From extending a moratorium on crumb rubber infill athletic fields to hearing residents’ worries about safe heroin injection sites coming to Edmonds, the Edmonds City Council addressed a range of issues at its Tuesday night business meeting. But perhaps the most memorable moment came at the meeting’s end — when it was time for councilmembers to offer comments on topics of their choosing.
The council’s student representative, Edmonds-Woodway High School senior Noal Leonetti, was the last person to speak. Like several councilmembers who had preceded him, he chose to address the gun violence that took 17 lives at a Florida high school last week. But as a student himself, it was personal
“There need to be more protections,” Leonetti said, noting that in the past EWHS has received its own shooting threats. “I just feel concerned about the safety of myself, my friends, my classmates at school, and sometimes it only feels like it’s a matter of time. I hope there will be a movement toward gun safety.”
Regarding the matter of crumb rubber infill on publicly-owned athletic fields, the council decided to extend its moratorium — set to expire Feb. 28 — until Aug. 15 to receive results of health and safety studies currently being conducted by the State of California and the federal government.
Councilmember Neil Tibbott attempted to amend the measure to exclude Edmonds School District properties from the moratorium, arguing that the district’s athletic fields “serve a unique purpose for which the school board must weigh the cost/benefit of fill materials.” In addition, Tibbott said, Edmonds is the only city with a crumb rubber infill restriction among the five cities in the school district’s service area.
The other six councilmembers, however, disagreed with his assertion. “Certain government entities are responsible to other governmental entities,” said Councilmember Tom Mesaros, adding that the Edmonds City Council “has a responsibility to make some determinations about how the school district structures its buildings and its fields, so I do think it’s proper for this council to make some choices about that.”
Council President Mike Nelson added that since health and safety concerns have been raised about crumb rubber nationwide, “it seems reasonable to wait to hear what the results of these studies are.”
The vote was 6-1 against Tibbott’s amendment, and 6-1 for approving the extension (Tibbott voting no).
The city council in December 2015 first approved the moratorium following months of public testimony and discussion among councilmembers about crumb rubber’s possible health and environmental impacts. The moratorium was scheduled to sunset July 11, 2017, but the council voted in April 2017 to extend it until Feb. 28, 2018, awaiting the results of pending federal research. The latest predictions are that those findings will be available by the end of June, thus the latest extension.
As My Edmonds News reported last week, the first test of the moratorium is the planned installation of a year-round playing surface for the Edmonds-Woodway High School baseball field, scheduled to begin in June. The upgrade is aimed at resolving long-term drainage issues at the current grass baseball field following rainy weather that leave the field unplayable.
Edmonds School District spokeswoman Debbie Jakala said last week that pricing for multiple types of infill “is always part” of the district’s field selection process, and that the EWHS baseball field project design would include a cork infill option, as well as a crumb rubber alternative. However, in the last few years, when faced with a choice between crumb rubber and alternative infills for projects involving school property, the school board has decided to stick with crumb rubber — citing both its lower cost as well as the lack of research demonstrating health and safety concerns.
When asked if the school district would consider legal action to challenge the city’s decision, Jakala said Tuesday night the school board has yet to discuss its next steps.
In other business Tuesday night, the council also heard a report from Lisa Reid of consultant SCJ Alliance regarding planning work completed for the two-and-a-quarter-mile Highway 99 Gateway Revitalization Project from 244h Street Southwest through Edmonds to 212th Street Southwest. The overall goal is to eventually extend the City of Shoreline’s Aurora Corridor project through Edmonds, although city officials say the project will be completed in phases as state and federal grant money becomes available for what is estimated to be a $100 million project
Reid told the council that over the past three years, there were 747 crashes, which is the equivalent to 8.6 crashes per million miles traveled — high when compared to equivalent roadways where the crash rate is 2.27 per million miles. Of those 747 crashes, 442 occurred between controlled intersections. The largest number of crashes — 132 — took place between 224th Street Southwest and 220th Street Southwest. The second-highest number — 120 — occurred between 238th and 228th Streets Southwest.
Reid said that access management in the form of median control with protected left and U-turns, plus relocating driveways away from intersections or reducing the overall number of driveways will make the corridor safer. A traffic signal and crosswalk is also planned for 234th Street Southwest, said Bertrand Haus, the city’s transportation engineer.
In addition, Reid said, the city may want to consider working with the Washington State Department of Transportation to reduce Highway 99’s current speed limit from 45 MPH to 40 MPH. “That might help reduce the severity of accidents,” she said.
Official cost estimates will come by April, in time for the city to apply for federal grants. SCJ’s planning work is being funded out of the $1 million from the state transportation budget, which was advanced in 2017 from the project’s $10 million long-term appropriation that lawmakers approved in 2015.
An open house for the public to showcase the work done so far is scheduled for March 7 at Swedish Edmonds Hospital.
In addition, the council Tuesday night:
– Heard during the public comment period from citizens who asked the council to put on a future meeting agenda a discussion regarding a possible ban of safe injection sites in Edmonds for heroin users. Councilmembers later in the meeting reiterated their opposition to locating safe injection sites in Edmonds.
– Approved a professional services agreement with Windward Environmental, LLC for the council’s Edmonds Marsh study.
– Unanimously approved an amendment to allow members of city boards and commissions to participate remotely (for example, via phone or video conference) up to twice a year, as long as they are present during the entire meeting.
– Agreed to change the frequency of council committee meetings from twice monthly to once a month, and to reduce the workload of the Parks, Planning and Public Works Committee by moving planning items to the Personnel and Public Safety committee.
– Listened to the City Hearing Examiner’s 2017 annual report.
Also during the meeting, Councilmember Tibbott commented on the city’s recent pavement rating report, which indicated Edmonds should be spending $2.2 million annually on street paving to maintain its roadways. Currently, the city spends about $1.8 million. “We may want to look at some ways of increasing that,” Tibbott said. The $2.2 million figure doesn’t include previously reported requirements to fix the city’s curb ramps and sidewalks so they are ADA accessible, said Tibbott, who suggested that the council review an earlier idea to create a “walkway crew” of employees to assist in keeping up with street maintenance.
— By Teresa Wippel