April 22, 2024 1:29 pm

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Transportation Benefit District and Community Justice Center dominate City Council Meeting

by Erin Freeman

The Lynnwood City Council held its March 23 business meeting in compliance with the Snohomish Health Districts’ social distancing guidelines. Council President Christine Frizzell and council members Julia Altamirano-Crosby and Ian Cotton were attendance while other councilmembers attended virtually.

In other business, the council approved the 2020 Pavement Rehabilitation and Preservation Project allowing the city to continue with the pavement preservation overlay programs, maintenance of existing streets and the six-year transportation improvement plan.

“This is business as usual, to keep our roads in good repair,” summarized Cotton.

Additionally, the council approved the Wastewater Treatment Plant Secondary Clarifier Repairs Contact Amendment, increasing the original amount of $249,200 to $281,932.84.

“This is a contract increase that is being revised. It’s essentially for clarifier repairs that are required at our wastewater treatment plant,” explained Cotton.

Later that evening, the city council voted on the approval of the council assuming the rights and functions of Lynnwood’s Transportation Benefit District (TBD). The approved ordinance abolishes the TBD, allowing city council to address transportation funding during other congregations, rather than having to hold separate meetings to execute business.

“We believe that this will benefit [the TBD] as a whole,” said Council Vice President Shannon Sessions. “We will focus on trying to plan for those meetings, so we still have time to cover these conversations at our regular council meetings.”

The council then turned the meeting over to Finance Director Sonja Springer to discuss funding for the future Community Justice Center.

Springer explained the city has sufficient debt capacity to finance $60 million of project costs related to the Community Justice Center expansion project. She then outlined several different repayment sources the city could utilize to finance the Justice Center Bonds.  These options included budget expenditure reduction, contracted bed revenues, existing criminal justice sales tax, voter-approved public safety sales tax, voter-approved excess property tax levy and banked capacity.

“We don’t need any decision from you at this point, but we want you to be aware that we have funding alternatives to pay for the Community Justice Center for the 60-million-dollar debt,” said Springer.

“It seems like it makes sense the sooner the better for the council to make a decision on which of those revenue sources we want to use,” responded Councilmember Jim Smith. 

Council members discussed the repayment options reaching an agreement that they didn’t want to raise property taxes or increase the sales tax to fund the Community Justice Center.

“Given the atmosphere of things right now, it’s hard for me to justify either a property tax or sales tax increase, even though we’d be going to the public for [a vote],” said Councilmember George Hurst.

Councilmember Smith made a motion that staff is directed by the council to move forward with paying the back debt through a combination of budget expenditure reduction, contracted bed revenues and existing criminal justice taxes.

“It doesn’t hurt to give solid direction to and have it in the records of where we need to go,” said Councilmember Smith. “It’s important to have a clear direction for the police department and the finance department.”

The motion passed by six affirmative votes and was unable to hear from Hurst, at the time, because of technical difficulty.

The council then unanimously voted on a scheduling motion made by council president Frizzell to create a special finance team meeting to update councilmembers on the financial impacts of COVID-19. These meetings will be held on the second Thursday of every month until further notice.

“As we’ve already talked about, we need to be up to date on how this is impacting our city,” stated Council President Frizzell.

The next City Council Business Meeting will be held electronically on April 6 at 7 p.m. and can be accessed online at www.LynnwoodWA.gov/Live.

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