Council allocates ARPA funds to police department, approves Community Justice Center budget increase

The Lynnwood City Council at its Monday, June 27, business meeting approved a proposal to allocate approximately $2 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to help fill vacant police positions as well as update some officer equipment.

According to Councilmember Jim Smith, the Lynnwood Police Department has approximately 15 positions that are not active due to lack of employees.

“We’re always behind,” Smith said. “But this can help us [get ahead].”

Smith made a motion to allocate roughly $1.8 million to the police department for recruiting and hiring new personnel. The motion passed unanimously 5-0, with Councilmembers Shannon Sessions and Josh Binda absent.

Council President George Hurst also moved to allocate approximately $167,000 in ARPA funds to update the department’s police-worn body cameras and tasers.

Speaking in support of Hurst’s motion, Smith said this equipment helps keep both officers and the community safe. Body-worn cameras can protect anyone involved in an incident from being falsely accused, Smith said, and tasers can protect police while also ensuring deadly force is used as a very last resort.

Hurst’s motion also passed unanimously.

In addition, the council discussed moving to declare an “emergency regarding physical location” in response to state legislation, HB 1392, which — according to City Attorney Lisa Marshall — would mean a member of city staff would be required to come to Lynnwood City Hall and unlock the doors for anyone wishing to attend in person, even if the meeting is held exclusively on Zoom.

“We can’t do this,” Marshall said. “It’s not practical. It’s not safe. We don’t [have enough staff]. And we can continue having the meetings and having transparency without doing this.”

However, the bill offers exceptions to the requirement. If a local, state or federal emergency is declared and the public agency determines it cannot hold an in-person meeting due to multiple reasons, the meetings can continue to be fully remote.

Currently, Marshall said this would only apply to the city’s boards and commissions, which are still meeting remotely. It would not apply to the council at this time, since it has returned to meeting in person.

Councilmember Patrick Decker proposed an amendment to limit the exception for remote meetings for six months. It was approvd on a 4-1 vote, with Council President Hurst voting no. The amended main motion passed unanimously, and the state of emergency took effect immediately.

During the meeting’s public comment section, former Lynnwood councilmember Ted Hikel urged the council to stop its practice of readily spending any amount of money that is requested for city projects.

According to Hikel, more money will always be needed for everything, and the more money the council doles out, the more money people will request.

“Beware of writing blank checks,” Hikel warned.

Also during the public comments section, Paige, a Lynnwood resident who didn’t use her last name, scolded the council for its proclamation of Pride Month while continuing construction on the Community Justice Center.

“In the proclamation on the agenda today, the city had the audacity to say that June marks Pride Month … but fails to name that those riots were in response to escalated police violence to the queer community,” Paige said.

She went on to say that instead, the building should be named the “Community Injustice Center” and voiced her displeasure with the council’s decision to build a larger jail. She also urged the council to vote no on the increased budget for the center.

However, the proposal to increase the center’s budget passed unanimously Monday night. Councilmember Smith did ask the council to take into consideration what Hikel had mentioned about writing blank checks. 

During council comments, Councilmember Decker asked the council to reconsider its ban on fireworks in the city. According to him, many fireworks can be lit off safely, with minor noise disturbance and little fire hazard. Fireworks, he said, offer an opportunity to bring families and the community together, and he’s hoping to see the ban partially lifted.

“I’d like to see us expand the conversation on that so hopefully by next Fourth of July we are able to reincorporate that into our families’ celebrations,” Decker said.

In other business, the council unanimously approved Jim Strum to the Board of Ethics Alternate position and Nancy Canales-Montiel to the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee. The council also approved ordinances related to the city’s Six-Year Capital Facilities Plan (CFP) and Six-Year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), both for 2023-2028.

In addition, the council heard a presentation from the Lynnwood Municipal Court and read proclamations for the Fourth of July, Pride Month and the city’s motto, All are Welcome.

–By Lauren Reichenbach

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