Edmonds will have a new Neighborhood City Office in the Highway 99 neighborhood, following action by the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night.
By a 6-1 vote, the council approved a proposal by Mayor Mike Nelson to cover rent and staffing for the 1,309-square-foot space in Highway 99’s Aurora Marketplace. The agreement includes a three-year lease commitment. The total cost will be $130,396 for 2022.
Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas — a Lake Ballinger neighborhood resident and long-time advocate of Highway 99 improvements, said the new office is a “great first step” for the city to better engage with the Highway 99 community.
The only no vote came from Councilmember Kristiana Johnson, who said she was disappointed the mayor didn’t provide the public with information about the project sooner, calling it was a “bad public process.” To that end, Councilmembers K. Johnson, Diane Buckshnis and Vivian Olson attempted to delay final approval of the proposal to the Nov. 16 council consent agenda, to give residents more time to comment. That idea was defeated on a 3-4 vote. The council then voted 6-1 to move forward with the proposal Tuesday.
The location is three doors east of the Safeway store at 23632 Highway 99. The space is currently configured with an entry lobby/reception area, a large office/conference room, a second office room, a small office/meeting area, and a rear work station, as well as bathroom and rear emergency exit.
Under the approved proposal, the city will hire a half-time receptionist to staff the office four hours per day, for a total cost of $30,000 (including benefits) to answer city government-related questions. Councilmember Olson asked if a part-time staff person was necessary, suggesting that perhaps existing city staff could rotate covering the office, and that councilmembers could also participate by working from there.
Economic Development and Community Services Director Patrick Doherty said the hope was to hire somone for the new office who would become a trusted contact for the neighborhood and a “go-to” person that the community will get to know.
The space will also be home to the Edmonds Police Department’s new community engagement officer, and offer a place for police officers patrolling the Highway 99 area to complete reports, access emails, take breaks and meet with members of the public.
In addition, it will provide a large conference room where the Edmonds Municipal Court can hold a community court two to four times per month. The concept of community court is to bring the courtroom out of downtown Edmonds so it is easily reached by people with mobility issues, who have no access to computers and other hardships. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the court was located at Swedish Edmonds hospital, but that space is no longer available. An electronic court kiosk would be available in the lobby/reception area for individuals to submit paperwork or access online information.
The conference room could also be used for community meetings and staff meetings.
Monthly rent plus triple net (common area/maintenance plus real estate taxes plus insurance) would be $4,452.78, totaling $53,433.38 per year. The owners have offered up to $26,180 to help defray costs of initial tenant improvements. In addition to the lease terms, the city estimates additional expenses of up to $1,500 monthly to cover utilities, security, IT, custodial and other ancillary operations and maintenance costs.
If the lease contract is signed before the end of 2021, a deposit of the first month’s rent of $3,490.67 will be due upon contract execution, and would be part of a fourth-quarter 2021 budget amendment. The remainder of the projected one-time and ongoing costs for 2022 can be included as an amendment to the proposed 2022 budget.
Tuesday night’s council meeting featured a number of individuals calling in to offer comments via the Zoom platform. Topics ranged from concerns over what some believe is a rushed budget process (the budget is scheduled to be approved Nov. 16, when in past years is has been approved in early to mid-December), that the dates on budget meeting notices weren’t properly updated, and that minutes for recent council meetings haven’t been available for residents to review prior to commenting on the budget.
In response to the topic of council minutes, City Clerk Scott Passey noted that the person who usually prepares the minutes has had medical issues that have delayed their completion.
To address concerns about budget noticing and lack of minutes, the council agreed to continue Tuesday night’s public hearing on the budget to the Nov. 16 meeting, to allow for additional comment.
Highway 99 was a topic of conversation during Tuesday’s budget hearing. Lake Ballinger resident Natalie Seitz said she supported the lease for the Neighborhood City Office, and also favored Mayor Nelson’s proposal for a Race, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (REDI) manager. Such a position is “desperately needed” to address current inequities among the city’s neighborhoods and also to address inequitable spending in the coming year, she said.
Edmonds resident George Bennett noted that the city has talked a lot about Highway 99 revitalization, and suggested that city officials work with businesses to create their own Highway 99-area business improvement district, similar to the BID created by downtown Edmonds businesses.
Council discussions after the public hearing included exploring the reasoning behind expanding the city’s public information officer from a part-time to full-time position, grant restrictions that don’t allow money allocated for bike lanes to be spent on sidewalks, and whether the city will be able to use any of dollars in the new federal infrastructure bill for city projects.
— By Teresa Wippel