Political reality took center stage at the Edmonds City Council meeting Tuesday night when councilmembers voted 5-2 to defeat a motion by Joan Bloom to discuss passage of a resolution asking the Edmonds School district not to install tire crumb rubber infill on sports fields now under construction at the former Woodway High School (now known as Woodway Campus).
Bloom’s effort to place discussion of the resolution on Tuesday’s agenda was supported by fellow councilmember Lora Petso, but other councilmembers — including Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas — noted that they would prefer to let City Attorney Jeff Taraday continue his work with school district attorneys on negotiating changes to an interlocal agreement for scheduling, operating and maintaining the fields. That agreement would spell out requirements for the type of turf infill that can be used on the property, which is owned by the school district but located within Edmonds city limits.
In addition, Fraley-Monillas noted that past efforts by councilmembers and citizens to convince the district to reconsider its decision to install the crumb rubber infill — which has raised health and environmental concerns among residents — have failed. “Two separate groups of us, including the administration, have talked with the school district about stopping the work and they’ve made it really clear to all of us that they are not going to do it,” Fraley-Monillas said. “I would prefer that we work on an ILA (interlocal agreement) that everyone could agree to and that includes the fields up at Woodway. That seems to be the most plausible way for us to move forward and have some sort of hand in what is occurring.”
Councilmembers voted 6-1 at their Aug. 4 meeting to direct Taraday to develop a draft agreement. City Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Manager Carrie Hite told the council Tuesday night that the fields are 70-75 percent completed and that artificial turf will be installed in the next few weeks, with completion by Sept. 30.
Given that tight time frame, and the fact that the council isn’t scheduled to vote on the interlocal agreement next week, Bloom said she was pushing to pass the resolution Tuesday night as a way of encouraging the district to stop the work before the crumb rubber infill is installed.
“We will be voting on an ILA after the crumb rubber is already in,” Bloom said. “We’ve had an enormous amount of input from many, many citizens who are strongly opposed to crumb rubber being the infill of choice. I still think given the time-sensitive nature of this, we should at least have an opportunity to discuss this resolution that I’ve presented so that we can decide as a council whether we want to request that they stop work to give us more time.”
Responding to a question from Councilmember Diane Buckshnis, City Attorney Taraday noted that Bloom’s resolution was non-binding and unenforceable by the city. “We have absolutely no power to stop work in the absence of a violation of law,” Taraday noted. “This is just a request and they can listen to it or they can ignore. It is simply saying ‘please’ to the school district.”
The two fields currently being installed through a partnership involving the city, the school district and the Verdant Health Commission represent phase one of the planned three-phase sports complex that are eventually supposed to include a walking track, resurfaced tennis and basketball courts, four year-round multi-use turf fields, concessions and bleachers. A $2.5 million grant by the Verdant is funding the first phase, which includes bleachers and safety fencing in addition to the first two fields. There is no funding available currently for phases two and three.
During council comments at the end of Tuesday’s meeting, Bloom said she was “profoundly disappointed” that a majority of councilmembers choose not to discuss the resolution. Fraley-Monillas reiterated that “we don’t own these fields. These are not our property. We are not able to tell anybody what they can do within their property without some sort of law that supports it.”