Next phase of connector funding, plus utility rate hike, dogs in parks discussed at Tuesday council meeting

Artist’s rendering of the proposed waterfront connector that would provide a one-lane emergency access roadway across the tracks between Edmonds Street and Brackett’s Landing.

The Edmonds City Council’s Parks and Public Works Committee Tuesday night heard more about the next phase of work planned for the Edmonds Street Waterfront Connector, which city officials say is needed to provide emergency access to the Edmonds waterfront.

The committee also heard about possible changes to regulations governing dogs in city parks and a proposal to increase the city’s water, stormwater and sewer rates.

Because Tuesday night was a council committee meeting, the topic was for discussion only and no public comment was taken. Citizens will have an opportunity to express their opinions when each of these issues appears before the full council.

The city has been working for three years on a plan to address emergency access to the waterfront when both the Main Street and Dayton Street at-grade rail crossings are blocked. This included a 14-month study by a task force of public officials and citizens that examined 51 different options to address the problem. The current waterfront connector concept was approved by the city council in 2017, and the city signed a contract with consultant TetraTech to begin developing a range of pre-design alternatives for it.

Now consultant Parametrix is prepared to begin Phase 2 to complete the 60 percent design, develop the environmental documents and prepare permit applications, Public Works Director Phil Williams told council committee members Tuesday. Anticipated to be completed in 11 months, this phase of the work would cost $2.35 million — all of that covered by state grant money. So far the city has spent $250,000 total on the project, and Williams said he doesn’t anticipate any more city funds going to it until construction starts — and even then, city dollars would be minimal.

“The only way this project ultimately works is to get it ready, get it designed, make it shovel-ready so it’s really attractive at the federal level,” Williams said. “The farther along we get on the project, the easier it is to score higher to get a grant.”

Councilmember Dave Teitzel asked about the likelihood that the BNSF railroad would contribute more to the connector, given that increasing train traffic is a main source of the problem for emergency access and BNSF has so far given just $100,000. “I would think they would own this issue to a great degree,” Teitzel said.

“We certainly are talking to the right people (at BNSF),” Williams answered. “How much they will provide, I don’t know.”

Teitzel also asked Williams if the city had the option — as some citizens have suggested — of taking the grant money received so far for the Waterfront Connector and using it for what they perceive to be a higher-priority project — improving Highway 99 — instead. “It’s not transportable to that,” Williams said. “This funding would not be usable there.”

Williams was also asked if the area’s Native American tribes have expressed concerns about the connector project. He replied that he has received no negative feedback so far, but also noted that the tribes are waiting to see more of the project design. The city has already met with tribal governments that would be affected by the project and those meetings will continue, he said.

Teitzel said another concern he has heard regularly from citizens is that the state ferry system would use the connector for offloading ferries during situations beyond emergency blockages. Williams said the ferry system’s intention is to only use the connector during a  long-lasting emergency on the tracks, with a boatload of cars that it must offload.

What the public thinks about the project and the fact that there is organized opposition to it — including a petition that has attracted 5,000 signatures so far — were both topics of concern expressed by council committee members Teitzel and Kristiana Johnson.

“The more outreach we can do, the better,” Teitzel said, adding it would also be helpful to provide background information to concerned citizens on the research that was done regarding the 51 original alternatives and how the city landed on the connector project as the best solution.

“A lot of folks aren’t fully aware of what’s happened to this point,” he said.

“You would be wise to identify them (those opposing the connector) upfront and figure out a way to communicate with them, rather than to passively wait for them to get on board,” Johnson added.

With the proposed combined utility rate increase, the average bill would be $132.38 per month. This chart shows where Edmonds’ rate (labeled as The City) would fall compared to nearby cities.

Williams also discussed a possible future increases in combined utility rates (water, stormwater and sewer), summarizing the draft combined utility rate study prepared by the city’s consultant FCS Group. The study recommends an increase in utility rates to cover rising costs that include inflation and the rising maintenance and operations costs, wholesale cost increases from Alderwood Water and Wastewater District (which sells water to the city), and the replacement of aging and failing water, sewer and storm infrastructure. The city also has to fund a replacement system for the city’s aging sludge incinerator, which will cost the city an estimated $9 million.

Funding annual maintenance and replacement projects through rate increases will save the city money in the long run because it won’t have to issue bonds for those expenses, Williams explained.

Under the proposal, which will be the subject of a future public hearing prior to any council decision, rates for 2020-2022 would increase 5 percent annually for water, 9.5 percent annually for stormwater and 7 percent for sewer.

Regarding proposed changes to park rules, City Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite explained that the Snohomish Health District had asked the city to support a district initiative to make smoking and vaping in parks illegal. While reviewing that change, Hite said, she and her staff started looking at other possible changes to the city parks regulations.

Among those rule changes presented to the council Tuesday night — in addition to smoking and vaping — were prohibiting people from feeding wildlife on city beaches; changing the description of park hours to clarify they are closed from sunset to sunrise rather than 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.; and allowing dogs to be in all city parks as long as they are leashed.

Dogs would still be restricted for health and safety reasons from playgrounds, ball fields, the spray park and any of the city’s beaches since they are sanctuaries, Hite said. The city would also put pet waste bag dispensers at all parks to encourage people to clean up after their pets.

Hite said the change is being proposed because residents and visitors alike find the city’s rules about where you can bring your dog “very confusing” — covering “bits and pieces of this park and this park and sometimes no parks at all.”

Hite said a review of cities across Puget Sound revealed that “almost every single city allows dogs in their parks on leash.”

She said she researched the history of how the existing rules regarding dogs in Edmonds parks were established, and learned that they were set decades ago when people were not picking up after their dogs.

That has changed, Hite said, adding that now “people are picking up after their pets.”

The city’s animal control officers favor the change because it would be easier for them to enforce consistent regulations throughout the parks, Hite said.

If the council decides to open up all Edmonds parks to dogs, Hite said, the city would launch a public education campaign urging people to pick up after their animals. The city could also make the changes on a trial basis, and then re-evaluate if it wasn’t working, she said.

The Parks and Public Works Committee agreed to forward this issue to the full council for future discussion.

In other action of note, the committee agreed to forward to the full council an interlocal agreement with the City of Mountlake Terrace for aquatic vegetation removal in Lake Ballinger and presentation of an agreement with the Snohomish County to develop an ongoing water quality monitoring program for Lake Ballinger.

— By Teresa Wippel


19 Replies to “Next phase of connector funding, plus utility rate hike, dogs in parks discussed at Tuesday council meeting”

  1. Calling on Mr Hoag!

    Darryl, can you do the maths for us on the utility rate hikes that are being proposed? We have been experiencing rate hikes annually for I think six years now, at about a 10% level. The only rate a homeowner can control is water useage, but there is a minimum charge, so the rate goes up even if there is no water being used. Each utility is taxed as well. And the math of this is difficult for those of us who are math challenged. Could you show what the rates will be for each year of this proposed rate hike schedule? Thanks.


    1. DT, thanks for asking. I do not have much access to our utility rates to fully understand the numerical impact of the growing costs. What one can guess from our rate structure is they have been going up to cover the cost of service and the replacement cost of an aging system. Some of our underground stuff is 75 to 100 years old. To me this looks like an perfect example of councils in the past not setting a policy for replacement that keep pace and more recent councils have had to play catch up. I guess council could have proposed a levy to do the catch up part of the work and then the rates needed to keep pace would have been lower.
      Folks always like stuff but are not as willing to pay for them because they have the feeling the “we pay enough tax so you should take it from that bucket” Truth is our collective wish list exceeds our bucket of money. This is one reason when we did the Strategic Action Plan one of the most supported ideas was to “Implement Budgeting for Objectives” (see Action 5a.1) It received a “Very High” rating. Another SAP action was Action 5a.6, This item was to create an alternative funding model for Parks other then the general fund. One more financial item is Action 4a.2 Street Maintenance. It basically says, create a financing mechanism to maintain our streets. Other financial items in the SAP deal with Sidewalks, trails, crosswalks, and ferry holding lanes. The problem is the current money bucket and revenue sources are not sufficient to do all these items. Around the state voter go for levies for parks and fun stuff but are less liking to want to pay for streets and sidewalks. And that stuff underground like sewers and water. Hard to get folks to vote to fix. This is likely the reason Council set policies to fix the underground stuff and put it into the rates.

      Bottom line is when we get the full details of the actual bills over time while we may be shocked at the rates, this money in not being flush down the drain … well maybe it is!


  2. If the ferry is only going to be off-loaded with the Connector in a rare case of a “long-lasting” blockage, why did Mayor Earling state in his “State of the City” on February 22, 2018 (48 minutes into his speech he wrote) that the ferry will use it to be LOADED & UNLOADED 5-6 times a year? Were the citizens told this during the decision-making process? What is the definition of a “long-lasting” blockage? More and longer trains moving through our town could become the definition of extended blockage, even if they are moving and not broken down.


  3. Disappointment would be an understatement in reaction to Tuesday’s Parks Committee meeting and the lack of substantive discussion of the growing flood of issues that will ultimately sink the plan to use our Marine Conservation Area Park as the preferred option for the
    Edmonds Waterfront Connector.
    Eventually, the city will fail in its quest to take Marine Conservation Area Park land for public safety use, it just doesn’t happen in twenty-first century America, when other option are available. The only question is how much time and money will the City waist before moving on to options 2 and 3.
    All of Council has this following comment, sent June 10, 2019, shared here to encourage a principled objection to making the Brackette’s Landing Marine Conservation Area Park the preferred option for the Waterfront Connector.

    SUBJECT: Agenda Item 10. Presentation of a Supplemental Agreement with Parametrix for the Edmonds Street Waterfront Connector
    COMMENT: Do Not Approve The Supplemental Agreement with Parametrix for the Edmonds Street Waterfront Connector.
    The City of Edmonds administration, Edmonds City Council and the Parks and Public Works Committee Chair, failed to exercise their responsibilities for regulatory oversight by allowing the City of Edmonds to propose the taking of Park and shoreline land designated for conservation use (Brackette’s Landing Marie Conservation Area Park) and divert it to proposed road use for public safety, without advising the public of the conservation status of the Park, or that the proposed Connector option that uses Park land would permanently remove Marine Conservation Area Park land from its intended Conservation use, nor did they inform the public of the full extent of regulatory permits and regulatory waivers the project would require from applicable City, County and State shoreline laws that protect the Park’s Conservation Area status.
    Moreover, the public process for the Connector was flawed: The word “conservation” does not appear in any of the City of Edmonds Online documents about the Waterfront Connector, only the Parametrix Reports 1 & 2 use the word conservation, and therein it is primarily to correctly name the Park – Brackette’s Landing Marine Conservation Area Park.
    Sadly, the Edmonds City Council and Parks Committee failed to voice the simple fact that in America the taking of park conservation area land for public safety is never the preferred option when other routes of access are available for public safety, which is clearly the case in Edmonds, the Waterfront Connector siting process identified two additional routes as being viable and highly rated.
    To now fund the Supplement Agreement with Parametrix would serve to further develop a flawed plan, based on a flawed public process and a flawed interpretation of laws that protect shoreline conservation areas in the City of Edmonds and the State of Washington.
    Lastly, the Parametrix Access Study 1 and Access Study 2 are sufficient to serve the needs of the Connector project at this stage.

    The Parks and Public Works Committee should not approve the Supplemental Agreement, but rather delay its funding until either Council, the Committee or a new administration can address the serious flaws in the process which resulted in the Connector Option that identified and approved Brackette’s Landing Marine Conservation Area as the Connector preferred option.

    Thomas Sawtell


    1. Big concrete bridge on a conservation beach is okay so long as no drinking straw ends up there. Well put Thomas.


  4. This emergency ramp is one ugly addition to the waterfront.
    It’s like Seattle building a viaduct all over again.
    We also need to get rid of the $50 per use boat sling/lift, costing tax payers millions annually. Edmond’s has more public waterfront than any city on Puget sound, but is the ONLY City which does not have a boat ramp.
    We need a boat ramp! No viaduct structures.


  5. I agree and support Thomas Sawtell’s opinion. The Public Works and Parks Committee should not approve the Supplemental Agreement for the Edmonds Waterfront Connector Project. Delay funding. Allow the City Counsel, Committee, and future leadership address the flaws in this project.


    1. Council meeting 6/18: WFC is to be on agenda as recommended by staff – Your Attendance is Encouraged! The floor is open to the public before the meeting, so arrive early (you know how parking is downtown). Come witness the action on the $2,353,134 “Phase 2” Waterfront Connector professional services contract to Parametrix for an anticipated 11 months of work. That amount is only part of the $4,091,473 total fee for the entire “supplement,” which includes Phases 2, 3 and 4.

      As a pre-emptive strike to council member allegations of partial truths, the Phase 2 amount includes a $150,000 “management reserve” and the total fee includes a $350,000 “management reserve” for “unanticipated activities not covered in the scope, to be used only at City direction.”


  6. Regarding Mr. Temblor’s comment about the Boat Launch facility it’s my understanding that a public launch facility was one of the requirements for the original federal charter to allow the Port District to be formed. At the time the Port was built (yes I was there as an eager observer), most of the regional boat ramps were free for use. The assumption of the fishing and boating masses in Edmonds was that we would end up with a free boat ramp which, obviously, did not happen. it is also my understanding that the Port has tried to deactivate the “public” launch facility but cannot do so, due to the original charter agreement. The usual local policy wonks are welcome to contest my statements about this, but I think I’m right.


    1. CW, Cannot argue with the idea that a public launch facility was part of the original charter. It must not have been a requirement that it be free. Our Port District was basically formed because Everett was planning to build a marina in Edmonds and the locals wanted to be in charge and not relying on Everett. Not sure what the public record showed when the formation was underway or in time that followed. Someone who was around then may be able to shed some light on the “free” part.

      While it may be true, it would be hard to understand why the Port would want to give up the revenue associated with today’s launch facility which is for 2019 is budgeted at $100,000. Not “millions” as stated above.

      I am guessing here, but other free launches are concrete ramps and often have a floating dock on one side of the ramp??

      Today we have few areas that could be modified to create such a ramp: dog park area and beach to the north, somewhere as an extension Dayton, part of the Waterfront Activity Center area, and then on either side of the existing ferry dock. Each would have unique challenges, just like the Emergency Access question. Would the public see a need for a new ramp and would they be willing to press for a solution in any of the areas mentioned?


    1. There was a suicide right there last year. I read a WA State task force report that recommends jump barriers on structures going over tracks like this. This risk isnt as hypothetical as a stalled train and a huge fire at the same time.


  7. I agree with Tom Sawtell’s assessment on the waterfront connector. Using conservation land for development, even for safety purposes, should be the LAST option, so another of the many options reviewed should be chosen. In addition, Brackett’s Landing Marine Conservation Park is a registered Edmonds Historic Site. The city council needs to go back to the options and choose a less imposing option that will not destroy the beauty, nature, and history of Brackett’s Landing Marine Conservation Park.


  8. I think it is time to let ALL of the Citizens of Edmonds in on the flawed processes of the CURRENT City ‘leaders’. I firmly believe those elected representatives know about the Marine Conservation Park AND that it is on the Historical Register but made the ‘backroom’ decision to keep that hidden from the Public in order to push this project through. This is exactly why we MUST vote out the ‘Connector Pushers’.
    NO contract with Paramtrix (which is a top tier Consulting Firm btw. There are just as capable Firms that are much more affordable) should be signed until after the election. When talking about $2m plus, the decision should be made by the Leaders that will serve the City in the coming years, not the people with one foot out the door.


  9. History of the early work to protect Brackett’s Landing and designation of the beach as a Marine Sanctuary:

    “The citizens decided to band together and ask the Edmonds City Council to protect the Edmonds beaches and the council agreed. In 1980, the city council voted to designate Edmonds’ Underwater Park and Brackett’s Landing a sanctuary.” “As a sanctuary, everything on the sand and in the water is protected.”

    From the City of Edmonds Discovery Programs- “A Leader in Conservation Education since 1980”:
    “A group of concerned citizens, the Brackett’s Landing Task Force, rallied community support to save the waterfront from destruction.”


  10. Darrol, I’m not sure how the Boat Launch got into this discussion or why but there have been virtually no “free” boat ramps on Puget Sound anywhere that I know of for at least 25 years or more. Prior to that time, Everett and Mukilteo had free boat ramps that got very heavy use. Minimal fees eventually were placed on them and slowly went up over time. I think the original Edmond’s charter only stipulated that public launch access was to be provided, not that it would be free necessarily. I think that was just an assumption based on the Everett and Mukilteo situations in the 60’s. As far as current profitability, $100,000/yr. isn’t much of a profit when you consider the costs involved in providing the service. That equipment doesn’t come cheap and salt water environment requires frequent and costly maintenance of it. I doubt they are coming out in the black on the launch facility, if 100K is the revenue amount as you state. I suspect other services supplement the cost of the launch, but I’m only guessing. I’m sure the Port Director could give actual figures on this if anyone is interested or concerned about it.


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