If there was an overriding theme in Lynnwood Mayor Nicola Smith’s second annual State of the City Address, it might be best described as efficiency in government.
Inspired by the “Fix it, Refresh it, Grow it” approach to the 2015-16 budget, Smith — speaking to an audience of elected officials, City staff, volunteers and residents at the Lynnwood Convention Center Tuesday morning — outlined a strategy the City’s employees are adopting for improving government services.
The strategy for continuous process improvement is called Lean, Smith said, and the goal is for City employees to actively pursue suggestions, ideas and creative approaches that lead to improvements, which in turn could result in savings.
“The key to Lean and process improvements is to empower your employees to search for ways — both big and small — that create a better way of doing business,” Smith said.
Next week, City employees will be walking through step-by-step the process of obtaining a business license to see where there is waste, where efficiencies can be found and to determine if there is a better way to conduct the process.
Smith pointed to some recent success stories in the City. At the Recreation Center, a new pool controller, installed last year for $32,000, reduces the amount of chlorine and saves the City money. The savings will pay for the controller in less than four years, Smith said. The Park Maintenance team is updating all its facilities with high-efficiency LED lighting, which results in an 80 percent reduction in energy consumption.
Traffic Engineer Paul Coffelt discovered that nearly half of the City’s traffic counting devices stopped holding a charge and that the manufacturer no longer supported them. Replacing them would have cost $7,000. Coffelt instead took apart each device and learned that he could easily replace the rechargeable batteries and the devices worked fine. His efforts saved the City about $900 per device for a total of $3,600 in savings.
“This may seem like a small number, but it adds up quickly,” Smith said.
A new machine at the Public Works sewage treatment plant uses about 1/20 of the power of the old machine, resulting in significant energy savings.
“Although this isn’t glamorous work, it is necessary infrastructure improvements and we are always looking for more efficient ways to get the job done,” Smith said.
Smith also noted that the Sound Transit Board selected the Lynnwood Link Extension light rail route and station locations through to Lynnwood. Construction is scheduled to start in 2018 with the Lynnwood station expected to open in 2023. Sound Transit ties into the City’s vision of being a community that invests in “efficient, integrated, local and regional transportation,” Smith said.
To more efficiently deal with the booming construction in the City, Community Development added another Plan Reviewer, which was paid for by the excess permit fees received. Friday inspections also were reinstated to speed up the permit process.
In addition, Community Development and the Fire Marshal’s office are working together to better communicate with developers. The two have developed a checklist specifically for Alderwood Mall vendors that helps expedite their permitting process.
“All of this work is being done to show our business community how important it is to Lynnwood’s future to have a strong, vibrant commercial base,” Smith said.
Smith also highlighted three new major projects that are scheduled to start construction this year in the City Center. The City Center Senior Apartments, located on 40th Ave. W., will be an eight-story, 308-unit retirement community operated by Shag. The CityCenter Apartments, on 196th St., will be a seven-story, 347-unit workforce apartment complex. Next to the apartment complex will be City Center Hilton Garden Inn, a 150-room, six-story hotel.
The new Costco, the anchor tenant of Lynnwood Place (old Lynnwood High School, across from Alderwood Mall), is expected to be open this summer. The next phase will include mixed-use buildings with retail on the ground level and housing on the upper levels.
Two major transportation projects should improve the flow of traffic at key intersections in Lynnwood. The 204th St. SW improvement project will connect Highway 99 and the south entrance to Edmonds Community College.
“This project has been a great partnership between the City, the college, school district and we have received grants from the state and federal government,” Smith said.
The City also was able to do some sewer upgrades while the road was being torn up. The project is expected to be completed this summer.
The other major project is 33rd Ave. W, also called the Ring Road, around the Costco/Lynnwood Place site. This new arterial road will help offload and mitigate the increased traffic around Costco.
City staff, led by Jeff Elekes and David Mach, “saved the City millions of dollars through careful review of the plans, actively seeking out partnerships and federal grants and closely managing the construction costs,” Smith said. “Our Public Works team has fully embraced lean principles and they are a great example of finding efficiencies to save money.”
Smith gave the audience a sneak peek at what she described as a future dream related to traveling through Lynnwood. With the City’s recent purchase of the Seabrook property, City staff has begun to envision a Center to Sound trail that would connect the City Center to the Puget Sound at Meadowdale Beach Park with a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly path.
“This trail will build upon our current infrastructure to increase non-motorized connectivity,” Smith said. “It would connect existing trails and parks, connect major residential neighborhoods and be a new spine for the City.”
Also speaking at the State of the City Address were City of Lynnwood Honoring Excellence Award winner and Civil Service Commission member Ed dos Remedios, Lynnwood City Council President Loren Simmonds, Lynnwood Acura owner Jim Morino and Jean Hales of the Economic Alliance Snohomish County. The emcee of the event was Jim Stephanson of the Economic Alliance Snohomish County.
Hales played a key role in Smith deciding to run for mayor. Smith told the audience how Hales called her on the telephone in March of 2013 and asked her to run.
Well into the second year of her administration, Smith remains optimistic about the Lynnwood’s future.
“I am encouraged by the collaborative spirit demonstrated by our hard working staff, the Directors, our City Council Members, City volunteers and our community advocates,” Smith said. “We are truly working to move Lynnwood toward a brighter future.”
– By David Pan