Council holds public hearing on biennial budget, discusses Timberglen Apartments’ water situation

Council President George Hurst holds up two water samples taken from Timberglen Apartments.

The Lynnwood City Council at its Monday, Sept. 26 business meeting held a public hearing regarding the city’s 2023-24 biennial budget, and also considered other agenda items.

Lynnwood Finance Director Michelle Meyer said that city staff is still working on the preliminary budget, so the numbers the council has currently will likely be different than those included in the completed budget. The council will receive the final draft budget by Oct. 10.

Monday’s public hearing was the first of three as is required by the State of Washington, Meyer said. The next public hearing will be held on Nov. 14.

Former city councilmember Ted Hikel voiced his unhappiness with how the budget is being presented to the council. He said councilmembers should be receiving more information earlier than they have so far this year and hopes city staff will give the budget the time and effort it deserves.

During council comments, Council President George Hurst questioned the city’s agreement with the Housing Authority of Snohomish County (HASCO). Many residents at Lynnwood’s Timberglen Apartments have been without usable water in their units since summer, and Hurst said it has taken HASCO far too long to address the emergency situation.

Hurst supplied two water samples from one apartment unit; one sample was a rust orange color, the other was clear. According to the council president, it took HASCO 48 days to respond to residents after orange water started coming out of the faucets. Residents were not supplied with bottled drinking water or any alternatives for nearly two months while they waited for their water to be fixed.

According to Hurst, although HASCO has said it has fixed the issue and the water appears clear, it is continuing to fail inspections. The water is still testing positive for filiform bacteria and its iron content is testing 18 times higher than allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the council president added.

Hurst suggested creating a task force to reevaluate Lynnwood’s agreement with HASCO, adding that the housing authority’s treatment of Timberglen residents is not acceptable.

“We need to come to some sort of resolution because to wait for 48 days for this,” Hurst said, motioning to the water, “is unacceptable. And even this [water] is still failing.”

During public comments, most commenters addressed Councilmember Jim Smith’s reaction to the findings of the external investigation regarding racial and sexual discrimination and also the city council’s lack of response thus far.

Joy Keren voiced her disappointment with the council’s silence on the matter.

“I’m really disappointed, to say the least,” Keren said. “Hate and indifference spreads like wildfire with no one to stand against it.”

Keren said councilmembers had plenty of time to seek further information regarding the report but have only now begun to look into it after hearing the public’s unhappiness with their lack of response.

“Y’all had four months to question this process, and not a peep was heard,” Keren said. “This just shows, council, that you’re not listening to your people. Your inaction speaks so much louder than any monthly cultural proclamation you might advertise.”

Naz Lashgari also spoke to the council about Smith’s actions. She said that months ago, Smith was removed as the council liaison to the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission due to his attitude toward issues of racism and she’s not surprised to hear that he has continued this pattern now with city staff members.

“We’re all accountable for the things we do,” Lashgari said. “But I believe elected officials should be held more accountable for the things they do.”

Lashgari said she hopes Smith will be punished for his actions toward Leah Jensen and that he will learn and grow from this experience.

“We have entrusted [city officials] with the important work of creating a more livable and safe city for all residents, all employees, all boards and commissioners of the City of Lynnwood,” she said. “Let’s move toward equity by being anti racist, antisexist and be a more inclusive city where we claim All are Welcome.”

As Lynnwood Today reported in a related story, the city council Monday night further discussed the substantiated claims against Smith and how they would proceed with possible punishment.

In other business, the city council unanimously approved contracts for the Meadowdale Playfields and South Lynnwood Park renovation projects as well as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) 2023-25 Labor Agreement. The council also unanimously approved Steve Steward to the second alternate position on the Board of Ethics.

In addition, the council received a presentation from the city’s IT department and held a closed session regarding labor negotiations.

— By Lauren Reichenbach

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