MARYSVILLE, Wash., February 4, 2023—Mayor Jon Nehring presented his first State of the City address Wednesday from inside the brand new state-of-the-art Civic Center downtown that opened its doors last fall.
If the new buildings, inviting plaza, spray park, and multi-colored water tower in Comeford Park are any indication of where Marysville is headed, things are looking up.
“We are really proud of the building, community areas, the amphitheater and everything that goes with it,” Nehring said of the campus at 501 Delta Ave. “It’s just kind of the cultural center of the community. We hope it will be a place that everybody can enjoy for several years.”
The civic campus combines the city’s services into a one-stop for businesses and residents, including the new public safety center, jail and municipal court, said Nehring to an audience of about 60 people in the City Council chambers, joined by other viewers who caught the event on Facebook Live.
The campus is also the latest centerpiece in city leaders’ plans to create a more attractive, diversified and revitalized downtown and Ebey Waterfront, Nehring said. It will also serve as a magnet for more business activity and visitors to the 72,380-population city, second largest in Snohomish County.
Among several topics, Nehring spoke about the city’s finances, public safety and crime, quality of life improvements, and transportation and infrastructure projects.
Marysville State of the City: Budget
The city entered 2023 with a general fund budget of $65 million for basic services ranging from law and justice to parks and community development. Police represents the lion’s share totaling $23.9 million, along with EMS payment to the Regional Fire Authority of $5.3 million. The operating budget also includes enterprise funds of $52 million, or fee-based utilities such as sewer, water and garbage services.
Nehring said within a resident’s overall property tax bill, about 10% of those taxes goes to the city.
He reminded that he has not recommended – nor has the City Council passed – a tax rate increase on property taxes in over a decade.
“If we feel that we need something, or feel that the community wants something, we’ll go to you and ask you to vote on it,” he said. He cited the Transportation Benefit District passed a decade ago that has been paving roads and preserving payment rotationally throughout Marysville.
The city carries a sound AA+ bond rating that keeps debt incurred at a low interest rate, and reports 15 straight years of clean financial audits.
Nehring highlighted $626,000 in federally-funded Community Development Block Grants that were awarded by the city to such projects as crosswalks, minor home repairs for the elderly, Boy and Girls Club facility upgrades and pavement overlay for the food bank entrance. In addition, Council-approved community services grants assisted the food bank, Food for Thought and Meals on Wheels program and the cold weather shelter.
Marysville State of the City: Public safety and crime
Calls for service fell 3.8 percent, from 64,355 in 2022 to 61,893 in 2021, but it’s crime levels over all that the mayor and police chief focus on.
In 2014, the area experienced a peak in home burglaries, leading police to form a Burglary Task Force. The group worked with the department’s proactive NITE Team and went into neighborhoods to combat frequent drug issues, resulting in year-to-year drops in crime. Until 2021, that is, when police agencies and the courts bumped up against some unfortunate decisions in the state Legislature that impacted all cities. One example came when the state Supreme Court struck down the state’s main simple drug possession crimes, then lawmakers re-criminalized them. On the ground, it can mean a person stopped with drugs in their possession can walk away from police up to three times if they refuse treatment, before an arrest can be made.
“It really tied the hands of a lot of what we were doing in Marysville and Snohomish County,” Nehring said.
The mayor co-leads a Mayors and Business Leaders for Public Safety in Snohomish County. The group includes 15 mayors “who have come together with a number of business leaders and said, ‘we need change in this area.’”
The group, supported also by the city council, is concerned with a number of public safety issues and the culture of public safety around the state. Marysville leaders were in Olympia recently to push for bills supporting the reversal of simple drug possession, police pursuit and other laws, as well as creating more regional training officer initiatives in an occupation that is already having difficulty filling police officer positions.
In December, the city council approved two new ordinances: a public drug use ordinance that criminalized drug “use” if witnessed, an angle not addressed in the state’s drug possession law. Nehring said since the use law took effect, police have already made 39 arrests. The second city law deals with disruptive transit behavior, in cooperation with Community Transit, meaning Marysville can prosecute locally.
Nehring highlighted the embedded social worker team that meets the drug-addicted, homeless and mentally ill individuals where they are, often in encampments, leading with compassion and getting them to seek help. In 2022, team members reported 1,600 total engagements.
“Let’s do it the right way and get you the help you need so you can reform your life,” the mayor said.
But, he reminded, there is an accountability measure in effect. “We can and we will prosecute you for this if you don’t go into treatment. That means items stolen, illegal trespassing, illegal drug paraphernalia or dealing; that rap sheet is going to be prosecuted unless you get help.”
Code enforcement kept busy in 2022, with 385 new cases and 429 cases closed. Cases covered included abandoned and junk vehicles, nuisance property and neighborhood eyesore. Code enforcement deals with improving the community’s image, and ensuring that neighborhoods are kept up, yards are maintained and junk is kept out of the public eye. Compliance is voluntary, and city officials would rather work with the homeowner before pursuing further measures.
A new modern jail is located to the north end of the civic campus, which expanded space from 5,000 to 20,000 square feet. The old dormitory style jail is out. Nehring said in today’s world, if someone comes into detox and they’re on fentanyl, which happens more frequently now, corrections officers can isolate them without affecting the availability of bed space. The there is enhanced and medical facilities the city jail, and embedded social workers can get the into treatment more readily.
“Most of our property crimes stem from the drug issue,” Nehring said. “A lot of people are just stealing to get drugs.”
In 2022, there were 1,266 jail bookings. The new modern jail is designed to increase safety for staff and people in custody, includes improved medical and prescription services, and heavy, secure doors connect the courtrooms directly with the jail.
Marysville State of the City: Quality of Life
Several projects are planned that will enhance the quality of life:
- Downtown/waterfront improvements – the city received a $7.6 million state Ecology Department grant to treat stormwater runoff into Ebey Slough at 1st Street west of State Avenue. The addition features aesthetically pleasing modular designs, vegetation, and pedestrian and bicycling areas that fit with the waterfront park area city leaders envision. A river walk project is also in talks. Officials envision mixed-use development along 1st and State that will capitalize on water access; add shops, multi-story housing and other opportunities; and provide a welcoming and inspirational gateway into Marysville
- Transportation and infrastructure – The city may finally get shovels in the ground for the long-awaited I-5/SR 529 interchange project, which includes a roundabout at the I-5 and SR 529 northbound on ramp, a southbound ramp from SR 529 onto I-5, and an HOV lane between the “flats” and Marine Drive in Everett.
- State Avenue – In 2022, the city completed widening State from 100th to 104th, and added a new bridge over Quilceda Creek. The final leg will widen State from 104th to 116th, with construction to start later this year, thus filling in the final gap extending five lanes all the way north to Smokey Point.
- Pickleball courts were installed at Jennings Park near the baseball. The 8 courts funded by the council opened in March.
- Marysville opened the new community center at 1015 State Ave. that will feel like a second home to all ages, from tots and tiny dancers to senior gourd artists and line dancers. The former municipal-turned-community center is triple the size of the building replaced by the new civic center. A lounge area provides a place for parents to read and relax while their children enjoy class activities.
- Strawberry Fields – The city is adding turf, fencing and bleachers to make it usable year round. Construction expected to start in March. Funded with $1 million from the county, and $140,000 from Amazon.
- Pump track – young man brought idea. Rollers and bank turns, ridden by cyclist pumping a bike instead of pedaling. A pump track is a track that has a series of humps or rollers and banked turns that allow a rider to get great exercise. It is designed to generate momentum for riders by up and down body movements instead of pedaling or pushing. Bikes best for pump tracks tend toward mountain bikes with wider tires.
- New playground equipment is coming to Jennings Nature Park, Harborview Park, Northpointe East Park and Comeford Park. The city council supports upgrading playground equipment for a couple of parks a year.
- Mother Nature’s Window – The city was awarded a $750,000 federal grant to fund master plan for this 35-acre area of densely wooded property of evergreens at 100th Street and 55th Avenue. Officials would hope to open it in 2024, starting with a parking lot, improved trails and well-maintained vegetation to start.