Edmonds City Council OKs neighborhood office along Hwy 99

Edmonds City Councilmembers Tuesday night discuss the merits of a Neighborhood City Office in the Aurora Marketplace complex.

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 approved office location.

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.

You can learn more about the draft 2022 budget at this link. You can view the video of Tuesday’s meeting at this link.

— By Teresa Wippel

12 Replies to “Edmonds City Council OKs neighborhood office along Hwy 99”

  1. Perfect location! It can provide information on resources for those in need in Edmonds. Thank you for providing a much needed service.

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  2. There are certainly positive aspects to this idea, many of which I like. However, why the rush with this idea that was just sprung on the council, and on the citizens with little or no notice. Why no public input? Why no assessment of the costs and alternatives? Why no linkage with the City’s strategic plan? Why the rush? So many unanswered questions.

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  3. It is important for us in the “Bowl” to acknowledge that many of our citizens and their taxes pay for services from the City of Edmonds, and they receive very little. Thanks to the City Council for recognizing that we need to include as many people as possible and this is a good first step.

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  4. As far as signage is concerned, in addition to the City of Edmonds logo, will it have Edmonds PD externally on the signage as well? If that has not been discussed, I think it should. The visual could have a huge impact on the crime and theft in that area. While my personal preference was that this facility fully focus for the time being on the police department, since it has been passed as proposed, I hope at the very least the signage can reflect there is police presence. Only time will tell if people are going to come in to ask about filing permits with the city versus feeling like there is meaningful progress towards not having their catalytic convertors stolen, knowing there is someone with Narcan close by, or being accosted in that parking lot or when doing business along HWY99.

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  5. Finally. Some good quick decisions without months of testimony.
    Neighborhood mini offices work.

    Council people. I salute you.
    Mr Mayor. You too.

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  6. Another example of Nelson wasting tax payer dollars and cramming this though City council with such unnecessary speed.

    This new office is literally 10 minutes and 3.2 miles away from City Hall. It is a very expensive conference room that may be used once or twice a month. Considering the fact that it will be staffed by one part-time person who won’t know the answer to every question, people will be referred to the various departments at City Hall…or maybe the electronic kiosk in the lobby! A City Hall belongs in a downtown area.

    During my 25 years of owning a business downtown, I have hardly ever seen major Nelson or for that matter City Council members check with various business owners to inquire information or input. He and his staff are rather unapproachable and make decisions unilateral. How is a new neighborhood office supposed to help under this “leadership”?

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  7. I sat through almost three hours of last night’s special meeting. It just proved what is wrong with our city government. The rude behavior of one of the council members was just appalling and why was that member turning their webcam off and on all through out the proceedings. What was that member doing anyways?

    What this article fails to mention is the fact that Council President Paine cancelled the standing Finance Committee meeting to hold this meeting, which apparently is in violation of city code, in order to push up the time frame for voting on next years budget. It also fails to mention the number of outraged citizens calling the council out for not providing time or information for citizens to make informed comment on the budget. Nor did it mention the State Auditor’s Office has apparently been engaged to review the actions of the council as it pertains to state law.

    Councilmember Kristiana Johnson also questioned why a budget decision packet for the neighborhood office wasn’t created. The response from city staff was that the budget decision packets were months in the making. However, unless there is documentation not presented to the public, would a decision packet really take that long to make for this Hwy 99 office when viewing the decision packets that are posted on the City’s website?

    https://p1cdn4static.civiclive.com/UserFiles/Servers/Server_16494932/File/Government/Departments/Administrative%20Services/Financial%20Reports/2022_Decision_Packages.pdf

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  8. I believe the satellite office on Highway 99 is a much needed public resource. I also believe that it could be a starting point for a much larger City presence in an area that needs an official presence. My initial thoughts on the budget process are not as important as making vital steps towards moving services to where services are needed (i.e. police presence).

    On the Highway 99 BID, think of the possibilities of a quasigovernment agency led by the businesses along that corridor to improve that corridor through capital programs, marketing, and other typical BID activities. The satellite city offices could have a full time liason that both answered questions on local Edmonds services and conducted Highway 99 BID work as well,.funded by the businesses that are thriving along that corridor. I personally believe that the people who are reaping the benefit of having storefronts on H99 (many large not based in Edmonds) should be required to take a financial interest in the future of that corridor. The EDBID has made improvements possible in the Bowl by those businesses, perhaps another BID will add to the ability to improve the Highway 99 corridor through their BID.

    Time will tell what the satellite office shapes out to be, but a good start on at least a proof of concept.

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