The Lynnwood City Council at its Monday, Nov. 7, work session discussed a legislative priorities update from the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) as well as how it plans to spend the city’s remaining $1.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
AWC Government Relations Director Candice Bock said the organization has five legislative priorities for the upcoming year.
AWC’s top priority will be its response to the Blake decision — the Washington State Supreme Court ruling that the state’s law on drug possession was unconstitutional. What was a felony charge turned into a misdemeanor for the possession of drugs, but the ruling stated officers had to make two drug referrals for each individual before being able to charge them with a misdemeanor.
“That system has been very difficult for our law enforcement to manage,” Bock said. “We’ve been hearing those same concerns from cities around the state. We have been asking for more funding help and will continue to do so.”
The second priority for the AWC addresses police vehicle pursuits for public safety. Recent laws have put increasing restrictions on when police officers are allowed to conduct a vehicle pursuit if it fails to stop.
“We are asking that the Legislature clarify when those vehicle pursuits are allowed using a reasonable suspicion standard and allowing for pursuits in more circumstances,” she said. “Right now, they’re limited to violent crimes, sex offenses and DUIs.”
AWC Government Relations Deputy Director Carl Schroeder then gave the council an overview of the organization’s third priority for the year.
Ensuring basic infrastructure funding for the next fiscal year will help fully fund Lynnwood’s Public Works Assistance Account, Schroeder said, and set the city up for better financial success.
Fourth on the priority list is increasing housing availability and affordability in the city.
“Our members really want to ensure that whatever came out of this would actually result in the delivery of more affordable rental units and expanded homeownership opportunities,” Schroeder said. “Especially, permanently affordable homeownership. It’s really important, and we heard loud and clearly that we need to address both sides of that housing continuum. We’d like to see an increase in overall supply for all price ranges and housing types.”
Schroeder also said the team is working to ensure that the solutions implemented are strong enough that they can withstand the various pressures from rising inflation costs and other factors over time.
The final AWC priority is providing behavioral health resources to the community.
“We all know that there is not enough access to behavioral health resources in our state,” Bock said. “People aren’t able to get the help they need when they need it and that can lead to other instances of crisis situations.”
The organization will focus on providing more resources aimed at substance use disorder as well as dual diagnosis treatment facilities.
In other business, the council received a federal lobbyist update. Summit Strategies partner Mark Dedrick represents the City of Lynnwood in Washington, D.C. and came before the council to explain what is happening behind the scenes.
“I want to commend the City of Lynnwood staff,” Dedrick said. “I work with a lot of places … and your staff is very hard working and has been working to put yourselves in the best possible position you can be in. Your staff is always responsive, quick, ahead of deadlines … and that’s not something I see with every city or form of government I work with.”
Dedrick talked about the successes the city has seen recently. The Scriber Creek Trail project recently received a $1 million grant, and the Poplar Way Bridge was awarded $25 million in grant funding.
“$25 million was one of the largest grants you could receive on the West Coast,” he said. “A lot of work and effort went into getting that kind of grant and it’s a big deal.”
Dedrick also talked about funding for the 44th Avenue West underpass project. Lynnwood put a grant proposal into a federal funding package for $1.7 million but that bill has not yet been passed. Funding is guaranteed for the city if lawmakers vote for the package, and Dedrick is hoping the bill will be approved sometime soon. However, the only thing city staff can do now is wait.
“We’re really keeping our fingers crossed for the [package to pass],” he said.
In addition, City Engineer David Mach spoke to the council about the pavement plans for the gravel portion of 204th Street Southwest.
While the council in April approved $500,000 in ARPA funds for the pavement project, Mach said the project is actually going to cost more due to fire department regulations that require streets to be wide enough for fire engines to get around other vehicles that may be on the road.
In addition, the Edmonds School District requested some form of walkway on at least one side of the street to ensure safe passage for students going to and from nearby schools.
“So basically, we’re looking at double the size, double the cost,” Mach said.
While the city had originally planned to pave a 10-foot, one-way street, new requirements have staff looking at paving a 20-foot, two-way street with a potential walkway on one side. Mach said another option the city has is still paving a 10-foot, one-way street but having a “mountable” 10-foot curb that fire engines can easily climb onto if needed.
“It’s not fully a curb and it’s not a sidewalk,” Mach said. “It’s more of a hybrid that fire trucks can still drive up on.”
Both of these new ideas will require more money, Mach said. The one-way street with the mountable curb will cost roughly $1.2 million and the two-way street will cost $1.7 million.
Mach said because of the extra steps the city would have to take with the project, the estimated completion time would be extended from 2023 to the summer of 2024. Because so many students use the roadway as a path to and from school, he said the city would attempt to complete the entire project during the summer when school is out.
However, the construction would require that the city remove a number of large, mature trees that stand along the current roadside, and Mach said he isn’t sure residents would want to see those removed.
“We have not gone out to those that live in the neighborhood to ask them what they want yet,” Mach said. “Because the price increased so significantly, we felt it was important for us to come here [before the council] first.”
Councilmember Julieta Altamirano-Crosby said she wants to hear from the residents in the area before she makes up her mind about providing extra funding for the project.
“Knowing what they want is really important to me,” she said. “That and transparency. We need to be transparent with them about [what we’re going to do].”
Councilmember Patrick Decker agreed with Altamirano-Crosby, saying the council should wait to hear from residents who live on the street before deciding how to move forward with the project.
Councilmember Jim Smith said he has no problem allocating extra money to complete the project as long as it isn’t delayed any further. Smith said it reflects badly on the council and the city to tell residents their street is going to be paved, only to put the project off for multiple more years due to unforeseen issues.
Mach said he and his team will reach out to residents in the neighborhood to collect feedback before asking the council how to proceed.
Also on Monday night, the council discussed the six proposals requesting a portion of the city’s remaining ARPA funds: the Shop Lynnwood campaign, the Homage multicultural senior center, behavioral health programs in schools, a teen crime prevention program, a human services coordinator and tutoring for low-income students.
Each councilmember talked about which programs they felt should be approved and which should be denied, but no decisions were made Monday night on how the council will move forward with funding.
“I just love the collaboration of our city councilmembers and hearing ideas,” Councilmember Shannon Sessions said. “It makes me rethink some things and I hope all of us try to be open-minded about these things.”
— By Lauren Reichenbach