Council continues ARPA spending discussions, decides to launch outreach events

The Lynnwood City Council at its Monday, July 5, business meeting again discussed how it will spend the remainder of its $10.9 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

So far, the council has allotted approximately $8.9 million to various Lynnwood businesses and departments. Council President George Hurst said he wants to hear how each councilmember would like to see the last $2 million spent, so the council can consider each option and more easily reach a consensus.

Councilmember Jim Smith told the council he would like roughly $500,000 of the remaining ARPA money to be saved “for a rainy day.” According to Smith, it looks like the U.S. is heading toward another recession, and he wants to reserve some money, should it be needed later. The council has until Dec. 31, 2024 to reach an agreement on how the remaining funds will be allocated.

“Let’s be careful about spending all of this money too fast,” Smith said. “We might, two or three months from now, say, ‘Woah, all of a sudden we’ve got more of a disaster and we don’t have the money to be able to handle that.’ So if we could, let’s just be very prudent about spending the rest of this money.”

Many councilmembers agreed that a portion of the money should be saved until later, when the council has time to re-evaluate how the already-allotted ARPA money is being used.

Among the options councilmembers mentioned for spending the $1.5 million in ARPA funds were rapid rehousing, rental assistance, apprenticeship programs and SAT mentorships.

The council plans to vote on the matter at its July 26 meeting and have any clarifying questions answered before then.

In other business, the council heard from Lynnwood Strategic Planner Corbitt Loch about the city’s 2022-26 Strategic Plan.

According to Loch, the plan does not contain any new policies, it simply creates a guideline for the ones the council has already approved.

“The Strategic Plan is really just a tool to help us achieve those [plans and policies], because you need to make decisions on how to apply your resources,” Loch said. “Is the particular issue at hand one that’s really immediate and deserves attention right now? Or perhaps, are other things more important, and that one could wait a while? Basically, when do we do A before B?”

Loch said the city has dozens of approved plans, but many of them don’t include parameters for when they need to be started or completed. Because of this, city staff refer to the Strategic Plan almost daily to help them decide what needs to happen at certain times throughout the year.

“We have some plans that don’t even refer to a timeline,” Loch said. “They might say, ‘Go achieve x.’ OK, that’s great, but when should we do that? That’s what our Strategic Plan helps us do.”

Loch said the only real change to the 2022-26 plan is that one priority was turned into two. Now, the plan has six main priorities rather than five.

The fourth priority formally was to “be a safe, welcoming, livable city.” However, it was divided because staff felt it encompassed ideas that did not particularly fit together.

Now, priority four reads, “be a safe city,” and the new priority five reads, “be a diverse, welcoming, equitable and livable city.”

Councilmember Patrick Decker mentioned that he would like the topic of equity to be addressed more. According to Decker, the ratio of men to women who work on the city’s staff is 33:17.

“It concerns me that we talk about equality and inclusivity … and yet, we have and have had for a long time, a significant inequality between the number of women and the number of men employed by the city,” Decker said.

On another matter, Loch also asked the council to repeal Chapter 2.34 of the Lynnwood Municipal Code (LMC). The code talks about regulations of the city’s fire department, which it has not had since the regional fire authority was approved for Lynnwood and the southwest part of Snohomish County in 2017.

Loch has been working to remove items that are not needed, to keep the city code as concise as possible. He said repealing the chapter would not affect the area of the code regarding fire marshal regulations or the fire pension board.

The council will vote at a later date on whether to repeal the LMC chapter.

In addition, councilmembers will now be making more public appearances at citywide events. With its new outreach idea, “Coffee with a Councilmember,” the council hopes to build better relationships with the community and learn more about what Lynnwood residents want from their city officials.

–By Lauren Reichenbach

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