Meeting remotely Aug. 2, Lynnwood City Council to discuss Community Justice Center funding

The Lynnwood City Council is set Monday night to continue is discussion regarding funding for the controversial Community Justice Center project — a $69 million redevelopment project for the city’s jail, municipal courts and an expansion to partner with the neighboring Community Health Center to provide rehab and substance abuse treatments.

At its Aug. 2 work session, the council is scheduled to hold a special business meeting to discuss multiple ordinances, including one to fund the proposed multimillion dollar redevelopment project that includes renovating the existing Lynnwood Police Department building — located at 19321 44th Ave. W. —  as well as expanding east to the adjacent vacant site. Initally, the project was priced at under $50 million but has since increased to nearly $70 million, most recently due to shortages in building materials due to the pandemic.

At the council’s July 26 business meeting, demonstrators filled the Lynnwood City Hall council chambers demanding accountability for the death of Tirhas Tesfatsion, a Black woman whom police say died by suicide in the Lynnwood jail earlier this month. Tesfatsion’s death was later ruled a suicide by the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office.

On Wednesday, the city announced that due to technology failures during the July 26 meeting and a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in the county, the council would be returning to meeting remotely via Zoom. Council President George Hurst said the decision was made Tuesday after the council meeting ,when staff realized that the video recording of the meeting posted on the city’s website had gaps in the audio. According to Hurst, the equipment used by the city to record meetings and post them online is not compatible with Zoom or other apps used to hold meetings remotely. The decision to switch back to remote meetings, Hurst said, was not because of the protesters.

“I know it appears that the council and administration has made this change because of the protesters, and I again emphasize that is not the reason,” he said. “We want to be able to have in-person meetings, so the public has access to council chambers. It was only after I listened to the Zoom recording that I was convinced we had to end the in-person venue and go totally Zoom. We will be having public comment during our Zoom Monday meeting, and we still want to hear from the community, not only on the Community Justice Center but also on the three ordinances that are on Monday’s special business meeting agenda.”

Hurst also cited Gov. Jay Inslee’s proclamation regarding public meetings, which places a higher priority in making remote options accessible than holding in-person meetings.

“If the city attorney and a councilmember cannot hear all of the audio in a hybrid (in-person/remote) meeting because our (audiovisual) equipment is problematic then we must revert to a single-meeting format, which unfortunately is remote,” he said. “We must have complete confidence that our audio system works while the council deliberates and votes on city business.”

In other business, the council is also set to vote on an ordinance regarding the development agreement for novo on 52nd — a low-income housing development planned for the site where Whispering Pines is currently located.

According to the proposal, novo on 52nd will be an income-restricted housing complex located at 18225 52nd Ave. W. Plans for the new complex include 16 new buildings with 242 units (two more than the existing Whispering Pines complex) and a club house, recreational spaces and a community garden.

Other ordinances on the agenda include a development and access enhancement funding agreement between Sound Transit and the city that includes an amendment “removing conflicting language for enhancement reimbursement” and an ordinance amending the city’s fire codes.

The council will also hold its regularly scheduled work session, where city staff will discuss the city’s portion of the American Rescue Plan Act funding. The city will receive $10.9 million from the federal government for COVID-19 pandemic response. The city has already received $5.46 million in funding and expects to receive the rest next year. The council previously discussed the matter at its July 19 work session.

Councilmembers will be meeting remotely and will stream the meeting at 6 p.m. live via Zoom, which can be accessed via the council’s webpage on the city’s website.

To view the full special business meeting agenda, click here. To see the full agenda for the work session, click here.

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