Council works through some 2023 budget amendments; more discussion to come Tuesday

Edmonds Police Chief Michelle Bennett discusses department budget requests with the city council Monday night. To her left is Administrative Services Director Dave Turley.

The Edmonds City Council Monday night began working through dozens of proposed amendments to the draft city budget.

During the four-plus-hour special meeting, the council discussed 19 separate measures covering two departments — police and parks, recreation and human services. Councilmembers are scheduled to continue addressing additional budget amendments as part of their regular Tuesday, Dec. 6, business meeting, which starts at 7 p.m.

Among the amendments addressed Monday night:

– The council agreed to reduce — from $600,000 to $300,000 — an operating budget request from the police department to expand the department’s detectives unit for special investigations. Council President Vivian Olson proposed the reduction with the idea of instead having Edmonds exploring an interlocal agreement (ILA) with the neighboring Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood police departments to share resources. Police Chief Michelle Bennett said she believed that working with other agencies could dilute the department’s focus on Edmonds-specific issues. She also noted that setting up such an agreement would take time. In supporting Olson’s proposal, Councilmember Dave Teitzel noted that since much of Edmonds’ crime occurs on Highway 99, which borders Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood, it makes sense to pursue an ILA with the other cities. The final vote was 4-3, with Councilmembers Olson, Teitzel, Diane Buckshnis and Neil Tibbott voting yes and Councilmembers Will Chen, Susan Paine and Jenna Nand voting no.

– Councilmembers Teitzel and Nand submitted amendments to reduce the number of patrol cars the police department had proposed purchasing — a total of nine cars at a cost of $633,000 so that officers could have an assigned car. Bennett has said that practice is commonplace in other police agencies and makes it harder for Edmonds to recruit new officers to the city. There is also less wear and tear on assigned vehicles when compared to pooled vehicles, which are running all the time. Funding would come from Edmonds’ federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) allocation, aimed at COVID recovery.

Teitzel, who proposed purchasing five vehicles instead of nine, noted that while the council supports the police department, it has to juggle a number of competing priorities and still support the city’s taxpayers. He suggested using the $300,000 saved to fund a needed rewrite of the city’s code.

Nand’s proposal called for reducing the number of cars purchased in 2023 from nine to three, then spacing out the purchase of the six additional cars over the next two years, with three each in 2024 and 2025. She also proposed financing all purchases through the city’s general fund rather than using COVID recovery dollars, which she said should instead be directed to the city’s most vulnerable through housing grants, utility payments and small business support.

Olson, however, said she supported purchasing the full number of cars as proposed because they can be used as a recruiting tool for bringing new officers to Edmonds, calling it “the most prudent purchase we can make to support the police department.”

Teitzel’s amendment failed on a 2-5 vote and Nand withdrew her proposal after that vote.

– The council unanimously approved a proposal by Chen and Nand for $75,000 to conduct a feasibility study for opening either a permanent police substation on Highway 99 or moving the entire police operations there. Chen pointed to the fact a significant amount of crime occurs on Highway 99, and Nand  added she believes the city needs to begin reorienting the provision of city services in general “to other areas with population density.”

– The council also unanimously approved a police department request to remove one patrol officer and replace it with a community police officer at the city’s Highway 99 satellite office. The office currently is staffed by an administrative assistant and a police community engagement coordinator, and the fully commissioned officer would “take on issues that rise to the level of law enforcement,” Assistant Police Chief Loi Dawkins said.

– And councilmembers unanimously agreed to fund a budget amendment for the purchase of two additional K-9 dogs who will be assigned to work with existing patrol officers. The department already has two K-9 teams and this will ensure that every police squad — two on day shift and two on night shift — has a police dog available. The dogs are mainly used for tracking and narcotics detection.

Parks, Recreation and Human Services Director Angie Feser, right, discusses budget amendments. To her left is Deputy Parks Director Shannon Burley.

– Moving to parks, recreation and human services amendments, the council voted to reduce the budget for a proposed study of Yost Park/ Shell Creek, which is facing a range of challenges due to soil erosion, aging trees and two concrete weirs. Staff had proposed hiring a consultant for $220,000 — using ARPA funds — to conduct an analysis of the park’s environmental conditions and existing trail system. Teitzel had proposed deferring the study and removing the funding for this year, stating he would prefer to first establish a task force of city volunteers and staff to take a look at what actions could be taken immediately to address the issues. Buckshnis proposed instead to reduce the funding to $120,000, adding that some professional assistance could be needed.

– The council also voted to remove a proposal by staff spend $75,000 to continue the city’s efforts to pursue Salmon-Safe certification.

– And it voted to designate that the $450,425 allocated for new parks maintenance expenses for the Highway 99 revitalization project and Civic Park would be coming out of the general fund and not ARPA dollars.

– The council approved two parks budget amendments related to Lake Ballinger, which is shared by Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace. One proposed by Chen, Tibbott and Buckshnis would spend $200,000 to create an interlocal agreement with the City of Mountlake Terrace to assist with the next phase of development for Ballinger Park. Mountlake Terrace has already installed a new fishing pier and boat launch on the lake’s east side, and is in the process of completing an accessible playground and trail system. In coming years, plans call for trails and a viewing platform on the west side. The idea is to provide some funding for that planning work and enhance Edmonds residents’ access on the park’s west side. Another amendment proposed by Chen and Tibbott would spend $25,000 to improve the boat launch access located at McAleer Way and 238th Street Southwest. The funding would include the addition of two park benches — removing the dilapidated one now there — and improving the walkway down to the water,

– The council voted 3-4 against a Nand amendment to spend $6,000 for two memorial benches at Mathay Ballinger Park. The goal was to honor two murder victims in the Highway 99 area – Nagendiram Kandasamy, who died after being shot at a 7-Eleven store and Thanh Vy Ly, shot and killed at the Boo Han Market. Noting that Mathay Ballinger Park doesn’t have any memorial benches, Nand said the city’s action would not only acknowledge the victims, but the “terror and heartache” the community suffered as a result of the crimes. Councilmembers who voted no said they believed it would be better to launch a private fundraising effort for the benches rather than having the city sponsor them. Paine, however, said she supported the measure, adding the benches would be placed “in an area that does need to get the recognition and get some sense of healing.”

– Councilmembers also spent a fair amount of time discussing two separate requests for positions to coordinate volunteers — one a $65,000 position proposed by Olson to be placed with the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce and the other a $42,000 half-time city job suggested by Paine that would focus on overseeing volunteeers for parks department maintenance projects. Both amendments failed to garner enough council votes for approval.

– The council also considered three proposals by Nand to add a variety of amenities, including memorial benches, city-owned trash and recycling bins, and corner parks, hanging flower baskets and poles to the Five Corners, Firdale, Perrinville and Highway 99 International business districts. Parks Director Feser said that such an effort would require developing a plan as well as coordinating with public works employees to ensure the various amenities would be located appropriately. In the end, the council agreed to give staff an opportunity to create a workplan with the idea of presenting it for council consideration later in 2023.

– Finally, the council approved an amendment from Tibbott to spend $25,000 to hire a professional tree maintenance contractor who will address structural issues present in the city’s iconic oak trees at 5th and Main.

— By Teresa Wippel






























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