Council OKs Edmonds Cares Fund; agrees to public hearing on sludge disposal project

Small businesses owners, residents and the City of Edmonds budget will benefit from the final plan approved by the Edmonds City Council Tuesday for allocating $1.2 million in federal CARES Act funding.

The Edmonds Cares Fund includes a $700,000 small business grant program and a $300,000 housing and supplemental relief program, plus an allocation of $265,100 to reimburse the city for unbudgeted COVID-19 costs.

In addition, the latest CARES proposal included reallocating to the housing relief fund $50,000 that was initially earmarked for a potential second round of funding for the Chamber Foundation WISH business grant program. This $350,000 in new money will be added to an earlier city council-created $100,000 housing and supplemental relief program, for a total of $450,000.

The CARES Act housing relief fund will help qualified Edmonds residents with rent or other emergency needs —  up to $1,000 per family of two or fewer and $1,500 for families of three or more.

Much of the council’s time Tuesday night was spent discussing eligibility criteria for small businesses, including the scoring system that will be used for ranking businesses that will be eligible for grant funds.

The scoring system proposed for the business grant program.

Amendments approved last week already broadened the overall criteria for which businesses would be eligible for grant funding. Among them: allowing businesses with 0 to 30 part- and full-time combined employees, which would encompass sole proprietors and also increase the number of eligible businesses.

In addition, the process would prioritize allocating grant money to businesses that have either received no other federal, state or county grant money or received less grant money than they had requested.

Extra points would be given to businesses owned by people of color, women, veterans and other minority groups, such as those with disabilities and LGBTQ; as well as to businesses outside the Bowl. Businesses with more employees would get extra points because of their greater impact in putting people back to work, Economic Development and Community Services Director Patrick Doherty said.

Also included in the final plan was the inclusion of an additional Snohomish County organization to administer the CARES Act grant allocations. This would be in addition to the two organizations — Snohomish County-based Washington Kids in Transition and King County-based Wellspring Family Services — that were selected to administer the council’s already-approved housing relief fund.

Any leftover CARES Act funds would be used to reimburse the city for the purchase of personal protective equipment for city employees and residential-based care centers.

The final Edmonds Cares Fund was approved by a 6-0 vote, with Councilmember Kristiana Johnson abstaining.

Public Works Director Phil Williams (with ferry in background) discusses approximate financial impacts of bond funding for the proposed pyrolysis and gasification project.

In other business Tuesday night, the council listened to a presentation describing a pyrolysis and gasification system that city staff is proposing to replace Edmonds’ sludge incinerator, including details about bond funding that could pay for the $26 million project. Because three other municipalities — the City of Mountlake Terrace, the Olympic View Water and Sewer District, and the Ronald Sewer District — send their sewage to Edmonds for treatment and disposal, the costs of the new sludge disposal system would be split, with Edmonds paying 50%.

Selling bonds at a 20-year term, at a 2.7% interest rate, would raise the monthly bill for an average single-family residential homeowner in Edmonds by an estimated $3.21 monthly — from $45.84 to $49.05, Williams said.

While Williams was hoping that the council would approve the project Tuesday night, Councilmember Kristiana Johnson proposed that the council hold a public hearing first to obtain citizens’ feedback on the measure. Councilmember Vivian Olson countered that she would rather approve the project — which has come before the council multiple times already — and instead hold a hearing on bond funding options. That idea was supported by Councilmember Luke Distelhorst.

“We look at the basic facts of this project and those aren’t going to change,” Distelhorst said. “And where the public can really have solid input is how we move forward with the specifics of it.”

However, other councilmembers said they thought it was important for the public to review the entire proposal.

“With a project this huge in cost, I just think it’s a smart idea to listen to the citizens,” Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas said.

The council voted 6-1 to hold a public hearing, with Councilmember Vivian Olson casting the dissenting vote. Fraley-Monillas said she’d do her best to get it scheduled quickly, although the council doesn’t meet next week as it traditionally takes the final Tuesday of a five-Tuesday month off.

In other action, the council:

  • Agreed to waive the $713 monthly rent payments for the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce from July-December. The chamber, which rents an office in Edmonds City Hall, puts on most of the city’s best-known events including the July 4th parade and fireworks, Taste Edmonds and Halloween trick-or-treating. It is unable to raise any revenue currently due to event cancellations stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Approved three amendments to the ordinance that created the Edmonds Youth Commission in 2018:  Expanding a commissioner’s term from one year to two years, aligning commission activity with the academic calendar and shifting member recruitment from spring to fall.
  • Agreed to place on next week’s consent agenda the renewal of an interlocal agreement with the state Department of Social and Health Services to place disabled individuals into Edmonds recreation programs of their choosing.

A scheduled report on Edmonds Boys and Girls Club building use was postponed to a future meeting.

—  By Teresa Wippel

One Reply to “Council OKs Edmonds Cares Fund; agrees to public hearing on sludge disposal project”

  1. From 2016 My Edmonds News Article.
    “ Under the utility rate increase scheduled to be approved next Tuesday, an Edmonds resident’s average combined monthly utility bill for water, sewer and storm water services would rise from $103.28 currently to $132.25 by 2019. The three years of increases continue a plan set in motion in 2013 that enables the city to fund replacement of failing water/sewer/storm infrastructure with generated income rather than debt, saving the city approximately $50 million in interest over time. The proposal also includes a five-year reduction in the water utility tax rate due to a change in state law.”
    So, the higher rates were supposed to pay for the new system back then. Now they are talking about both a rate increase ( again) and debt to finance it. Seems odd to me, particularly with our current recession.

    Ignored

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