Emergency bridge housing at former Edmonds hotel moving forward now that meth decontamination complete

Fencing around the former America’s Best Value Inn on Edmonds Highway 99. (My Edmonds News file photo)

The emergency bridge housing planned at the former America’s Best Value Inn on Edmonds’ Highway 99 is moving forward, now that methamphetamine decontamination is completed at the site, Snohomish County says. with a projected opening date in the spring or summer 2025.

Bridge housing is considered a first step toward permanent housing for those who are unhoused, and comes with medical and mental health help, job services and other immediate needs. The Snohomish County Human Services Department on Monday issued a request for proposals for a site operator and service coordinator at both the Edmonds site, located at 22127 Highway 99, and the former Days Inn in Everett, at 1602 S.E. Everett Mall Way.

Both facilities — referred to as the Edmonds New Start Center and Everett New Start Center — are designed to provide immediate shelter in a stable environment, with 24/7 support services. The county purchased the two former hotels in 2022 with federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. They are expected to create approximately 130 units of housing for those experiencing homelesseness — 55 units in Edmonds and 75 units in Everett.

The process to open the facilities has been delayed due to drug decontamination work being done at both facilities. As a part of the sales agreement, the county tested the Edmonds hotel and found high levels of drug contamination “in every room, in every common area… but not high enough to show the manufacturing of drugs, but enough people in enough rooms (were) doing meth often enough that it became a problem,” Snohomish County spokesperson Kent Patton said in December 2022. Meth contamination was also found at the Everett hotel.

In a Feb. 20 email to constituents, Snohomish County 3rd District Councilmember Strom Peterson explained that the decontamination process for the Edmonds site “has taken longer than anticipated” and outlined what was being done to address the issue.

The Snohomish County Council May 3 received a memorandum from County Executive Director Lacey Harper stating that a methamphetamine decontamination report “confirms that after cleaning by the contractor, all samples taken at the Edmonds New Start Center now fall below the Washington State Department of Health standard for additional cleaning. This means the Edmonds New Start Center is now remediated and can proceed with schematic design and renovations.”

As for the Everett location, “asbestos abatement is currently underway,” Harper said. “The meth decontamination contractor is requiring the textured ceilings and walls to be abated of asbestos prior to being remediated. We feel the best practice is to follow their recommendation as they successfully cleaned the Edmonds site.”

In response to the hotels’ drug contamination issues, the Snohomish County Council on May 1 voted 3-2 to adopt an ordinance introduced by Councilmember Nate Nehring that will require annual testing of county-owned supportive housing facilities for hazardous chemicals. Supporting the ordinance were Councilmembers Nehring, Sam Low and Jared Mead. Councilmembers Strom Peterson and Megan Dunn voted no.

The new requirements direct the county department of facilities and fleet to test for methamphetamine and, at the discretion of the director, other hazardous materials and controlled substances. The testing is aimed at identifying the presence of dangerous drugs in county-owned housing, including the hotels purchased in Edmonds and Everett, Nehring’s office said in a news release announcing the ordinance’s passage.

“Since the county has decided to move into the role of landlord for affordable and supportive housing, it is critical that we ensure safe and healthy spaces are being provided for tenants and staff,” Nehring said. “This testing requirement will give county staff the information they need to detect contamination early and, if necessary, take action to remedy the contamination before further damage is caused.”

The May 6 request for proposals (RFP) for New Start site operators and coordinators is a competitive application process, Harper said in the county council memo. “Site operation plans must demonstrate how the applicant will keep the property safe, functioning and habitable to support not only the housing needs but also the wellness and recovery of participants. Service delivery plans must describe robust housing stability and support services designed for individuals experiencing homelessness. Services shall be provided with the primary goals of stabilizing clients, meeting basic needs, and achieving successful housing outcomes.

Crucially, all applicants must clearly describe how they will successfully engage with the surrounding community and maintain positive relationships with neighboring properties,” Harper said.

In developing the RFP, the county “engaged with homeless housing and service providers, local jurisdictions, surrounding neighbors, law enforcement, EMS, behavioral health, health care, transportation, and employment service providers,” added county spokesperson Kelsey Nyland.

According to the RFP, both facilities will be low-barrier housing, meaning that program rules are focused on safety and participant behavior. “Participants are not terminated from the project for not participating in supportive services or treatment programs.” the RFP said.

The funding period for this RFP is five years, although initial contracts will be for one year and could be renewed annually based on successful agency performance, Harper said. Operation of the New Start Centers will be funded through multiple sources, including HOME Investment Partnership Program – American Rescue Plan and local housing and behavioral health capital funds coming from a local sales and use tax.

Interested applicants are required to review the RFP webpage for application materials, additional information, and upcoming application workshop. Applications must be submitted to Snohomish County Human Services by 4 p.m. Tuesday, June 25, 2024. 

— By Teresa Wippel

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