Meeting in person for the first time since March 2020, the Edmonds City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday night to approve Mayor Mike Nelson’s plan for using nearly $11.9 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to assist with Edmonds’ COVID-19 recovery efforts. The lone “no” vote came from Councilmember Diane Buckshnis, who argued the city shouldn’t be allocating 42% of the fund dollars to green infrastructure projects.
“The spirit of this rescue plan is to rescue citizens. I think the citizens need more money, I think nonprofits need more money, I think individuals need more money,” Buckshnis said, adding that grant money was available from other sources to fund green projects.
However, Buckshnis failed to get enough votes Tuesday night for various amendments she proposed to move money from green infrastructure to other funds in the plan, including those for households, businesses, nonprofits, tourism and job training. Councilmembers opposing Buckshnis’ amendments noted that the American Rescue Plan Act specifically encourages recipients to use the funds for green infrastructure investments to offset the impacts of climate change. They also stressed that officials have stated there will be additional COVID recovery funding available through federal, state and county governments for individuals and business, but no additional money is forthcoming for green projects.
The plan as approved by the council Tuesday night creates six programs under the Edmonds Rescue Plan:
A city expenditures account: $750,000. Covers expenses Edmonds continues to incur in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and for possible future resurgences of the virus, including staffing, equipment and supplies related to maintaining a safe workplace for employees and the public.
Household support: $4,150,000. Applying to households earning no more than 40% of the Edmonds median income, these programs includes up to $3 million in grants for housing expenses, food, medical bills, child care, internet access and other household expenses. Up to 400 households can 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 will be $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) will 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 includes 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 will 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 will 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 on 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 will 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 will cover financial aid to working adults who seek skills training, certifications, completion of degrees or other skills enhancement at local community colleges or trade schools serving Edmonds residents. Grants of up to $5,000 per year per student will be available to cover tuition, fees, supplies and life expenses during the period of study.
Green infrastructure: This includes up to $4,768,099 that will 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 for all programs would be available to cover expenses between March 31, 2021 and the end of 2026.
In other business, the council heard a presentation from City Stormwater Engineer Zack Richardson regarding city code updates proposed to comply with the latest Washington State Department of Ecology guidance. Because Tuesday night’s council meeting was a hybrid that allowed participation by staff and citizens either in person or via Zoom, Richardson made his presentation remotely, appearing on a large monitor in the council chambers.
The goal of the code update, Richardson explained, is to ensure that the city maintains an adequate stormwater management code for new development to protect surface waters.
He then went over what he described as four “substantive changes” that staff are proposing:
1. Changes in requirements for drainage connections to the city’s stormwater system. Under this change, new connections of existing impervious surfaces must be treated like new hard surfaces that require full drainage mitigation.
2. Removing the designation of Edmonds Way as a “direct discharge basin,” which has in the past meant reduced drainage code requirements. With this change, any development projects in the Edmonds Way basin — which flows into the Edmonds Marsh — will have the same compliance requirements as the rest of the city.
3. Changing the stormwater flow control standard for the Perrinville Creek basin, which has been greatly impacted by past development, and increase the retrofit requirement for low impact development.
4. Revising the Edmonds-specific best management practices list to prioritize stormwater detention over perforated pipes for low-impact development.
Next steps will include approvals of the new code language from the Department of Commerce and the State Environmental Policy Act, along with a public hearing, Richardson said.
The final item on Tuesday night’s agenda was consideration of draft rules of council procedure, prepared by City Clerk Scott Passey. The rules include procedures regarding council organization, duties of officers, agenda preparation, meeting management, consent agenda, public testimony and decorum, and also includes the council’s code of conduct. However, because this agenda item was introduced at 9:45 p.m., councilmembers agreed to postpone further discussion of it until next week’s meeting.
— By Teresa Wippel