As the Lynnwood City Council deliberates ways to keep the community informed, councilmembers Monday night weighed the pros and cons of installing a changeable message sign in front of Lynnwood City Hall.
At its Feb. 3 work session, the council received its first briefing from city staff regarding a proposed electronic message board aimed at relaying messages to the community. Last year, city staff was tasked with establishing preliminary costs, designs and logistics involved with the proposed sign.
“I think that’s really the ultimate objective — to get more people to come talk to us about what is important to them,” said Councilmember Ian Cotton.
During the discussion, city staff interviewed the council about its plans for the sign, including communication goals and the type of information it would relay to the community.
Council Vice President Shannon Sessions said the sign should be big enough to catch drivers’ attention without being a safety hazard and display as much information for the community as possible. She also suggested that the sign be used by other city agencies to keep the residents informed about events.
“The priority is to be city council focused,” she said. “But also I’m willing to share — particularly because there’s so many cool things the city does that the city council wants to share.”
The proposed sign could also be used to display emergency messages and messages in languages other than English, Sessions added.
Though councilmembers agreed that getting their message out was a priority, not everyone thought installing a sign was the best way to keep the community informed.
Council President Christine Frizzell said that installing a sign on 44th Avenue does not mean that the council’s messages would reach the entire community. Before joining the council, Frizzell said she rarely drove down 44th Avenue, because of the traffic.
“I live on the other side of Highway 99,” she said. “If there was a sign and it was only on 44th (Avenue) I think that would leave a lot of people out.”
Councilmember Julieta Altamirano-Crosby said the council should test the idea by using one of the Lynnwood Police Department’s portable signs before spending money on a new sign. She also suggested getting feedback from the residents who live near city hall.
In response to Altamirano-Crosby’s comment, Sessions said the council has used other methods in the past that were unsuccessful, which is why the sign was proposed. She also pointed out that the council has used the police department’s signs in the past and they cannot display long messages.
Sessions disagreed that the board would only be seen by a limited number of people. With city hall, the police department, the Lynnwood Library and the Recreation Center on 44th Avenue, Sessions said there would be enough traffic to reach a high volume of people.
However, Frizzell said she believes the best way to keep communities informed was civic engagement. She said that most of the residents who attend council meetings are there for a specific issue and few come for other reasons.
“I think our engagement is going to bring us more bang for our buck,” she said.
According to city staff, preliminary project costs range between a high-end $210,000 and $150,000 on the lower end. Initial designs include a brick monument, with a 4-foot-by-6-foot screen. Ideally, the sign would have a visual range of 600 feet going 35 miles per hour in both directions, said city project manager Nicholas Barnett.
However, Barnett said to ensure sign visibility, trees located on the Civic Campus along 44th Avenue could potentially be impacted. Also, power poles that were previously relocated to accommodate the Recreation Center’s sign would pose another visibility issue, he added. According to Barnett, both of those factors would result in additional costs for the project.
“There’s several key elements and risk factors that could drive this cost up higher,” he said.
The council was scheduled to continue the conversation regarding the project at its Feb. 8 retreat.
In other business, the council received an update from Lynnwood Police Chief Tom Davis about the city’s future Community Justice Center.
After multiple space needs studies determined that the Lynnwood Police Department, jail and municipal court have outgrown their current facility, city officials decided to renovate the existing building as well as expand east to the adjacent vacant site. It would add a new public entry for safer public screening, another courtroom and a private assessment area.
The new facility would also have cost-saving benefits for the department, which pays to rent space for evidence at Edmonds Community College. Additionally, a larger jail would mean the department would not have to outsource to other facilities to house inmates.
“Expectations of law enforcement continue to increase, we know this,” Davis said. “The infrastructure has to assist us in meeting those demands.”
At its Sept. 9 business meeting, the council authorized the mayor to execute a $1.1 million contract with the Seattle-based architecture firm Mackenzie Architects for the phase-one design of the future center. During the Feb. 3 meeting, Davis — along with Mackenzie architect Brett Hanson — presented two proposed designs for the center.
The preferred design would keep the police station, jail and courts contained in one redeveloped and expanded building in its current location. Located to the west near 44th Avenue West, the courts would include 20,000 square feet and two levels. To the east, the three-level, 35,000-square-foot police station would face 194th Street Southwest. The 25,000-square-foot jail would be a split-level design, partially located under the police station with additional levels located behind (north of) the police station. A visitor’s parking lot would be located west of the courts near 44th Avenue West.
The preferred design also proposes a shared, three-level secure parking lot to the east of the building, located between the police station and the Community Health Center (CHC) of Snohomish County, which is planning to partner with the police department to help inmates meet court mandates like drug addiction and mental health treatments as well as health assessments like HIV testing for intravenous drug users. Through the partnership between the CHC and the police department, both will be able to help provide a continuity of care for those low-level misdemeanor offenders, Davis said.
According to the results of a 2018 survey conducted in the Lynnwood Jail, 72% of inmates self reported a drug or alcohol problem. Roughly the same amount of inmates self reported wanting to receive treatment in jail and said they would continue outpatient treatment after being released, Davis said.
“We think that’s the link to CHC that we’re excited about,” he said.
Construction for the facility is projected to cost $48 million, with an additional $18 million for additional design services, additional investigations and inspections, and furniture, furnishings and other fixtures for the facility. The additional cost would also cover taxes, fees, required permits and the cost to relocate evidence from Edmonds CC to the new facility.
“When you’re forecasting these projects, you want to make sure you’re accounting for all of those aspects,” Hanson said.
Following a meeting later this month with the council’s finance committee, Davis said the council will receive two additional briefings in March, during which time a decision will be made on whether to proceed with the project.
Also during the meeting, the council discussed a draft development agreement regarding a proposed multifamily housing development in Lynnwood’s City Center district. If approved, the development would bring more affordable housing to the city.
–By Cody Sexton