer — along with removal of money designated for a federal lobbyist.

    Councilmembers had a similar range of reactions to Nelson’s proposal for addressing the opioid crisis, with some expressing a desire for more details to determine an appropriate amount.

    Councilmember Kristiana Johnson said that the important thing is to establish the funds and not worry so much about the dollars that the council initially allocates. “Having an opioid fund, having a homelessness response fund, these are steps in the right direction,” she said.

    Councilmembers appeared to favor Nelson’s plan to fund a new police officer, and Police Chief Al Compaan — who had not requested any new staffing in the 2018 budget– thanked the council for its support.

    The council also reacted favorably to Teitzel’s proposal that $15,000 be allocated to purchase two additional radar feedback signs to slow down speeding motorists. Another of Teitzel’s proposals — to allocate $70,550 to install a crosswalk at the busy Admiral Way and Dayton Street intersection — was removed from the council’s 2018 budget proposal so it could instead join the city’s list of capital projects, where it will be appropriately prioritized.

    The council discussed whether the city should have an upper limit on the amount of money it allocates to its reserve fund. Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling had proposed as part of the 2018 budget that the city move $760,000 in cash into the city’s contingency reserve fund, which would increase that fund to 16.1 percent. Councilmember Diane Buckshnis argued that the council’s practice had been to maintain a ceiling of 16 percent on reserves.

    In addition, the council talked about a proposal by Fraley-Monillas to allocate $2 per Edmonds resident — a total of $83,800 — to help fund the Snohomish County Health District. Mesaros said he wasn’t sure if the $2-per-person formula was the correct amount, and asked for information regarding what other cities are contributing.

    The council will continue to discuss the budget– and may even take action — at its next meeting, Tuesday, Dec. 5.

    — By Teresa Wippel

    13 Replies to “Budget discussions heat up as council debates Edmonds funding priorities”

    1. Can the budget do both? $300,000 sidewalk repairs/disability compliance and $250,000 to curb homelessness. The side walk issue would enhance the look of our city…like Rudy Guliani, then NYC Mayor, did in the early nineties to improve the appearance of his city…city pride. The $250,000 on its own will not accomplish much but in partnering with the other cities and Snohomish County the monies will enable Edmonds to participate in helping our brothers and sisters. We are family. The true fabric of our soul is in helping others during this joyous time of the year.


    2. If the city council had its priorities in order sidewalks would be at or near the top. Anyone who walks throughout our downtown knows that they are in a very dangerous condition – it’s hard to walk very far without tripping at least once.


    3. The greatest nations in the world take care of their most vulnerable. Edmonds is clearly a SEGREGATED city – The most vulnerable and housing for the most vulnerable is thrown up on 99, and listed as “development” – 99 heroin capital of the state here and an easy way to keep people out of the other Edmonds

      We need a city that is INCLUSIVE and does not throw away our most vulnerable – We’re ALL sharing this small planet together and we have a lot to learn from eachother, no matter our financial differences or the color of one’s skin.

      Again, the greatest nations of the world take care of their most vulnerable……..I don’t see this happening here in Edmonds, and seems to not be a part of an “Edmonds kind of day”. We spoke with a man just before Thanks Giving (meant to be spelled this way for you arm chair editors out there that seem to be more concerned about spelling and punctuation than ideas) who finally, after 7! years of waiting while sleeping outside around here in Edmonds, got shelter to call his own. He woke up Thanks Giving day under that stars of a real warm room inside his own little place…….With 8,000 churches here (tax free) and a “minister” on our City Council, let us see some HUMANITY. It is sorely needed here. In this wealthy city, nobody should be sleeping outside for 7 years. I ask each and every member of the City Council and the Mayor, and the record number churches here in this little town of 40,000 with the acres and acres of tax free land, where is your humanity? Where is your humanity?…….hoarding acres and acres of tax free land – land with nothing on it!


    4. Least Year about this time the council decided to axe the fire district staffing in the city… now they are trying to figure out where to throw budget money. How about bring back the three responders you chose to part with?


    5. Thanks, Teresa, for the great coverage. I could address a number of issues, but I will point out one. I don’t see the use in having two more traffic monitors. It is unrealistic to think they slow down speeders. I have seen cars speed through them no matter what the sign is flashing. The old adage, “Never make a rule unless you are willing and able to enforce it.” stands true.


      1. The electronic speed monitors are for tourists and out of towner’s. Local’s know they aren’t speed camera’s and ignore.

        After noticing the frequent disregard for the speed limits, despite illumination, I inquired with the EPD as to how much of the data collected at these signs (even the mobile carts) is shared with them, therefore leading to the direction of enforcement. Only to hear that these signs are maintained by a different city department, that only downloads the information upon a maintenance schedule. (Maybe, quarterly) “Primarily because the data boxes are not easily accessible”. I then asked the Sargent if it were possible to incorporate into a business process EPD receive this information on a more timely basis, to enhance public safety.

        If I’m not mistaken, the wonderful EPD officer I communicated with (Sgt. Anderson) actually attempted to schedule a more frequent sharing of information between departments. I do not know the specifics of how the information sharing works, but he seemed extremely appreciative of the idea to mine the data from these signs to direct resources for our safety. EPD Rocks and we all need to trust and appreciate them much more than we do.

        The more the better. Tourists and out of towner’s will slow down and locals will be just providing data to the EPD as to where to setup enforcement.


    6. “The electronic speed monitors are for tourists and out of towner’s. Local’s know they aren’t speed camera’s and ignore.” So true! Just like they ignore stop signs, crosswalks, and using their turn signals. The only chance we have to remedy this is the addiction of more officers dedicated to traffic enforcement.


      1. Ron – You have a point, and I see people going as fast as 40 on the 25 mph Olympic View Drive (Want your own parade? Drive at the speed limit on OVD and you soon have a train of cars behind you.) But I don’t believe the speed monitors are wholly useless. As locks only keep out honest people, so the monitors do remind the rest of us to slow down, and as far as I can see, speeding on OVD is somewhat better than it used to be, though there are certainly exceptions. Still, we can all use reminders at times.


    7. Hello Ron! I agree with you about people ignoring all sorts of car-related traffic signs, etc. We could also add pedestrians ignoring laws. But, we would need a HUGE number of police to enforce all the things that responsible humans should be observing.


    8. The radar trailers are deployed throughout the city by the Traffic Unit based on concerns that are communicated to us from our residents. We also take into account areas where they may have been an increase in collisions. We prioritize these deployments and the data is then collected and reviewed by the Traffic Sergeant. He then regularly disseminates this to the staff so that the traffic officers and patrol officers can attempt to do education and enforcement in these areas as call volumes allow.


      1. Thank you for the clarification Sgt. McClure. If I remember correctly, Sgt. Anderson said given EPD owns the electronic speed trailer’s, the data collected during a deployment is downloaded for review and the system is reset for the next deployment. The data collected was then reviewed for enforcement possibilities.

        I was speaking about the fixed signs and the data they collect. At the time of my inquiry with Sgt. Anderson, there were fewer in town. He communicated those were deployed and maintained by a different city department. That department would share the data collected with the EPD as they performed maintenance on the signs, roughly once a quarter. If I’m not mistaken the information sharing between fixed sign data collected and EPD is now more frequent than quarterly. Hence used to deploy enforcement resources. Am I wrong?

        Thanks again for your clarification and service to our city!!


    9. We can throw thousands and thousands of dollars at the opioid problem and not solve it. Per various media the percentage of homeless is around 20 percent and the rest are heroin users. I’m all for getting the homeless help. BUT you cannot help opioid addicts off the streets when they do NOT want off the street. Many of the various charities have beds open for the night but no takers. Unless you make it MANDATORY for users to get off the drug they won’t. In house help with a mandatory check in and not get out until the problem is licked. I’ll bet most relatives would be all for it. Opioids are extremely hard to get off.


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