The Edmonds City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to move ahead with plans to transform the aging Civic Playfield into Edmonds’ newest downtown park. Prior to the vote, however, Councilmember Laura Johnson — who last week questioned whether the city should move forward on the project — reiterated that the city needs to prioritize the placement of parks outside the Edmonds Bowl.
Johnson and Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas — who was absent from Tuesday’s meeting — both had raised issues last week regarding the Civic Field project, especially given its increasing cost and the fact that there are pockets of the city — such as Edmonds’ Highway 99 neighborhood — that have very few parks nearby.
Johnson said that while she would be voting yes Tuesday night on construction contracts to build the park, “I’m using tonight as an opportunity to shine a light on the huge disparity that exists with how Edmonds allocates its community resources. I hope the council — myself included — will start to give more than just lip service to the need to also focus time and resources outside of the Bowl and the downtown waterfront area,” she added.
The city expects to address this issue further during the update of its Parks, Recreation & Open Space Plan (PROS Plan) — a six-year guide for managing and enhancing parks, open space, trails, recreation, and cultural arts opportunities. A virtual public meeting to discuss the plan is set for July 22 via Zoom.
The contracts approved Tuesday night include an award to A-1 Landscaping and Construction for construction (total is $11.7 million including sales tax and management reserve) and $1.48 million to Walker Macy and KBA for construction support. The base construction bid also includes one of four bid alternates — a proposal to rubberize the current asphalt perimter path at an additional cost of $186,853.
The estimated total cost of construction is $13.75 million, which exceeds the current project funding by $1.6 million. One option being considered to make up the difference is the issuance of additional bonds — a topic that was discussed during the council’s Finance Committee meeting Tuesday night.
The city council in 2017 approved a plan for redesigning Civic Field, with the goal of transforming it into a downtown Edmonds park with range of amenities — among them, upgraded youth athletic fields and sports lighting, an inclusive playground, a walking path, a petanque court grove and a pollinator meadow. Challenges related to site design and increasing construction costs have raised the price tag from its original estimate of $12.1 million.
In other business Tuesday night, the council reviewed a proposal by Mayor Mike Nelson for using nearly $11.9 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds being allocated to Edmonds for COVID-19 recovery efforts.
Calling it the Edmonds Rescue Plan Fund, Nelson has proposed creating six programs, which Economic Development and Community Services Director Patrick Doherty outlined for the council Tuesday:
A city expenditures account: $750,000. This would covers expenses Edmonds continues to incur in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic “and in possible resurgences in the future,” Doherty said, including staffing, equipment and supplies related to maintaining a safe workplace for employees and the public.
Household support: $4,150,000. All of these programs would apply to households earning no more than 40% of the Edmonds median income. This would include up to $3 million in grants for housing expenses, food, medical bills, child care, internet access and other household expenses. Up to 400 households may receive grants of up to $2,500 in 2021 and 2022, with up to 200 households receiving grants of up to $2,500 in 2023 and 2024. In addition, there would $150,000 allocated for utility bill support, with one-time grants of up to $1,000 for 150 households to help defray expenses derived from outstanding City of Edmonds utilities bills. Finally, up to $1 million (200 grants at $5,000 each or less) would be allocated for one-time grants for housing repair, especially focused on energy-saving measures such as roof repair, window replacement and HVAC repair/replacement.
Business support: $1,125,000. This would include up to $200,000 in installments of $50,000 per year in 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024 for general support of Edmonds small businesses, business districts and the overall business community. There would also be $300,000 allocated to tourism promotion in installments of $75,000 per year in 2021, 2022, 2023, and 2024 for support of tourism promotion. And up to $625,000 in direct grants would be provided to small businesses most affected by the COVID-19-related economic recession. Grants will take the form of individual financial support grants (in the form of loans that are forgivable after four months of performance), with awards of 50 grants at $10,000 each in 2021 and 25 grants of $5,000 or less in 2022. The focus will be given to businesses with up to 30 employees, those having lost at least 50% in revenue from the pandemic and having not received more than $5,000 in other government support, as well as on businesses outside of downtown Edmonds and owned by people of color, women, veterans and other minorities.
Nonprofit support: $500,000 would be allocated to assist Edmonds nonprofit organizations that have suffered substantial financial losses due to prolonged closures, cutbacks or loss of business.
Job retraining: $600,000 to provide financial aid to working adults who seek skills training, certifications, completion of degrees or other skills enhancement at local community colleges serving Edmonds residents in the form of grants of up to $5,000 per year per student to cover tuition, fees, supplies and life expenses during the period of study.
Green infrastructure: Up to $4,768,099 allocated to reimburse city capital expenditures through 2026 associated with green infrastructure projects intended to enhance the quality of stormwater entering Puget Sound, according to American Rescue Plan Act guidelines. These projects include Edmonds Marsh water quality and flood control, lower Perrinville Creek realignment for flood control and water quality, and green streets and rain gardens. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a green street is a stormwater management approach that incorporates vegetation (perennials, shrubs, trees), soil, and engineered systems (for example, permeable pavements) to slow, filter, and cleanse stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces.
Under federal guidelines, the funding would be available to cover expenses between March 31, 2021 and the end of 2026, Doherty said.
Councilmember Diane Buckshnis asked Doherty how the city decided to allocate the funds in various areas proposed. Doherty replied that officials reviewed how the city used its 2020 federal COVID relief money — through the Edmonds Cares Fund — and “we tried to fashion some things that were similar where needed and new where needed,” he said. For example, when it came to household grants, the city in 2020 allocated grants of either $1,000 or $1,500 to households of three or more people. “It was just not enough money to make much of a difference,” Doherty said. “I’m not saying (this year’s amount of) $2,500 is going to change their life, but it’s a better amount.” The city also lowered the income level requirement “so we are addressing those in most need,” he added.
Buckshnis said she disagreed with the plan to allocate a substantial portion of the federal dollars to green infrastructure projects, which could instead be funded through other means, such as grants. “I personally would like to see the money put to businesses or to individuals where in fact it could make a difference,” she added.
Doherty said he would use council input received Tuesday night to revise the proposal, and bring back a new version for council consideration next week.
— By Teresa Wippel