Escalating costs for the City of Edmonds’ waterfront redevelopment project planned in conjunction with the new Edmonds Waterfront Center building — and how a gap in funding will be covered — were topics of concern during Monday night’s Edmonds City Council meeting.
In the end, the council by a 4-2 vote (Councilmember Diane Buckshnis absent) approved three contracts — for construction plus construction administration and support — to move the project forward.
In other action items, the council appointed Jessica Neill Hoyson as the city’s new human resources director. Neill Hoyson is coming to Edmonds from Skagit County, where she served as human resources director there. And councilmembers agreed to extend for another six months a moratorium on using tire crumb rubber for public playfields, as long-awaited studies on environmental and health effects are not yet complete. Finally, they approved a $1.53 million bid for the Dayton Street Stormwater Pump Station, aimed at reducing flooding incidents in the areas of Dayton Street near Harbor Square and Salish Crossing.
The waterfront redevelopment project, which will be completed in two phases — in 2019 and 2020 — includes removing the existing bulkhead in front of the Senior Center parking lot to restore shoreline habitat and improve public access. Work includes regrading the beach, driving steel sheet piles, and forming and pouring concrete for a realigned portion of the marine walkway. In addition, two new concrete staircases and an accessible ramp will be poured, and the existing parking lot next to the former senior center will be re-graded to meet the raised finish floor elevation of the new waterfront center building,
Before the vote, Public Works Director Phil Williams provided background on the project. In May, the city received two bids on the waterfront redevelopment work that at $3.6 million and $4.1 million were substantially higher than the engineer’s estimate of $2.46 million. Due to missing information from each of the bidders, the contracts were also determined to be nonresponsive, so the city decided instead –with the council’s approval — to directly negotiated with WG Clark, which is building the Waterfront Center building replacing the Edmonds Senior Center. WG Clark’s proposal also came back at $3.6 million.
The city has $4.2 million in project funding, but with the total project costs now at just over $5 million, the city needs to make up a $898,595. Williams pointed to several funding sources that could be used to increase the construction budget. These included $200,000 set aside for land acquisition in the real estate excise tax fund, which Williams said would be returned by 2020, plus some REET fund and general fund balance.
Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas expressed concern about using funds from existing accounts to fund the project, wondering aloud what other city projects would be delayed as a result of that decision. Williams said staff is still working on those impacts, and juggling the various city priroities. He noted that there is some urgency to start the waterfront improvement project work right away so that the city can meet the so-called “fish window” — a time when construction can be performed without impacting salmon migration. There is also the consideration of construction sequencing to ensure the project is completed in coordination with work on the new intergenerational Waterfront Center, which is replacing the Edmonds Senior Center.
“I don’t find this gap policy very acceptable,” said Councilmember Kristiana Johnson, a long-time advocate of land acquisition for parks. “Before I can approve anything, I want to see what the real numbers are, I want to see the real projects that are going to be delayed or postponed.”
Councilmember Dave Teitzel said that while he was concerned about the cost increase, he trusts that city staff will make the right decisions so that the project can move forward. Councilmember Tom Mesaros added that delaying the project would increase the cost overall, which would impact other projects even more.
“I understand we are where we are,” added Councilmember Mike Nelson, “and none of us are happy about it.” That said, Nelson said he would be supporting the project, but stressed that the city should do all it can to ensure the situation of the bids exceeding the engineering estimate doesn’t happen again.
In another matter, the council heard an update on the city’s Climate Action Plan that recapped earlier work done on the city’s greenhouse gas inventory and included a list of strategies the city can use to reach its climate goals.
Greenhouse gas emissions trap heat in the atmosphere and are the cause of current climate change. The inventory conducted in 2017, as reiterated Tuesday night by consultant Mark Johnson of Environmental Science Associates, measured a range of greenhouse gas emissions, from residential buildings to transportation to waste generation. It also covered greenhouse gases produced through household consumption, with the largest impact coming from products imported from outside the city — in particular, from other countries, Johnson said.
The list of 10 strategies to track included the percent of commuters using transit, the percent of electric vehicles in the city and the number of new residential and solar energy systems installed.
Development Services Director Shane Hope, who has been the staff lead on the project, asked the council Tuesday night to provide direction on the “science-based target” the city should use to guide its actions to address climate change. The city’s Cllmate Protection Committee has recommended that Edmonds should set its goal for keeping the increase in global average temperature to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-Industrial Revolution levels (defined as from about 1760 to around 1840).
The consensus among councilmembers was to set 1.5 degrees as the city’s target, and the council also agreed with Hope’s proposal to continue conducting outreach to the public about next steps for the plan. A part of this, Johnson is working on a greenhouse gas tracking tool so that citizens and policy makers can see both the city’s progress and the gaps between the reduction target and the actual results.
Both Hope and councilmembers agreed that encouraging the public to find ways to lessen their carbon footprint would be a key component of the effort, and that the city should find ways to help them do that.
During the public comment period, Stan Gent of Edmonds’ Interfaith Climate Action Alliance provided a list of recommendations from the group that included having the city establish a permanent taxpayer incentive programs to encourage citizens to reduce their carbon emissions, similar to federal tax incentives for home energy efficiency. “The city should also create a typical design for both an existing and a new Edmonds home that will meet the carbon emission and clean energy standards so that homeowners can see what a carbon free, clean energy home might look like in the future,” Gent said.
— By Teresa Wippel