Board committees deal with Perrinville Creek flooding, hiring and biennial budgeting

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Whether it’s a shortage of employees at a sewage treatment plant or the postponement of the drafting of the city budget every two years. From leaks that drive up your water bill to the solution to the Perrinville Creek flood. Members of Edmonds City Council met in committees on Tuesday night to dig into the details of running the town.

Public Safety and Personnel Committee

Jessica Neil Hoyson

Edmonds, like many employers, is suffering from a labor shortage. Director of Human Resources Jessica Neill Hoyson told the Public Safety and Personnel Committee that finding qualified employees is “difficult”. Edmonds currently has 14 vacancies, half of which are at the sewage treatment plant.

The city is still looking for five wastewater treatment plant operators. A new hire is being trained and the department may use “temporary hires” to keep the plant running, Hoyson said. Council member Laura Johnson wanted to know if these temporary employees could become permanent. Hoyson’s response: “They may not have the skill set we need, but they could be required to handle smaller assignments.”

City of Edmonds Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The city is completing a $26 million overhaul at the plant. Edmonds is in contract negotiations with the union representing staff at the facility. There have been frictions in these talks; Hoyson told the committee that we are trying to “solve some of the issues that will make us more competitive” and address recruiting challenges. She did not specify these elements.

Edmonds is closing in on hiring two new department heads. Mayor Mike Nelson has now interviewed three finalists to become Director of Economic Development and Community Services; next stop – talks with the city council. The Director of Public Works position is also still open – there are five finalists for this position.

Finance Committee

Clockwise from top left: Board Chair Vivian Olson, Board Member Will Chen, Board Member Diane Buckshnis and Chief Financial Officer Dave Turley.

A discussion on moving from the City’s annual budget process to a biennial budget sparked heated discussion within the Finance Committee. Chief Financial Officer Dave Turley told committee members Diane Buckshnis and Will Chen, and Board Chair Vivian Olson, that a two-year budget would free up hundreds of hours of work that staff members now put in each year. on a budget.

He cited neighboring towns – Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace and Shoreline, including – that already operate on a two-year budget – “each of which said they would never go back to an annual budget,” Turley insisted.

It didn’t work out with Buckshnis, who argued that “when we go into biennial budgeting, the board loses oversight and we have too many things in the fire right now with our capital projects” to do that. . Wait two years, until inflation slows and stock market uncertainty subsides, she said.

Chen also said that a two-year budget was nonsense to him. “I think the residents of Edmonds are very, very responsive to every issue; going biennial puts that in the background; citizens will be less exposed to our finances,” he said.

Board chairman Olson suggested that Turley and his staff could take the next two years to get things in place for a two-year budget. That won’t happen this year. Under state law, Edmonds would have to change its budget process by June 30. Olson warned there were too many other big issues to bring the budget idea to the full council this year.

An $8,000 residential water bill sparked the next topic. Last year, an Edmonds family didn’t realize they had a leak until they received their bill. Edmonds sells water to 14,000 homes and businesses; most monthly residential bills range from $75 to $100. If the customer can show that they took reasonable steps to resolve the problem, the city has a policy of removing $1,000 from accidental huge bills. Turley asked members of the finance committee if this policy should stay, or if the city should do more – or less – to help? Council members want to make sure help is always available, but Will Chen also wondered if Edmonds could install a “smart system” to quickly monitor any leaks. Turley said he would review the policy and talk about it next month.

After a state audit criticized how Edmonds used some of its 2020 pandemic relief funds, members of the finance committee wanted to know if Edmonds should return any funds. Turley said no – that the audit only flagged that Edmonds appeared to be breaking its own rules on accounting for funds; there were no state or federal violations. Edmonds is reviewing grants awarded to 74 companies, worth $574,000. Many of them, Turley said, had been unable to provide accurate reports of financial losses in the first two months of the pandemic; but he added that they certainly qualified for financial support for the rest of 2020.

Parks and Public Works Committee

Flooding of Perrinville stream. (2020 Edmonds town photo)

The parks and public works committee is debating how to proceed on flood control plans on Perrinville Creek between Talbot Road and Puget Sound. Heavy rain and sediment washed out the creek several times in December 2020 and January 2021. A city diversion dam failed, pushing water up Talbot Road and flooding three properties.

Crews are working to deal with flooding in 2020. (Photo by City of Edmonds)

Members of the Parks and Public Works committee heard from consultants from Environmental Science Associates of Seattle (ESA) on a design proposal contract to lay out a new course of the creek bed, with much larger culvert openings. It would be an interim job while they complete a final plan. They proposed three new stream configurations to allow the creek to manage water and not affect salmon spawning. Edmonds must sign a contract with ESA by June, so work can begin this summer. But, again, Council Chair Olson warned that the next two regular meetings had very packed agendas, and she was not optimistic about doing it before the full council. “It’s a priority, I don’t think anyone questions that,” she commented. The committee asked the consultants for a new presentation to give a broader overview of the whole project.

— By Bob Throndsen

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