MARYSVILLE – A new Community Services Unit in the Marysville Police Department is just one of many projects the City Council will discuss the next few weeks regarding the 2017-18 budget.
“It’s the most important thing we do as a council – how we spend the taxpayers money,” council president Kamille Norton said at this week’s meeting.
In preliminary talks, Mayor Jon Nehring said he was to “Give police more tools to add to our quality of life.” He wants to create a unit that would include code enforcement and school resource officers.
In addition, Nehring said “there is more need for security” in city parks to deal with drugs, garbage, curfew, etc. He would like to add what would be some park rangers to that unit, along with more officers overall in the department.
Also for the future, Nehring has four other big goals: creating a Regional Fire Authority, expanding Risk Management, continuing Economic Development, and some big capital projects, including the Waterfront Park and a new jail.
City Finance Director Sandy Langdon said the city will need to look at trying to pass bonds for: $30 million for a new jail, $5 million for the waterfront park (plus $10 million in reserves) and a $20 million bond for the First Street Bypass.
Public Works Director Kevin Nielsen said he looks forward to major projects such as the three million gallon Sunnyside water facility and improvements on Third Street to 47th, including traffic circles.
Council and staff spent much of the meeting looking at the past two years.
In giving an overview, Nehring said it about three years to “right-size” the budget starting in 2009 to make it stable. The city paid-down debt and rebuilt reserves. The last two years it has been able to invest back into the system.
“I’m proud we shared a common vision and stuck with it even in the depths of the recession,” Nehring said. “We stuck with that and were starting to see the fruits” of our efforts.
He said commercial business is starting to explode and the tax base diversify. Downtown isn’t huge but there are quality improvements, he said.
Looking back even further, he said when he first doorbelled for City Council in 2001 people told him they were tired of going to Lynnwood and Everett to shop. Now they don’t have to.
“Citizens led that charge,” he said, adding that so much has been added traffic is now a bigger issue.
As for transportation, it needs to help the flow of traffic, but also help attract development. Nehring foresees local road solutions because interchanges are years away.
He congratulated the City Council for taking some risks. Investing $1.5 million paid off in $40 million from the state on the Highway 529 project.
“We’re doing some of the dreams” we had years ago when we started this, he added.
Council Member Jeff Vaughan said the city showed financial discipline.
“We didn’t ask citizens for more money over and over,” he said. “We had to think outside the box using creativity and hard work.”
Nielsen gave a lot of the credit in his department to “Grant.” He was referring to the many grants his department has applied for and received for projects, many having to do with improving traffic. He said Chief Administrative Officer Gloria Hirashima told him, “Your number one job is to find grant money out there. It sounds easy, but there’s a whole lot of paperwork,” he added. Because they have done so well getting grants, it helps them in their applications for more.
He praised the council for funding the Regional Detention Pond No. 2, which has helped industrial development in the north end of the city.
“It’s not glamorous but things don’t get developed” without it, Nehring said.
Hirashima said cities frequently just launch into the next year’s budget, but she appreciates being able to look back. She paid tribute to an improved city website and the city housing to help the homeless. She also said she wants more publicity for public works and public safety because the money spent in those departments.
Langdon showed that property taxes are at $2.19 per $1,000 valuation in 2017, compared with $2.66 in 2012. Sales taxes continued to rise and rise during that same time period.
“Sales taxes are higher than expected,” she said, adding the city has come a long way since 2009.
Chief Rick Smith said thanks to proactive policing there have been huge drops in business and residential burglaries, along with vehicle prowls. He credited that to targeting policing with units like the NITE and Regional Property Crimes teams.
City Attorney Jon Walker said his department, which is only about a year old, has spent almost 40 percent of its time advising city employees.
“That’s value-added” for an in-house department that the city otherwise would not have. That helps the city provide services at the lowest risk.
The city court has been able to provide more services, such as: 200 electronic search warrants already this year, telephonic interpreters and video from three jails.
Director Dave Koenig his department has been busy, with housing permits more than doubling to 320 this year. The 10-year comprehensive plan was completed, with the Lakewood plan hopefully done this year. They also dealt with 400 code enforcement cases.
Parks, Culture and Recreation
Director Jim Ballew talked about the city’s 125th anniversary, along with the Opera House hosting 94 events, after “a lot of lipstick and eyeliner” to spruce it up.
He also highlighted work on the Dinosaur Park, Mother Nature’s Window and Ebey Waterfront Trail.
Also, summer recreation programs are up 37 percent, soccer signups 20 percent and facility rentals 8 percent. And the first Mother-Son Superhero Dances sold out with 350 attending.
In other council news:
•Council Member Donna Wright asked about funding for the Snohomish Health District. Nehring said while that’s not in the budget yet, the council certainly could add it.
•Fire Chief Martin McFalls said employees will be wearing pink shirts in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
•The second phase of construction on the Ebey Waterfront Trail system was awarded to Wyser Construction for almost $385,000. “It’s exciting to move that waterfront project along,” Hirashima said.
•Nielsen said BNSF plans to close the rail line at 172nd for work Oct. 26-28, weather permitting.