Council OKs revenue bonds for carbon recovery project, denies Comprehensive Plan map amendment for Edmonds Bowl properties

Public Works and Utiilties Director Phil Williams, bottom right, explains the staff recommendation for issuing revenue bonds to fund the city’s Carbon Recovery Project.

(Updated to reflect 5-1-1 vote on Comprehensive Plan map amendment.)

The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night passed an ordinance authorizing nearly $14.4 million in revenue bonds to finance the Edmonds Carbon Recovery Project — a gasification process that will replace the aging sludge incinerator at the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The council also voted to support an Edmonds Planning Board recommendation to deny a Comprehensive Plan Map amendment for two properties in the Edmonds Bowl.

Regarding the bond financing plan, the council approved a staff recommendation for 25-year financing with “wrap debt service,” which Public Works and Utilities Director Phil Williams explained as “wrapping the debt service around our existing debt.” Under this plan, the annual debt service payment for the first 18 years will be $375,432, then grow larger at the end as the city pays off its underlying bond debt.

“What this allows us to do is to really levelize or take a lot of the volatility out of annual debt service payments,” Williams said. The interest cost will be 2.64% and the total debt service will be $21,860,814.

The carbon recovery project will process the city’s wastewater treatment plant sludge using pyrolysis and gasification. It will replace Edmonds’ aging mechanical incinerator, which the city has said is nearly a decade beyond the end of its useful life and has become increasingly expensive to maintain due to more stringent air quality standards. The total cost of the project is $26 million, but 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 cost of the new system will be split, with Edmonds paying 50%.

Under Tuesday night’s ordinance — approved by a 6-1 vote with Councilmember Kristiana Johnson opposed — the city will receive $14,386,000 in revenue bonds — with $13,266,090 for construction expenses, and the rest providing the necessary bond reserves and covering issuance costs.

The measure will increase the sewer rate for the average single-family residential homeowner by 88 cents per month — from $45.84 to $46.72.

The ordinance also includes a $21,000 allocation to pay for a third party to certify the bonds as “climate bonds” — possibly the first local agency to issue such bonds. Councilmember Diane Buckshnis had proposed an amendment to remove that expense, stating that the project stands on its own as climate friendly and doesn’t need a separate bond designation. Supporting Buckshnis, Councilmember Vivian Olson suggested that there were other environmentally friendly places the $21,000 could be spent, including paying for some solar panels on the new Edmonds Waterfront Center building. Councilmember Susan Paine, however, agreed with others who supported the idea of climate bonds, stating “We have a strong green ethic here in our town.”

In the end, Buckshnis’ amendment failed on a 3-4 vote (she was joined by Olson and Kristiana Johnson in voting for it).

In other action, the council:

– By a vote of 5-1-1 (Councilmember Luke Distelhorst opposed and Councilmember Olson abstaining because she lives in the area) supported an Edmonds Planning Board decision to deny a Comprehensive Plan Map amendment that would impact two parcels at 522 and 530 9th Ave. N. The applicants, Carolyn Mangelsdorf and Robert Grimm, had explained they wanted to “age in place” by subdividing their large lot, building a smaller house in back and selling the house in front. Under the proposal, the map designation would have been changed from Single Family-Resource to Single Family-Urban 1, the latter of which allows for greater potential density. Opponents who live near the proposed map change said during an earlier public hearing they were worried that it would change the neighborhood’s character, which now includes large lots and green space. Among the concerns expressed by councilmembers was the “piecemeal” approach of the proposal, which would change the map designation for two properties without a broader plan.

– Set a Nov. 17 public hearing date for a street vacation application involving the easterly portion of 184th Street Southwest between 80th Avenue West and Olympic View Drive.

Brooke Roberts, being interviewed Tuesday night via Zoom, was selected as the council’s new student representative.

– After an interview with three candidates, selected Edmonds Youth Commissioner Brooke Roberts as the city council’s new student representative. Roberts, an Edmonds resident, is a junior at Shorewood High School in the Shoreline School District.

During its Committee of the Whole meeting that followed the business meeting, the council agreed to move the following items to next week’s consent agenda:

– An amendment to the interlocal agreement with Lake Ballinger/McAleer Creek Watershed Forum that extends the partnership for another three years. The forum includes the cities of Mountlake Terrace, Lake Forest Park, and Edmonds and addresses efforts to protect the lake and its watershed.

– A PUD easement for the Dayton Street Stormwater Pump Station project.

– A professional services agreement with Blueline for the Citywide Bicycle Improvements Project

Also during the committee meeting, councilmembers received the Traffic Impact Fee annual report, and they learned more about the wastewater treatment plant’s recognition as a “Utility of the Future Today.” The program was launched in 2016 by the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the Water Environment Federation, the Water Research Foundation and the WateReuse Association. Read more about the honor in the city’s earlier announcement here.

— By Teresa Wippel

10 Replies to “Council OKs revenue bonds for carbon recovery project, denies Comprehensive Plan map amendment for Edmonds Bowl properties”

  1. Having carefully watched this whole meeting, I think this article is a little incomplete. Council persons, Bucksnis and Lora Johnson both indicated that they wanted to revisit this issue after the Housing Commission presents it’s findings and they “sort of agreed with the concept” of possibly allowing ADU.s and/or lot subdivision (such as they just voted to deny) where lot sizes would make it practical. I think they should be commended on that point and be assured, it did not go unnoticed.

    Even allowing for the current Covid complications of meetings, this was not an example of good government as portrayed by Council Person V. Olson during the meeting. Neither side was given a fair, complete and honest hearing that considered all the factors involved. It came across to me as, “lets get out of this minefield as quick as possible and pass it off to the appointed Citizen Commission to take the heat.” As Ms. Olson also said, “appearances are everything.”

    I also commend the Council persons who voted against buying the climate bonds add on. This is just another example of selling the wonderfulness of our city at the expense of the tax payers. What’s 21K when you are hyping the city. Disgusting.

    Anyone else interested in Darrol’s idea of Budgeting by Priorities and my idea of Council Persons being elected out of districts? This government model is a mess and it isn’t getting any better any time soon I suspect. Doing your best, and doing it right, are two different things.

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    1. Thanks for the additional info. I heard both Councilmembers Buckshnis and L. Johnson indicate they were hoping the housing commission findings would provide more clarity on this type of issue. Meant to include it but did not.

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      1. Apologies Teresa, if I came across a little critical. Not meant that way at all. As you know, my diplomacy skills are less than adequate . You and staff do one great job of reporting complicated issues day in and day out.

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        1. No worries — our readers do a great job of filling in the blanks at times and I appreciate it!

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  2. Clinton,
    I support the concept of budgeting by priorities. The budget issues coming before Council seem to be getting more complex and driven by special interests. Budgeting by priorities—with solid citizen input—is a proven means of making better budget decisions. And I also agree our city has grown to the point at which we should actively explore electing Councilmembers by district. The current at large system opens the door to political partisanship and voting blocs, and a district-based system would create a more direct linkage between the elected and their local constituents.

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  3. Clint, We got a double play. Dave T has always done his homework and tried to educate others about better ways to run the govt. BBP and Zones! Next we should ask for a better search engine for the city web site. I would rather search for information instead of asking the city employee named “Helen Hunt”

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  4. Yes, I haven’t always agreed with Dave T. on issues or actions but I sincerely respect and admire his dedication to the city. Same goes for Mayor Dave, R. Wambolt and others who have served and who I have disagreed with maybe too often and not appropriately at times. They are better people than I am.

    Same goes for our present Mayor and Council. They are working and trying hard under extremely difficult circumstances; but under this antiquated system of government, pushing the rock up the hill is just too hard, I think. I totally do not understand how they could not know how bad the optics were on approving that Climate Bond waste of money. It screamed, “we are Edmonds and money grows on trees here.” It also suggests the staff are leading the Council in making such decisions. Not Good!

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  5. Plants breathe CO2.
    https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2016/carbon-dioxide-fertilization-greening-earth

    Plants are very happy with a little extra CO2. The earth is near the ***lowest*** CO2 levels in geological history:
    http://jeremyshiers.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/globalTempAndCo2_last600MillionYears.png

    There was likely no polar ice cap just 6000-7000 years ago:
    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081020095850.htm <-completely ice free north pole

    There are so many polar bears right now that they are nuisance to some communities:
    https://fee.org/articles/the-myth-that-the-polar-bear-population-is-declining/

    Oxygen is pollution. It's toxic to most life and reacts with everything.

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  6. What is the correct temperature for the planet?

    Are our actions to force the planet to be a different temperature man made global climate change?

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    1. Anthony, what’s really interesting is that the last 5,000 years or so are almost universally agreed to be the most ***stable*** period of climate ever. Right now, during what is described as a period of anthropomorphic climate change, is the most stable climate observed through history. Bill Nye the Science Guy laments that vineyards are growing opening in England because of the warmth from Climate Change. King Henry had vineyards, but the grapes going away because of climate change is the problem, not the grapes coming back because of climate change.

      What is the correct temperature? Where are wine-worthy grapes supposed to grow?

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