Council authorizes Communities of Color Coalition to distribute CARES Act Funds, receives Lynnwood Link light rail update

Lynnwood Link Extension Executive Project Director Randy Harlow (bottom right) updated the Lynnwood City Council on the light rail extension at its July 6 business meeting.

After delaying its decision to review a potential conflict of interest, the Lynnwood City Council agreed Monday to partner with the Communities of Color Coalition to distribute CARES Act funds to community members impacted by COVID-19.

Before beginning its July 6 work session at its newly-implemented 6 p.m. start time, the council held a special business meeting to vote on two matters, one of which was a decision to partner with a local nonprofit to distribute $200,000 in CARES Act funds the city has allocated to assist residents impacted by the pandemic.

The city recently decided to partner with the Communities of Color Coalition (C3) to distribute community relief funds to qualifying residents, but a decision was made at its June 23 business meeting to postpone voting to ensure there was no conflict of interest involving Councilmember Julieta Altamirano-Crosby, who serves on the nonprofit’s board.

Reading from a prepared statement, Altamirano-Crosby explained her position on the C3 board is unpaid and she had removed herself from the work group assigned to select a local nonprofit organization to distribute the funds.

“At all times I have acted in good faith in connections with this contract award and have no intention to influence anyone’s position for which nonprofit should be awarded this contract,” she said.

Altamirano-Crosby then recused herself from the rest of the discussion while the council voted 6-0 to choose C3 to distribute the funds.

The community relief fund will award grants to Lynnwood residents that range between $500 to $1,000 per household. The funds may be used for rent or mortgage payments, and qualifying residents will be required to provide proof of financial hardship due to the pandemic.

Also during the special meeting, the council voted 4-3 — with Councilmembers George Hurst, Ian Cotton and Jim Smith voting against — to give the city’s salary commission until Nov. 30 to catch up on work they were unable to do due to the pandemic.

The salary commission is responsible for reviewing and making recommendations for fair and equitable compensation for the city’s elected officials. Its members have been unable to meet in recent months and were expected to have completed work by April 30. In addition to doing work, the extension allows for the commission to receive public comment and host two public hearings.

According to a letter submitted and signed by the commission members, the extension will allow them adequate time to complete their analysis, hold the two public hearings required and share final decisions with the city’s finance department as part of the upcoming budget considerations.

During the discussion, Councilmember Hurst — who voted against the extension — said the commission could have held meetings if the members wanted to, because the April 30 deadline classified their work as necessary. Since the council recently decided not to include pay raises in the city’s 2021-22 budget, he said there would be little work for the commission.

With financial impacts of COVID-19 looming over the city budget, the council submitted a letter last week drafted by Hurst and signed by the city’s elected officials to the salary commission asking that they not be given pay raises in the next budget cycle.

“I’m not inclined to support this when we’ve…signed a letter saying we don’t want a salary increase,” he said. “So, I don’t see a reason for this commission to meet again until two years from now when they can start looking at another biennium.”

If the commission is allowed to meet, Councilmember Smith said it could decide to impose pay raises on the council members. In the event the commission wanted to meet, Smith said there was nothing from stopping the members from getting together independently.

However, Human Resources Director Evan Chin said commission members meeting informally could violate the Public Meetings Act. He also said the commission still has to handle the mayor’s salary.

Council Vice President Shannon Sessions added that it was unlikely that the commission would disregard the council’s request to not be given raises. She added that the city currently has more pressing concerns and the topic did not have to be made into a controversy.

Council President Christine Frizzell said the commission should be allowed to meet to lay the groundwork for the 2023-24 budget.

“It’s not costing us any money to have this commission do that work and yet it can save some steps next time down the road,” she said.

Hurst disagreed, saying since the city doesn’t know the full scope of the financial impacts of COVID, any work done by the commission to prepare for the next biennium could be useless come 2023.

“The fact that whatever they do is going to be two years old before we get into the next biennium,” he said. “I really see no reason to have them meet.”

Following the special meeting, the council adjourned into its regular work session to receive an update from Sound Transit regarding the Lynnwood Link light rail project.

Link light rail is an 8.5-mile, four-station extension project that will connect Northgate to Lynnwood’s City Center district and take riders from Lynnwood to downtown Seattle in 28 minutes. The extension will include stops at Shoreline South/145th, Shoreline North/185th and Mountlake Terrace. Sound Transit plans to have trains visiting and leaving the Lynnwood station every four to six minutes during weekday peak hours. Trains are scheduled to begin service in 2024.

During the presentation, Lynnwood Link Extension Executive Project Director Randy Harlow provided details on the project timeline, an update on construction, information about the upcoming station and parking garage and community outreach efforts.

Harlow said early work for the project has been completed, including clearing and grubbing trees and vegetation, access road construction and utility relocation. Over the next few years, the project will move into major construction like completing columns for the track, constructing the new station, building new retention walls, installing operating systems and other support projects like the 200th Street Southwest widening to accommodate increased traffic to and from the station.

According to Harlow, one key issue Sound Transit is currently facing is how to handle temporary parking while the garage is being constructed. With an estimated 68,000 daily riders expected to use Lynnwood light rail, parking will be increased with the installation of a multi-level parking garage. A total of 1,891 parking spaces will be available, with 1,665 parking spaces inside the garage and an additional 226 for surface parking. However, while the garage and guideways are installed, temporary off-site parking will be required during some of the construction. Harlow said the garage is expected to take about two years to build.

“We have some temporary parking areas are under development or are being eyeballed for use as temporary parking during the period of time the work zone is occupied by the parking garage (construction),” he said.

Upcoming activities for the project include continuing to relocate utilities, constructing columns and retention walls, and placing aerial guideways. Sound Transit will also be working with city staff during the project to prepare for property acquisitions for the 200th Street Southwest widening as well as installing a temporary trestle near Scriber Creek.

Harlow said the temporary trestle will be required for large pieces of construction equipment used to drill shafts to support the aerial guideway. If crews were to try to work without the trestles, Harlow said it could impact the water turbidity, making it look murkier.

“The temporary trestle allows that equipment to traverse the site with less impact on the wetlands than the trestle construction will,” he said. “There is still some environmental risk there with the placement of the supports for the trestle, but it’s a lot less than trying to take those crawler cranes out into the middle of the wetland area.”

Once construction is completed, Harlow said the trestles will be removed.

Following the presentation, the council was given an opportunity to ask questions. Councilmember Cotton began by asking if the parking garage systems would be operational during the rest of the project or if they would be impacted by construction.

In response, Harlow said they do not expect the garage to be affected by construction but added there may be minor impacts.

“There’s always things that seem to happen during construction, so there may be a time — whether it’s a closure of one of the ramps into the garage or a temporary power outage — that we may impact the garage during continuing construction but it’s not expected to go offline,” he said.

In preparation for light rail, Sound Transit has acquired properties near the Lynnwood Transit Center, including a strip mall along 200th Street Southwest across from Lynnwood Square. Councilmember Hurst asked what Sound Transit plans to do with that property when the project is completed.

Harlow said no specific use has been determined for the property, and Sound Transit is reviewing whether the area qualifies as transit oriented.

“Once that determination has been made one way or the other then we will proceed to look into potential other uses,” he said.

–By Cody Sexton

  1. Do you think a group with the name: Communities of Color Coalition can distribute CARES Act Funds without discrimation? I don’t really think so… Is that how things are now? The fact that you created a “coalition” with such a name seem like discrimation to me?

    1. Corona virus has had a ‘discriminating’ (disproportionate) impact on communities of color, because of how race and racism work in our country, and our neighborhoods. Apportioning some CARES Act funds to be distributed by this coalition, which understands those impacts and those community members seems appropriate. I know many white people are struggling too, but where corona virus has made inequity worse, this funding will intentionally address a small part of that.

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