Before breaking for the winter holidays, the Lynnwood City Council finalized several last-minute matters Monday night, wrapping up city business for 2020.
At its Dec. 14 business meeting, the council voted to adopt multiple measures, including an ordinance creating the city’s new Department of Development and Business Services (DBS), which consolidates the existing department functions of community development, economic development and public works’ development engineering services.
Since 2017, the city has conducted multiple efficiency studies of various city departments, including community development, economic development, public works development services and the Fire Marshal’s Office. With the establishment of DBS, the city aims to create a more effective way for permitting, licensing and processing, said Councilmember Ian Cotton.
“(We’re) moving the City of Lynnwood into a mode where we are a customer-service based organization where we deliver customer service at the speed business travels now and really help facilitate the growth that the city is set to benefit from,” he said. “In order to do that we need a structural element in place and that’s this new department.”
Economics Development Director David Klietsch said DBS staff have been working for the past year and making strides in significantly decreasing the amount of time it takes to issue permits.
“DBS is advancing plans and projects that address Lynnwood’s community vision and strategic plan and is doing that with renewed energy and sense of purpose,” he said.
The council then voted to appoint Kleitsch as director of the new DBS department. According to Mayor Nicola Smith, Kleitsch was instrumental in creating the city’s new department.
“His leadership has been demonstrated to the public and to council throughout this process,” she said.
Also regarding DBS, the council voted to amend the city’s fee schedule for fees administered by DBS related to permitting, construction and land use.
According to the city’s 2021-22 budget, staff are projecting an additional $400,000 in permit fees and $500,000 in plan review fees compared to 2020 revenues, as well as a 3% increase in all permit fees. For 2022, a 3% increase over 2021 permit fee revenue is expected.
“The fees changed are for permitting, construction and land use,” said Council President Christine Frizzell. “It’s been a little while since we’ve updated and…this brings us up to date.”
In total, the city anticipates receiving $8.65 million in permit fees during the upcoming biennium.
In other business, the council voted to use funds from the city’s Economic Development Infrastructure Fund (EDIF) to resolve a shortfall in the general fund as a result of COVID-19.
EDIF revenues come from building permit fees assessed construction projects exceeding $10 million. Funds also come from a portion of the construction sales taxes received from real estate development projects.
Due to the pandemic, the council has directed that the EDIF fund be used to help resolve the revenue shortfall. As of 2020, $1 million was available for use in EDIF funds.
The council also voted to authorize the mayor to enter into and execute on behalf of the city a contract with Marshbank Construction Inc. for construction of the 196th Street Southwest Improvement Project. The contract between the city and the Lake Stevens-based company is not to exceed $27.9 million, with an additional 10% contingency for a total amount of $30.7 million. Sales tax is included.
The 196th improvement project plans to widen the roadway running from the Lynnwood Convention Center at 36th Avenue West to Fred Meyer at 48th Avenue West from five lanes to seven. Plans also include adding a landscaped median and 12-foot-wide sidewalks. The additional lanes on each side of the road will accommodate left- and U-turn lanes as well as bus use.
The 0.7-mile stretch of road is located in Lynnwood’s City Center district, which is the epicenter of the city’s designated regional growth center. The area is being planned as a downtown hub and will include apartment and office buildings. The project coincides with the future Sound Transit Lynnwood Link light rail station and the city’s plans to make Lynnwood a transit-friendly city.
The project is expected to cost $37 million, with $17 million coming from state and federal grants as well as Washington State Department of Transportation. The city anticipates spending $19 million over the next biennium. During the discussion, Councilmember Jim Smith took issue with the amount the city plans to spend and suggested that the funds could be spent other ways, like repaving neighborhood streets.
“We have a lot of people that are concerned throughout the city with their own local streets,” he said. “It seems like we’re not able to take care of them yet we’re spending, again, $19 million on a little over a mile here.”
According to Public Works Director Bill Franz, the project is critical to meet future population growth and directly ties into the city’s plans for Lynnwood’s City Center district. Without the project, Franz said plans for the City Center district would not be possible.
“It’s very expensive, but very much needed,” he said.
Also during the meeting, the council voted 6-1 — with Councilmember Ruth Ross voting against — to adopt an ordinance giving the council authority to set their own salaries after voting last month to disband the city’s salary commission after only one year.
Last November, the council established a citizen commission to set the salaries for Lynnwood’s elected officials. When the commission recommended a 10% increase to the mayor’s salary after being asked by all of the city’s leaders to forgo pay raises in the next biennium, the council voted 6-1 to dissolve the commission.
During the Monday night discussion, Council President Chrisitne Frizzell said she values the community members who volunteered for the commission and it was not their fault the commission ended after only a year.
“They did exactly what we asked them to do,” she said. “There’s no doubt in our mind that they did what we asked, it was in our asking that I believe that this was flawed.”
Under state law, recommendations made by the commission are binding and can’t be changed. Though the pay increase will remain in effect until 2022, Counilmember Jim Smith said the mayor’s salary will be brought back down to it’s level before the raise.
Also during the meeting, the council voted to amend the city’s salary schedule, which lists salaries for Lynnwood employees.
Each year, the city amends its salary schedule to include adjustments to city employee’s salaries based on changes to the area’s cost of living. The adjustments are also in accordance with labor agreements between the city and the Lynnwood Police Guild, the Police Management Guild and other labor representatives.
The proposal also includes a 0.9% cost of living adjustment for non-represented salaries, those employees not represented by labor unions. The proposed salary schedule includes all new positions approved with the adoption of the 2021-22 biennium budget last month.
Under new business, Councilmember Ruth Ross proposed revisiting its discussion of hiring a new race and social justice coordinator at the city at the council’s first meeting in 2021.
In the draft biennium budget, staff proposed creating a new position that would work with the mayor’s office to promote racial equity in the city. However, the council voted 5-2 last month to delay hiring the poison to further explore details and duties of the position unclear to some council members.
“We have a chance to take steps to have a position at the city that will help with outreach, equitable administration programs and further teaching,” Ross said.
After further discussion, the council agreed to continue the discussion in January with plans to begin the hiring process by the end of February 2021.
Also during new business, Councilmember George Hurst made a motion to elect new city council leadership before breaking for the holidays instead of waiting until the new year.
Each calendar year, the council votes to elect or reelect a council president and vice president. However, Hurst said the council would likely have other pressing matters at the start of a new year that would be more important than holding elections. Hurst also announced his intention to run for council president.
“It seems logical to me that we could actually have elections for the president and vice president tonight,” he said.
Council President Frizzell said it would require changing the council rules, which state the president and vice president is elected at the beginning of each calendar year.
“I think it’s odd to bring it at the last business meeting of the year,” she said. “While I don’t dispute it, maybe that would be a good time to do it. I think if we want to revise council rules we can do that this coming year.”
However, Councilmember Cotton said the council’s rules do not specifically say elections must be held at the beginning of the year.
In response, City Attorney Rosemary Larsen said the council would likely have to pass a motion to amend the council rules. Larsen also pointed out that holding the council leadership elections in December allows newly-elected council members to have a say.
“For the years mew council members are elected in November to take office in January, you wouldn’t want to be having your election in December,” she said.
Ultimately, Hurst’s motion failed to get majority support from the rest of the council, who agreed to elect new council leadership in January and revisit the council rules during the council’s annual summit.
— By Cody Sexton