Lynnwood City Council discusses COVID relief funds, approves agreements

Lynnwood Strategic Planner Corbitt Loch on Jan. 24 briefed the Lynnwood City Council on recommendations for federal COVID-19 relief funds.

The Lynnwood City Council Monday night continued discussing ways the city should spend its federal pandemic relief funds, with ideas ranging from creating more housing to purchasing at-home COVID-19 tests for residents.

At its Jan. 24 business meeting, the council continued the ongoing discussion on how to use the $10.9 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds the city was allocated for recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, the council has voted to spend $882,000 to fill city staff vacancies, fund technology upgrades to stream public meetings online and purchase police-worn body cameras.

Lynnwood Strategic Planner Corbitt Loch said that since last November, city staff has reviewed approximately 120 proposals from the council, advisory boards and community members through a public hearing and an online survey. Now, he said city staff is seeking guidance from the council to choose its top 10 ideas from a list of 90 ideas. Loch said the information would then be added to suggestions from the city departments directors to narrow the overall list to 10 to 20 ideas that would be brought to the public for additional input.

“We have hearings for budgets, and this is kind of like making budget decisions,” he said. “So, I would welcome that (input).”

When making selections, Councilmember Shannon Session said that the council should not select proposals that are already receiving ARPA funds from the state, Snohomish County or the Edmonds School District.

“It’s not just the City of Lynnwood that’s received ARPA funds, so if we can really focus on our city and try not to duplicate (items),” she said.

Council Vice President Jim Smith suggested that the city should be responsible for handling the funds instead of paying other organizations to do so, like when the city partnered with the Communities of Color Coalition to distribute rent relief using federal CARES Act funds. Smith also said the city should use the funds to help the city’s business community.

During the discussion, Loch proposed using up to $250,000 to apply for grants that would match the city’s contribution. If approved, he said the funds could be used to partner with organizations to provide housing, behavioral health services or resources for at-risk Edmonds School District students.

Later during the new business portion of the meeting, Councilmember Julieta Altamirano-Crosby made a motion to allocate $1.5 million to purchase at-home COVID-19 tests to be distributed to residents. However, Councilmember Smith said he was against the motion because they already had a plan to review ARPA funding requests. He added that there were other ways that people could access tests, like through the county.

“I think that we need to be having the county step up and I’d prefer that (Altamirano-Crosby) get on the county about getting us these COVID tests rather than us spending $1.5 million,” he said.

Some councilmembers said they were not opposed to the motion but added that they would like more information about the proposal before voting. Altamirano-Crosby then clarified that she did not intend to vote that night and the motion – which passed unanimously – was amended to delay the vote until the council’s Feb. 14 business meeting.

In other business, the council voted 5-2 – with Councilmembers Josh Binda and Shirley Sutton against – to approve a contract with the Kirkland Police Department to house inmates while the Lynnwood Police Department and jail undergo renovations to create the Community Justice Center. Per the agreement, the Lynnwood Police Department would pay $574,000 per year. 

During the discussion, Council President George Hurst said contracting with Kirkland would be more cost efficient than housing inmates at Snohomish County Jail or SCORE (South Correctional Entity). Hurst added that Kirkland’s courts also have access to video communication, whereas the other two facilities do not.

Next, the council voted 6-1 – with Binda voting against – to amend the city’s contract with Mackenzie Engineering, a Seattle-based firm designing the Community Justice Center. Under the agreement, the city will pay an additional $231,040 for design of the justice center, bringing the new contract amount to $5.9 million. Hurst said that the change was due to a recent delay that extended the project’s construction timeline from 72 weeks to 88 weeks. He added that the new price will include costs for necessary services.

“The timeline of the construction was extended 16 weeks, so we want to make sure that we do have these services through the extension of 16 weeks,” he said.

The council also unanimously voted to authorize the mayor to execute a contract with BHC Consultants LLC to design improvements to the sewer system located near 196th Street Southwest and 52nd Avenue West. According to the proposal, the improvements will intercept the sewer flow and reduce the flow reaching the problem area. The contract amount is for $172,227, including a 10% management reserve.

Last, the council unanimously voted to approve a maintenance agreement between the city and the Washington State Department of Transportation regarding the 196th Street Southwest Improvements project. According to staff, the purpose of the agreement is to define the city’s role in maintaining improvements installed during the project.

Mayor Christine Frizzell also read a proclamation honoring former Mayor Don Gough, who died Jan. 4. Gough served two terms as mayor from 2005-2013. Prior to that, he was on the Lynnwood City Council for 10 years from 1995-2005. He was succeeded by former Mayor Nicola Smith.

— By Cody Sexton

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