July 15, 2024 7:37 pm

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YOUR MONEY: The $1.3 million boondoggle South Mukilteo Park

MUKILTEO—Mukilteo City Council on Monday, July 1, approved $1.3 million to “renovate” an existing park in Harbour Pointe, using $800,000 of your tax dollars on a “South Mukilteo Park” project that is now $550,000 over budget; yet is asking Mukilteans to cough up $180 per home or $1.5 million per year for an EMS Levy in an August ballot proposition because of “budget shortfalls.”

South Mukilteo Park
Site of the future $1.3 million South Mukilteo Park. Changing the name of the existing Harbour Pointe Village Park conceals to the public that the parcel is currently used as a park by residents who think the $1.3 million is for a new park development and not for an existing park project. Lynnwood Times | Mario Lotmore.

The council and mayor at Monday’s Business Meeting refused to accept councilmen Steve Schmalz and Mike Dixon’s recommendation to “course correct” to save Mukilteans $500,000 in APRA money from the overbudget “bougie” park project to much needed citywide capital equipment. The city council’s excuses: “staff time” in the project, a former councilwoman wanted it (who lives just over a block from the park), “it’s what the people want” but that was with a $750,000 price tag not $1.3 million, and to “take this as a learning exercise.”

South Mukilteo Park
Inside the “Harbour Pointe Village Park” that is to be “renovated” and renamed the “South Mukilteo Park” for $1.3 million. Lynnwood Times | Mario Lotmore.

Just a reminder to Mukilteans that your city council appears to be ignoring “what the people want” when it comes to not rezoning the Hawthorne Hall parcel in residential 2nd Street to a commercial property for an alleged glass blowing business and ignoring the almost 100 residents of Harbour Heights who showed up at a recent planning commission meeting in opposition to rezoning their neighborhood to accommodate a 300-unit multifamily development for a wealthy developer. Also, the council appears to be ignoring the wishes of senior Mukilteo residents who have been asking for a dedicated senior center for years.

Harbour Heights
To a standing room only, Mukilteans packed City Hall on June 20, 2024, all sharing their dismay to the Planning Commission with a proposal to rezone 6500 Harbour Heights Parkway to facilitate a 275-unit multi-family project for a wealthy developer. Lynnwood Times | Mario Lotmore.

The council and city leadership went as far as to gaslight residents in Monday’s meeting who questioned the $1.3 million price tag as naysayers to not wanting a park at all which was simply false. City leadership admitted in Monday’s meeting to not knowing how much the park would cost when they allocated $500,000 in ARPA monies for the park in 2023. The deadline to redirect and “obligate” the $500,000 ARPA money is December 31, 2024, according to City Administrator Steve Powers and is stated by the Association of Washington Cities on its website. Cities have until December 31, 2026, to spend APRA funds.

South Mukilteo Park
Excerpt from City Council agenda in August of 2023 where Mukilteo city staff recommended to the council a price tag of $750,000 for the South Mukilteo Park.

The majority of councilmembers—Louis Harris, Donna Vago, Richard Emery, and Tom Jordal—refused to deep dive into why the renamed “Harbour Pointe Village Park” to the “South Mukilteo Park” project increased $500,000 within just six months and why the city paid $126,000 to an engineering firm for a $1.3 million design without disclosing to the council in December of 2023 the increased price tag when the budget was only $750,000. Some councilmembers when asked during public comment didn’t even know where the park was located nor that the parcel of land is currently a fully functional park used for dates, family outings, and playing fetch with four-legged best friends.

In deep-diving, I discovered that the city is reallocating $690,000 from other ARPA funds (92nd Park equipment and Harbour Pointe Path repairs) for the South Mukilteo Park project. This is well within the $500,000 ARPA ask by Schmalz and Dixon on Monday to purchase critical capital equipment that will eventually be paid for by residents in the upcoming budget.

It was falsely stated by a councilman during the Monday meeting to justify the extravagant $1.3 million expense, that the area has no playgrounds. If councilmembers would simply walk the area of Harbour Pointe, as hundreds of Mukilteans do every day, or utilize a free online tool called Google Maps, they will know that six playgrounds are within walking distance to the proposed playground of South Mukilteo Park.

Here is a list of nearby playgrounds: Discovery Crest Park and Playground (530 feet), Crown subdivision playground (667 feet and is located across the street of the proposed $1.3 million playground), Arbors subdivision playground (1,268 feet), On the Green playground (2,340 feet), Endeavour Elementary playground (2,667 feet), and Bay Court playground (3,206 feet).

South Mukilteo Park
Engineering drawing of the South Mukilteo Park. SOURCE: City of Mukilteo.

The six-acre Harbour Pointe Village Park is currently a grassed open-field lined with trees, natural mounds, a flowing creek and wetlands. The engineering drawings show a transformed landscape that excavates the parcel to a leveled field with at its center a woodchipped playground with the latest high-end equipment encircled by cement sidewalks, a water fountain and an adult fitness center. The city council did agree on Monday that the “adult fitness center” was a bit extravagant and voted to remove it which avoided an $80,000 expense. Councilmembers must have “forgotten” that the unique characteristic of the park in the first place was its “multi-generational use” according to city documents.

Also, there will be no parking on park grounds as that was not part of the $126,000 design fee. Parkgoers will have to share street parking on Possession Way and nearby neighborhoods with the residents who currently live in the area.

South Mukilteo Park
Illustration of the playground of South Mukilteo Park. SOURCE: City of Mukilteo.

The $1.3 million price tag—the average price of two homes in Snohomish County—will only accommodate seven pieces of playground equipment within the 1.15-acre construction envelop—a whopping one million dollars per acre is the normalized cost of this playground!

Mukilteans, your council is spending money like a drunken sailor and expects you to fit the bill!

Email the council at elected@mukilteowa.gov and let them know what you think!

Mario Lotmore
Lynnwood Times, Publisher

Op-Ed DISCLAIMER: The views and comments expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Lynnwood Times nor any of its affiliates.

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