City Council gets clarification on ARPA spending options, discusses joint summit

The Lynnwood City Council at its Monday, May 2, business meeting spent the majority of its time getting clarification on various American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding possibilities. 

During the past few months, the council has been discussing how it will spend the allotted $10.9 million. With a list of around 40 proposals, the council wanted more clarification on several items before making a decision.

Lynnwood Food Bank Director Alissa Jones joined the meeting to explain exactly what funding would be going toward, should the council agree to allocate ARPA money.

The food bank has outgrown the space it’s working in and is in desperate need of a larger property. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Jones said the food bank served 250 families a week. Now, it serves over 500.

Jones suggested two options: buying more property from Silver Creek Family Church, which is located in front of the food bank, or finding a new location to purchase.

However, Jones said the food bank currently can’t afford to expand.

“Lynnwood Food Bank cannot carry a large mortgage,” Jones said. “We can’t afford that when we are dependent upon community donations to survive.”

With rising housing and grocery costs, the food bank is looking at some of its largest bills ever. Since January 2022, it has already spent $85,000 on food alone, compared to $109,000 spent in all of 2021.

The food bank is requesting $1,000,500 in ARPA money to purchase more property and be able to update its facilities as needed.

“We need to be someplace that fits us,” Jones said. “Really, we need to just be someplace permanent.”

The council also heard from Steve Corsi, president and CEO of Volunteers of America Western Washington (VOAWW) regarding the organization’s proposed Lynnwood Neighborhood Center.

“This 37,000-square-foot center is really a community center on steroids,” Corsi said. “It’s a one-stop shop where you can come in and get your needs met.”

Corsi said the Neighborhood Center – to be located on the grounds of Trinity Lutheran Church – will not only house amenities such as affordable health and dental care options, but will provide safe cultural spaces for residents to come together. Weddings and small events can be hosted in the indoor-outdoor areas, with retractable walls to open up the event space. There will also be child care facilities as well as adult day programs.

The VOA is requesting $480,000 to cover permit fees and begin construction on the building.

While councilmembers were wary of allocating funds because the project fundraising is far from being completed, Councilmember Shannon Sessions said this is a great opportunity to serve Lynnwood.

“For us, the City of Lynnwood, this is a gem,” Sessions said. “It’s a gathering place. It’s robust. It’s those things that I’ve always loved about the city center. And it ties our community together, where the location is, but it also covers so many of the needs of places we already support.”

Also speaking to the council about an ARPA funding request was Danielle Carnes, vice president for Innovation and Strategic Partnerships at Edmonds College.

The college currently runs a pre-apprenticeship program in the back of the Washington Aerospace Training and Research Center at Everett’s Paine Field, but is hoping to move the program to Lynnwood.

“[The back of the research center] is not ideal for a few reasons,” Carnes said. “One is that aerospace is very, very clean, and dust is an issue when you’re talking about millimeters’ difference for the machining and tooling for airlines. We are making do right now, but it is certainly not ideal.”

Edmonds College is asking for $300,000 from the council to lease a building and cover regular operating costs for its first year in Lynnwood.

“[The pre-apprenticeship program] is a pathway to a living wage job with union benefits,” she said. “I think that’s the thing that is going to transform a lot of families. It’s stable. It has benefits. It has protections with our unions. One of the key pieces to transforming out of poverty is access to these stable jobs.”

Students don’t need to have a high school diploma or GED, know English or have a driver’s license to enroll in the program. The only major requirement is being 18 years or older, Carnes said.

Councilmember Julietta Altamirano-Crosby said she sees great value in the program for Lynnwood’s communities of color.

“As an immigrant, I came to this country with no English skills,” she said. “This means a lot to me, the education. Like me, there are many.”

Councilmembers Sessions and Jim Smith said they aren’t sure if Lynnwood’s ARPA money should be spent to benefit residents from all of Snohomish County.

“I understand you’re bringing [the program] to Lynnwood, but if you fill Lynnwood’s class with 10, 15 or 20 people who aren’t from the city limits of Lynnwood, that doesn’t do anything for me,” Sessions said. “It’s a fantastic program. It needs to happen. But should we be spending our limited ARPA funds on it?”

In other business, the council considered options for holding a joint council and administration summit to better understand and discuss the needs of the city.

Typically, the council and department directors meet annually. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a joint summit has not been held since 2019.

Councilmember Patrick Decker proposed a theme of “City Cohesion and Inclusion.” Along with safety, Decker said that he would like to see the city plan for and work toward that goal in the coming years.

Councilmember Sessions said a joint summit is a great opportunity to get city leaders on the same page going forward.

“I would expect and want the directors to have a lot of say in what they do and tell us,” she said. “I’m not interested in talking over them. I want them to give us information about whatever topic it is we want to focus on and study. I’m not interested in just bouncing our opinions [around].”

The council agreed to hold the summit on Saturday, June 25.

To keep Monday’s meeting from running longer than three hours, the council decided to postpone its discussion on eliminating taxes and fees on certain city services until a later date.

The meeting ended with an executive session that was closed to the public.

–By Lauren Reichenbach

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.