MUKILTEO, Wash., August 6, 2022 – Despite a challenging couple of years that included staffing shortages, supply chain issues, and a global pandemic, the Mukilteo Public Works Department has been busier than ever serving residents with much needed improvements.
Continuing through the last half of 2022, the Department’s priorities continue to be staffing in both operations and engineering due to attrition, following the Stormwater Comprehensive Plan, and improvements to make streets and pathways more accessible. In addition to adding sidewalks and ADA compliance pathways, the Department is currently working on adding a topcoat of slurry seal to the City’s pavement – an overlay of very fine rock and oil.
2022 Year-to-Date Achievements
Just this year the Department succeeded in building a new Decant Facility at the Public Works Shop, which will help and restore water quality in Washington by reducing stormwater impacts from existing infrastructure and development. The Decant Facility has been needed for years in order to be in compliance with NPDES Stormwater Permits Matt Nienhuis, Public Works Director for the City of Mukilteo, told the Lynnwood Times. Another bonus is that the project was funded by a grant from the Washington Department of Ecology.
“To finally get that completed and operational, to finally put our vactor debris and our sweeper debris in a proper place so it can be properly disposed – that’s a big win,” Nienhuis said.
Some other big wins this year, according to Nienhuis, have been the Harbor Reach Corridor Project and a new drainage system on 60th Avenue, which will be fully operational by this winter. The Department also repaved Harbor Pointe Boulevard adding ADA ramps and a new sidewalk between Second and Third Avenues off Route 525, which was also funded by a grant from the Transportation Improvement Board (TIB).
The 76th Pedestrian Improvement, also grant funded through the Safer Routes to School Program, is also nearly complete although its new Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon (HAWK) is awaiting final approval from WSDOT.
“One of my big pushes as Director is sidewalks, ADA ramps, basically mobility-type things. So getting that done and also ADA ramps off Harbor Pointe Boulevard on 50th and 51st, those are important things for mobility – moving people and not just cars,” Nienhuis said. “You can’t make everything ADA compliant but it’s taking those top priorities and working on them as we can, and doing some of this work with our crew saves the city a lot of money because to contract that out is very expensive.”
While the Department has gotten over the hump of the COVID outbreak, the pandemic is still impacting the Department drastically mainly as it pertains to material acquisition and staffing.
The Department has learned to order materials ahead of time but even that can be difficult to do depending on funding, Nienhuis informed the Lynnwood Times providing the example of the newly approved generators for Mukilteo Fire Stations. The generators were ordered this past January but will not arrive until next year so the Department will have to budget for them out of next year’s budget.
“Anything concrete, as far as big culverts or detention tanks, you’re running around six to eight months out,” Nienhuis said.
The Department has resorted to stockpiling materials such as salt and sand before the winter months hit since the materials won’t go bad and are typically hard to come by during winter months. To account for inflation and rising material costs, the Department had to increase their contingencies when budgeting for materials.
“It’s just coming together as a Public Works crew to solve those problems. That means a lot of twelve-hour shifts, not playing with our kids in the snow, it means sweeping, it means fixing potholes and things like that,” Nienhuis explained.
Material acquisition is still an ongoing issue but one of the major challenges at COVID’s height was staffing. While the Department is proud to announce there were no layoffs or furloughs there was still a challenge of keeping teams isolated if there was any exposure to the virus.
“I think we’ve come out of COVID very successful; we’ve been able to get projects done that have been on the books for a long time. Public Works is very resilient in what we do and we’re committed to serving our residents even through challenges. Pretty much all of our projects have been come within budget, we’ve been able to take care of the parks and the waterfront and do our daily tasks. It’s really just a commitment to customer service and provide value to tax dollars. We’re here to provide that service,” Nienhuis told the Lynnwood Times.
What’s next for Mukilteo Public Works?
A common concern brought to the Public Works Department is flooding at Lighthouse Park, particularly during the winter. To address this, the Department has recently installed new tide gates which will not completely alleviate flooding but will alleviate saltwater coming through the system, Nienhuis explained.
Public Works also recently installed solar panels at Rosehill Community Center, the first solar panels on a city building in Mukilteo’s history. They were installed just two weeks ago and were brought online this week.
The Chennault Beach Drive Drainage Improvements is also entering its design phase this year with construction beginning in 2024. The project will be completely grant funded and involve all new ADA requirements and a crosswalk to the Girls and Boys Club.