Early public engagement needed on parking plan, council committee agrees

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City Councilmembers Kristiana Johnson and Dave Teitzel, center, listen as city staff and consultants discuss a draft facility condition assessment study for city buildings.

From downtown parking to city building conditions to a design for daylighting Willow Creek, the Edmonds City Council’s Parks and Public Works Committee covered a lot of ground during its Tuesday night meeting.

A good chunk of the meeting time was devoted to discussing a proposed contract for $91,000 with consultant Framework to conduct a downtown parking study. Council committee members Kristiana Johnson and Dave Teitzel both had ideas for strengthening the public engagement component of the process to ensure public input was collected in a timely manner.

Teitzel noted that the council has been involved in several recent major projects — ranging from the city’s housing strategy to the waterfront connector — in which citizens said they hadn’t been aware of the proposals in their early stages. To address that, Teitzel said that he and fellow Councilmember Tom Mesaros would like to sponsor community engagement forums “early on,” specifically on the issue of downtown parking,  that would also include social media outreach via Instagram and Facebook. This effort wouldn’t include any staff or consultant time, Teitzel said.

“I think we need to do public engagement first,” Johnson agreed. “We need to go out in the community…and ask them, what are your issues? I think we need to identify the problem first.”

Doing public engagement prior to bringing a consultant on board “is very important so we know exactly what we’re tackling,” added Teitzel. “And that we engage our citizens and they know we are listening to them and respecting their ideas and giving them ways to stay involved and informed.”

The two councilmembers agreed with Public Works Director Phil Williams that the initial outreach should focus on asking people about their experiences with parking and what parking-related problems people face every day. Williams agreed to rewrite the plan to address public engagement and bring it back to the committee for review before the topic goes to the entire city council for further discussion.

Both Johnson and Teitzel also noted that the $91,000 cost for the proposed contract is problematic, since it’s more than double the $40,000 that the council allocated for a parking study — adding that issue will also need to be addressed.

In another committee discussion, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite updated councilmembers on staff efforts to prepare contracts for construction, administration and design support for the waterfront redevelopment project. This project, which is being coordinated with construction of the new Edmonds Waterfront Center (formerly the Edmonds Senior Center), involves removing the existing bulkhead in front of the senior center parking lot to restore shoreline habitat and improve public access.

The city open construction bids in May but they came in higher than expected — ranging from $1.2 million to $1.6 million above the engineer’s estimate of $2.5 million, Hite said. As a result, the city has been negotiating with WG Clarke, the construction firm working on the Waterfront Center building, to see if suitable financial terms can be reached to do the waterfront redevelopment work as well, Hite said.

Further discussion on next steps for the project will come before the full council in a few weeks after the contracts are finalized, Hite said.

In other business, the committee:

— Had a discussion with Public Works Director Phil Williams and Parks Director Carrie Hite about strategies for advancing design for the Willow Creek daylighting and Edmonds Marsh restoration project. Williams acknowledged that staff and the community want to begin working on the project, but have faced delays due to cleanup efforts on the nearby Unocal property — which the city needs to cross to complete the daylighting between the marsh and Puget Sound. Williams told the committee Tuesday night that Unocal’s cleanup  — which involves removing contaminated water and soil vapor from its former fuel terminal — is taking longer than anticipated. In response, staff has suggested that the city set aside an appropriation of $1.3 million — set aside by the council during the 2019 budgeting process — to be used for engineering design. This money would then be eligible for matching grant funding that would help move the project forward until the Unocal cleanup is complete, Williams said. Council committee members Johnson and Teitzel agreed to bring the plan to the council for additional discussion.

– Heard a report on bids that were opened Tuesday afternoon for the Dayton Street Stormwater Pump Station project, aimed at reducing flooding on Dayton Street, Highway 104, the Edmonds Marsh, and Harbor Square. City Engineer Rob English noted that the low bid came in at $1.529 million, exceeding the engineer’s estimate of $1.329 million by about $200,000. The next step is to review the budget and look for ways to fund the shortfall before bringing the plan to the council, English said.

– In a related matter, the committee also agreed to forward to the full council a staff proposal to remove a tide gate at the Edmonds Marsh that prevents salt water exchange and also serves as a potential fish barrier. Staff refers to the gate as the “180-gate” because it takes 180 turns of the valve to open or close it. “The thought is to just remove it to give a free flow of salt water into and out of marsh,” Williams said. The city has been hesitant in the past to remove the gate because it would contribute to the flooding problems in the area of Dayton Street, but that will change once the new pump station is operational, Williams added.

– Heard a presentation by consultant Mckinstry regarding a City of Edmonds Facility Condition Assessment study, which will eventually be presented to the council after it’s finalized.

– Agreed to move to the council consent agenda three items: approval of a new contract with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife to cover costs related to the Edmonds Fishing Pier renovation; an interlocal agreement with the Edmonds School District to place students in the Meadowdale preschool program; and a plan to change specifications on allowable roofing systems for the Frances Anderson Center in hopes of securing lower bids to replace the building roof.

— By Teresa Wippel

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