In an evening of twists and turns during deliberations over Mayor Dave Earling’s proposed 2019 budget, the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night moved a step closer to approving $1 million that would be used for Edmonds Marsh restoration, and reversed its decision on funding a federal lobbyist.
Councilmember Diane Buckshnis, who has been pushing for increased marsh restoration funding, told her fellow councilmembers Tuesday that “the iron is hot for salmon recovery and near-shore estuary restoration. This project will put Edmonds on the map as we will become environmental visionaries, and will allow us to prove that we can collaborate with state, federal, local and transportation stakeholders to provide a sanctuary for our salmon and wildlife.”
Marsh supporters and city officials believe that additional investment would help the city in its efforts to obtain grant funding for the Willow Creek Daylighting project, which is key to marsh restoration.
Setting aside $1 million will also demonstrate that the city is serious about its Marina Beach Master Plan process, added Buckshnis, who made a motion to do just that.
After taking a short break to speak with Finance Director Scott James and listening to council discussion on the matter, Earling said that he and James have identified several possible sources of money for marsh funding in the city’s budget. The mayor proposed taking a week for further consideration, promising Buckshnis that “I can bring back a package that you will find very satisfactory.”
“I’m willing to collaborate,” replied Buckshnis, who withdrew her amendment pending the discussion at next week’s council meeting. “I think those pieces will fall into place.”
“It will be a matter of showing people we are willing to talk our talk, and put money where our mouth is,” she added.
Councilmember Kristiana Johnson said she was pleased with the city administration’s response to Buckshnis’ request, adding that she believes marsh funding is “one of the. highest priorities for the city council.” As such, Johnson said she has been exploring how the city can use its federal lobbyist to find marsh funding. And she noted that the lobbyist’s contract has been modified to include marsh restoration, in addition to working to obtain funding for the Edmonds Waterfront Connector and Highway 99 improvements.
Johnson then proposed that the council revisit the amendment proposed by Council President Mike Nelson and approved Nov. 27 to remove the lobbyist from the budget. She stated she had a change of heart after speaking with Mayor Earling and Economic Development Director Patrick Doherty about the lobbyist’s work and direction.
The Nov. 27 decision to remove $72,000 for the federal lobbyist had been approved by a 4-3 vote, with Councilmembers Johnson, Nelson, Fraley-Monillas and Buckshnis voting for. During Tuesday night’s vote, Johnson and Buckshnis joined Councilmembers Neil Tibbott, Dave Teitzel and Tom Mesaros in reversing that decision and approving the lobbyist’s funding.
Among the many budget amendments both approved and rejected Tuesday night, the council agreed to add $200,000 to begin the process of making Edmonds’ playgrounds accessible to people with disabilities and voted to decrease the budget for the much-publicized Edmonds Gateway sign from $35,000 to $10,000.
The latter two items were among several budget amendments that had been proposed by Nelson. He suggested that the city begin adding rubberized pathways to its parks after meeting with a family whose son wasn’t able to travel through wood chips — the current play surface in most parks — when using his wheelchair.
“It’s really hard to get a wheelchair over wood chips,” agreed City Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite. The best practice for an accessible parks pathway currently is a poured-in-place rubber that would cost an estimated $150,000, Hite said.
The idea, Nelson said, would be to make such improvements gradually as parks are upgraded with new equipment. The next park on the schedule is Seaview.
The discussion about the Edmonds Gateway sign — which the city has proposed to redesign, to the consternation of some — focused on the $35,000 proposed cost. “I just think that’s too much money,” said Nelson, who suggested reducing the amount to $10,000.
Councilmember Fraley-Monillas said she had heard from several citizens who were upset with the cost “and they believe that $35,000 for a sign — you can buy a car with that. If we can’t have a sign built for $10,000 coming into Edmonds, then there’s something really wrong with government,” she added.
Parks Director Hite said that $10,000 would likely be adequate if the city ends up staying with the current wood design now at the Highway 104 location. However, she noted the city has begun an extensive public engagement process about sign options and that more money may be needed if another design is chosen.
Councilmember Dave Teitzel asked if the current wooden sign would last a year, while the community discussion continues about the fate of the Highway 104 sign. Hite said it would. She also reiterated that after a decision is made about the Highway 104 sign, the city would turn its attention to the design of gateway signs throughout the city. The council voted 5-2 to approve Nelson’s amendment reducing the sign budget to $10,000.
The council also voted against Nelson’s proposal to remove $323,000 for an in-house sidewalk crew that would work on general construction and repairs as well as get a start on ensuring the city’s sidewalks are ADA compliant. And councilmembers rejected another Nelson amendment to add two new police officers to focus on drug problems, with the consensus that such a proposal should be vetted as to need and purpose.
In other action Tuesday night, the council approved:
— a $197,000 change order to cover additional work on the city’s Five Corners reservoir recoating project;
– the following candidates for the newly-formed Edmonds Youth Commission:
Caitlin Chung, Caroline Wills, Kaleb Nichols, Nathanael Perdomo, Owen Lee, Sydney Pearson, Stephany Janssen and Noah Erickson;
– the city’s 2019 state government legislative agenda.
— By Teresa Wippel