With the opening now planned for April 2023, crews are making progress on the long-awaited renovation of Edmonds’ Civic Field into a downtown park, Edmonds Parks Director Angie Feser told the city council’s parks and public works committee Tuesday night. A key issue the council must now address: How to cover an estimated funding shortfall of $318,313.
During Tuesday’s virtual committee meeting, chaired by Councilmember Neil Tibbott, Feser showcased the progress of the project since it broke ground exactly one year ago — on Aug. 9, 2021.
The park project will include youth athletic fields, upgraded sports lighting, permanent restrooms, a shade pavilion, an improved skate park, a petanque court grove, a pollinator meadow, tennis, pickleball and basketball courts, a 1/3-mile perimeter walking path, a fully inclusive playground, picnic areas and public art.
Construction is about 57% complete, said Feser, who shared a series of construction photos — taken regularly by drone — in the past year.
A side project to the Civic Park construction, Feser explained, is required stormwater mitigation. Treating all the stormwater at the park itself isn’t possible due to the high water table, so the city is instead treating it upstream in the Shell Creek watershed, in a right-of-way area on 96th Avenue West adjacent to Yost Park. To meet state requirements for treatment, stormwater will be collected into big vaults and infiltrated into the soil onsite.
The city has not yet gone out to bid for the stormwater mitigation project, “but it is required to be finished before we can open Civic Park,” Feser said.
The $13.76 million project is being funded through a variety of sources, including $3.5 million in grants, $1.78 million from the city’s general fund and $5.3 million in bonds. The park project has also received $400,000 in donations, including a $250,000 Department of Commerce grant secured by the Edmonds Rotary Club for an inclusive playground. Other funding includes $1.4 million from the city’s real estate excise tax funds and $1.35 million in park impact fees.
On the revenue side, the project has experienced “a little bit of a hiccup” related to $450,000 in grant money it expected to receive from Snohomish County, Feser said. While the city did get $300,000 of that county allocation, the remaining $150,000 was paused during the pandemic and is no longer forthcoming, so the city needs to make up the difference. In addition, stormwater mitigation is anticipated to cost twice as much — $431,620 vs. $200,600 — as originally projected.
When that initial estimate was made, Feser explained, the city anticipated doing the work inside Civic Park and that its own parks crew would build the project. That changed when the city discovered the extent of groundwater at the park site. “The complexity of the project has changed that now and now we need to contract it out,” she said.
Despite that cost increase, Feser said, the project is at 101% of budget, which “is pretty amazing considering our construction environment right now and the lessons we’ve heard lately about most projects being 25% high just at bid.” She congratulated the diligent work of Henry Schroder, the city’s capital project manager, “who’s tracking this project day and night and finding a lot of different ways to save money.”
The project now has an estimated shortfall of about $318,000, and there are a few different ways the city could cover that, Feser said, including through real estate excise taxes, additional bond money or the city’s general fund. Another option she asked the council committee to consider: using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) pandemic recovery dollars to pay for the $431,620 in stormwater mitigation, freeing up dollars to cover the shortfall. “It is eligible for ARPA because it’s a stormwater project,” Feser said.
The council needs to make a decision soon on that idea, she said, because the funding source has to be included in bid documents for the stormwater mitigation project.
Councilmember Neil Tibbott said he liked the idea of using ARPA money for that purpose. Council President Vivian Olson, who was sitting in on the committee meeting, said she would schedule a presentation on the matter before the full council in the near future.
Among the other items heard during Tuesday night’s committee meetings:
– The Public Safety, Planning, Human Services and Personnel Committee reviewed job descriptions for the arts and cultural services program manager and cultural arts program specialist. Those positions are now part of the parks, recreation, cultural services and human services department but will be moving to the community services and economic development department after the newly hired director, Todd Tatum, begins his job next week.
“I think this is a good place for this (arts and cultural) to sit now,” said Councilmember Laura Johnson, who chairs that committee. “I think it fits really within community services and economic development, for that matter. We’re an arts town.”
In another personnel matter, Johnson and Councilmember Susan Paine agreed with a proposal from Feser to create a new 80% FTE preschool assistant position for the Meadowdale preschool program, which would replace two part-time positions. Related to that, Johnson asked whether COVID vaccinations were required of preschool teacher positions. Feser said that the city doesn’t currently require staff to be vaccinated, but she would forward Johnson’s question to the city’s human resources department. Johnson and Paine agreed to move the preschool personnel change forward but said they’d like to have a broader conversation at a future council meeting regarding staff vaccination requirements.
Finally, the committee learned that the city is in the background check process for hiring a new public works director. That position has been vacant since November 2021, when longtime director Phil Williams left for a job with the City of Redmond.
– Both the council’s finance and parks and public works committees reviewed a proposal from McKinstry Energy Services to conduct an audit of the city’s Frances Anderson Center. Estimated to cost around $90,000, the audit will address a new state requirement regarding clean buildings, with the idea of moving away from fossil fuels. The audit would focus on a plan for renovating the building’s HVAC system, replacing its two aging gas-heated boilers with a modern all-electric variable refrigerant system. The system would supply the building with forced air heating and cooling, as well as a separate mechanical ventilation system. Both committees agreed to place the item on a future council consent agenda.
The parks and public works committee also heard an update on the city’s plan to place a solar plant on top of the public safety building, which houses the city’s police station. Committee members learned that costs have escalated considerably on the project, and the committee asked to revisit the topic once numbers are finalized.
— By Teresa Wippel