MUKILTEO, Wash., September 26, 2021 – Mukilteo City Council motioned to move forward with the Community Outreach, Utility Assistance, Lodging Tax, and Business/Nonprofit Grants programs utilizing American Rescue Plan Act funds during the meeting held Monday, September 20.
The meeting was held entirely virtually after a recommendation from the Health District, September 10, which stated, “The Health District also recommends everyone consider delaying or moving non-essential events and meetings to a virtual format. If it does not need to happen in-person, it is in everyone’s best interest to reschedule or hold gatherings online for the time being.”
“It’s just a smart, safe thing to do. We are joining nearly all (I would say all, but I haven’t confirmed it 100%) other cities in our county who are holding meetings virtually,” Mayor Gregerson told the Lynnwood Times regarding the switch back to virtual.
“Another upside of holding it virtually is that in the last two months, the vast majority of residents viewing the meeting are doing so from home, online; and if all Council members are virtual, we can all be unmasked and more easily visible to the audience,” she added.
Councilman Joe Marine advocated for a hybrid approach of in-person meetings with an option for community members and council members to attend the meeting by Zoom. Councilman Marine also shared that schools are allowing in-person attendance and school board protocols state students to be at least three feet apart.
Vice President Bob Champion reminded council members that there is not a gubernatorial mandate prohibiting in-person meetings and that the state still allows thousands to gather at Husky games. He advocated that the council vote on the issue of the hybrid approach.
“The science says if you’re masked up, if you’re vaccinated, if you’re following normal hygiene… The likelihood of contracting the disease or virus is low,” Champion said.
At his September 14 meeting, Dr. Chris Spitters, Health Officer for the Snohomish Health District, stated that the rise in COVID cases have plateaued.
“The good news is the rapid increases that brought us to this point seem to have leveled off over the last couple of weeks,” Dr. Spitters said.
The council agreed to discuss the issue further at its September 27 meeting.
$20,000 of funding used for public engagement services (consult and/or software program).
The goal is to engage the community (residents and businesses) to better understand how to promote a quick recovery from the pandemic.
Councilman Louis Harris motioned to move forward with the Community Outreach program but with a full plan that would be adopted by the council at a later date. The motion was seconded by Councilman Joe Marine. Councilmember Richard Emery motioned to increase the Community Outreach amount to $40,000 but it was not seconded.
The original motion passed 6-1 with Council Vice President Champion abstaining. Council Vice President Bob Champion was concerned that the funding lacked a concrete plan.
Business/Nonprofit Grants Program
$200,000 of funding to be used to assist businesses or nonprofits with various COVID-related expenses.
The staff envisions working closely with the Chamber of Commerce to develop the business grants program. For the non-profits, a focus group will be formed to help shape an appropriate grant program. The results of the Community Outreach effort will provide useful information for these efforts. Staff will engage the council at appropriate points along the way to scope out various grants, funding criteria, etc.
Harris motioned to move forward with the Business/Nonprofit Grant program within the anticipated amount of $200,000, seconded by Councilman Marine. Council Vice President Bob Champion attempted to amend the motion to an amount of $100,000. However, the council unanimously approved the original motion.
Lodging Tax Funding
$162,600 of funding to be used to supplement the Hotel/Motel Lodging Tax fund.
Funds collected in one calendar year are used for events and programs for the following calendar year. The 2021 budget anticipated $245,500 being collected, while estimated actuals are approximately $119,650. Using allowable reserve, a total of $130,000 in funding is available for 2022. However, the 2022 Lodging Tax Grant process saw $292,600 in funding requests. Staff proposed to allocate $162,600 of the ARPA funding to make up the difference.
Marine then motioned to move forward with the Lodging Tax Funding, seconded by council member Khan, which also passed unanimously.
$681,000 of funding to be used to pay outstanding utility bills with Mukilteo Water and Wastewater District, Alderwood Water and Wastewater District, Puget Sound Energy, and Snohomish County PUD.
At the August 16 meeting, staff informed Council that paying the outstanding bills with Mukilteo WWD and Alderwood WWD would require approximately $110,000. Staff was asked to investigate the outstanding debt with Puget Sound Energy and Snohomish County PUD. Those amounts are $117,465 and $402,518, respectively.
Council President Sarah Kneller motioned to move forward with the Utility Assistance pending an executive work plan awaiting final approval by council, seconded by council member Harris. The motion also passed unanimously.
Staff is aware of $10,600 in outstanding HOA dues for Mukilteo residents. The Council may wish to consider allocating additional funds to assist with these housing-related expenses.
After hearing public comments on this issue, with a list of specific residents and their outstanding debts, council members expressed they would need more information on the subject and will likely revisit the issue at a later date.
Public Comment of ARPA-funded Programs
After the discussion held by Council, the public had the opportunity to offer their comments on how the council should consider spending the ARPA funding.
“There are thousands of people in this area that lost their job at Boeing and other aerospace companies. The intention of using the American Rescue Plan funding was not to bail out former Boeing employees; it’s to assist with people that have difficulty with finances caused by COVID,” said Mukilteo resident Charlie Pancerzewski, who had reservation about the Utility Assistance Program.
“We can’t lose sight of the value of offering our businesses a lifeline at a direct level, allowing owners to personalize and individualize grant requests that would impact their ability to do business on a daily basis,” Everett resident Kandice Barnes said in support of utilizing the ARPA funds for business grants.
Council President Sarah Kneller responded to these comments by agreeing with Marine’s concerns of keeping administrative costs low and balancing the Lodging Tax. She commented on Pancerzewski’s comments about Boeing layoffs by noting that while many people in the area may have lost their jobs due to layoffs from aerospace companies, their ability to find new work may have been stunted due to COVID and therefore the ARPA funding would be justified in assisting them.
Future ARPA Programs
In addition to these four programs, the Council is considering other options to utilize ARPA funding which include an Embedded Social Worker, Body Cameras and IT Support, Expanded City Communications, City IT Infrastructure, Rehiring of Rosehill Staff, Resource/COVID Navigator FTE, Local Currency “Muk Bucks,” and Direct Community Stimulus.
Out of the $5,985,212 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds awarded to the city, these programs would allocate $4,089,600, leaving $1,895,612 unallocated for future purposes.
The next steps of the city are to work on implementing the four approved programs while continuing to work on the other funding ideas.
Land Use Acknowledgement
In addition to passing the four ARPA-funded programs, Council discussed adopting the use of a Lands Acknowledgment Statement at the beginning of each City of Mukilteo public meeting. The statement would be currently phrased as follows:
“First, we want to begin by acknowledging that we are on Indigenous land; the traditional territories of the Coast Salish People, who since time immemorial have taken care of, hunted, fished, gathered and buried their ancestors on these lands. We respect their sovereignty, their right to self-determination, and we honor their sacred spiritual connection with the land and water.”
If adopted by the council, it would now be read at the beginning of each city council meeting, Planning Commission, Parks and Arts Commission, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Commission meetings, and any other similar meetings such as an open house or town hall meetings.
The public issued comments suggesting that the word “sovereign” be dropped from the statement as “sovereign” assumes a supreme power or monarch, to be more inclusive to the founders.
“The land of Mukilteo does not belong to the Coast Salish people; it is part of the United States of America and the state of Washington. . . . If you wanted to say the Coast Salish People once lived here, that would be true, but that is not what the statement as currently worded says,” Sharon, Mukilteo resident, said.
Marine recommended that the statement be revised and reintroduced to the council at a future date. Council President Kneller agreed with revisiting the statement after holding more discussion so the statement could be “workshopped a little more” after receiving feedback from the public and tribes.
Councilmembers Harris, Emery, and Crawford believed the language, albeit strong, should be kept as is.
The DEI commission ultimately decided to review the language of the statement and revisit its adoption later this year.