Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 10/8/2019

Lisa Steckler spoke during Audience Communication on behalf of Kiwanis, describing the Power of Produce booth they ran for children at this year’s Farmer’s Market. Each week explored a different topic, such as appreciation for farmers or the importance of bees. They also did face and body painting on the week’s theme. Steckler went on to describe how the experience had demonstrated the importance of having community spaces to come together, and her support for the continuation of the Farmer’s Market.

Three members of the state Auditor’s office came to describe the two-week site visit they will be doing to take a look at various aspects of the City’s business. Unfortunately, the table they spoke from was poorly mic’ed, the auditors spoke quietly and at a tremendous speed, and the paperwork that had been provided to the council members was not made available to the public. Here’s what I can tell you: We’re going to get the report on their findings at a later meeting, and I will check in to make sure that presentation is clear before that happens.

The first of three study sessions was titled Cable Franchise Transfer of Frontier Communications Corporation to Northwest Fiber, and presented by Scott Snyder, of Ogden Murphy Wallace P.L.L.C.. This is the kind of thing that really got me interested in local government, the nuts and bolts of how life happens around us. In this case, the background of how cable T.V. is delivered in the city. Having said that, there wasn’t a lot of meat to the decision.… Read More “Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 10/8/2019”

Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 10/1/2019

October’s first meeting was the shortest in quite some time!

John Raimer, a very active citizen and veteran, posed a question at Audience Communication: Why does the city manager of Mill Creek have no deputy, while all surrounding cities do? He has observed that Michael Ciaravino is always extremely busy, and could probably do with more help.

I think this is a good question, although I’m unconvinced a deputy is the best answer. It makes sense that Ciaravino is busy – he is still fairly new, we had functioned with a part-time manager for a long time, and we are missing a lot of department heads. However, I think it’s important to check to make sure that we have the staff we need to do great work, sustainably. Is downsizing by the previous manager working out?

One of our interim directors, Tara Dunford, gave a quarterly budget report. This practice had been discontinued, but seemed useful, and a desire to make them a regular practice was generally acknowledged. Overall, the budget is on track, with only limited deviations requiring action.

The biggest issue to be reconciled when the budge is amended is that the Legislative column covered a lot of expenses for Bob Stowe’s tenureship as interim city manager. Other expenses related to settling with the former city manager were not explicitly mentioned. The projected incomes for permits are low, but only because of how construction seasons work. Civil infraction income is a little low, and Dunford plans to look into it.… Read More “Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 10/1/2019”

Mill Creek City Council Meeting 7/9/2019

The first major topic this meeting was that Mill Creek has had issues with two Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFB) that were installed in 2010 near Heatherwood Middle School and Mill Creek Elementary. Matthew Feeley presented on the problem and proposed solution on behalf of the city.

For once, the problem is pretty straight forward: the current RRFBs are solar powered, but don’t get enough sun in the fall and winter to operate effectively. This creates dangerous conditions for students, and many calls to the Police and Public Works Department.

In response, staff applied for, and has received, a Transportation Improvement Board (TIB) Complete Streets Grant for $300,000. The grant does not require matching funds, and has a deadline for completion of work in 2022. The proposal will install RRFBs with hard-wired power, and also bring the curbs into ADA compliance.

For comparison, Feeley presented a few other projects that would also qualify for the funds, which could benefit if there is grant money left over from the primary project. The first would be to add bike lanes to Village Green Drive. This was shot down pretty definitively by Brian Holzclaw, a bicyclist himself, stating that dedicated lanes would not fix the primary danger, which is drivers pulling out of neighborhoods. Mention of doing some updating of pedestrian warning signs also did not gain much traction.

Mike Todd made a strong statement in favor of prioritizing safe routes to schools as part of a policy of being a safe, walkable community.… Read More “Mill Creek City Council Meeting 7/9/2019”

Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 7/2/2019

We started this meeting with what hopes to be good news for the City, regarding the proposed 135th street mid-block crossing. Council had previously expressed the concern that the county should be contributing to the project, as the apartment dwellers primarily affected are outside Mill Creek’s border. Tonight, City Manager Michael Ciaravino asked that the issue be delayed until a future meeting, to give time to continue promising conversations with Terry Ryan about burden sharing. Mayor Pruitt asked if anyone had objections, and hearing none, the matter was set aside for the night.

As promised last week, we returned to the issue of updating Mill Creek’s server infrastructure. While the Agenda Summary included a recommendation to approve contract spending, but Mayor Pruitt clarified with Ciaravino at the beginning of the conversation that no action was going to be taken at the time. The council was given the opportunity to choose from hearing just new information, or hearing the full presentation, as Pam Pruitt and Mike Todd had been at a conference during the previous meeting. The City Manager gently encouraged the full presentation, but the Council opted to just hear the updates.

Mill Creek currently operates two physical, and fourteen virtual servers. Forty-two percent of the City’s business is conducted on local networks, and the rest is spread among cloud-based software solutions. The two options under consideration are a hyper-converged infrastructure or the Microsoft Azure Cloud Infrastructure.

A big update from last week was a correction to the estimates previously made by the Microsoft Azure representative.… Read More “Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 7/2/2019”

Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 6/25/2019

“In space travel,” repeated Slartibartfast, “all the numbers are awful.”
–Douglas Adams, “Life, the Universe, and Everything”

An awful lot of numbers were proffered this meeting regarding two major decisions before the Council: How much money should we borrow through our bond ordinance?; What technology will we use to make necessary upgrades to City servers? First, however, Sarah Sidman, the Vice President of Strategic Initiatives & Communications from the ArtsFund organization, presented the results of a recent study on the social impacts of the arts.

ArtsFund is a non-profit organization dedicated to support of the arts in the Puget Sound region. Having seen the presentation in Seattle, John (Councilmember) and Lisa Steckler arranged to bring it to Mill Creek. A healthy crowd turned up specifically to listen to the PowerPoint presentation.

An interesting paradox is that a large majority of people feel that art has a big impact on them, but very few believe that it similarly influences the community. However, research shows that art programs improve education outcomes, contribute to well-being, and enrich the vitality of communities. This is on top of the financial benefits from tapping into a 2.4 billion dollar segment of Washington’s economy.

These are some of the many reasons I support Councilperson Steckler’s vision of building a Performing Arts Center in Mill Creek, as part of the development of the city-owned Dobson-Remillard-Cook Properties. A performance space for our students, dance, theatrical and musical groups is one of the very few important things that Mill Creek lacks.… Read More “Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 6/25/2019”

Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 6/11/2019

Audience Communication was star-studded at this meeting, we heard from Chuck Wright, columnist for the Mill Creek Beacon, and Rep. John Lovick, speaker pro tem and representative of the 44th district in the Washington House of Representatives. Mr. Wright spoke in favor of this year’s Memorial Day Parade, saying he found it very respectful. He mentioned that there are some arguments in favor of changing to a Memorial Day service, and a parade on Armed Forces Day, but that he has been assured we will not do so. Rep. Lovick expressed admiration and gratitude for the Council’s ongoing work, and specifically praised the management of construction on 35th.

Moving on to New Business, both items related to the extensive repairs that must be done on Mill Creek’s surface water infrastructure. This project has actually been discussed in prior meetings (3/12/2019, 4/23/2019, 5/14/2019), but the specific votes to be taken qualified as “new business.”

First, Public Works Director Gina Hortillosa and Finance Director Peggy Lauerman gave an update on the project costs of pipe repairs. Where the previous conversations have been about planning and estimations, this discussion was a foray into execution and actual costs. The biggest change from the original budget comes from the surprisingly high bid for work that was approved at the May 15 meeting. A cash flow analysis projecting out to 2026 shows that, without intervention, our capital improvement reserves will drop below a safe amount. Options to increase revenue or redistribute funds will be evaluated as the project unfolds.… Read More “Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 6/11/2019”

Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 6/4/2019

Audience Communication was hopping at this meeting, with three of us rising to speak Jon Ramer presented a plaque on behalf of AmVets, in appreciation of Mill Creek’s support, as well as inviting all City staff to a thank you BBQ. I had a bit to say about the recent Snohomish County Housing Affordability Regional Taskforce, which I’ve included at the end. Finally, Benjamin Briles spoke in appreciation of the youth in attendance, regarding his application to the committee to be appointed during the meeting, and in support of accepting the fee in lieu of settlement to be discussed second under New Business.

A Presentation recognized the 23 graduating seniors who have been part of the Youth Advisory Board. The YAB contributes to many community programs throughout the year, logging over 2600 hours during the 2018/19 school year, in almost 20 service projects.

Updating our wireless communications ordinance, as discussed at the last meeting [my report], was pretty easily handled. A notice requirement was added, and the wording turned me around on my previous opposition. By focusing on making a notification of construction, it is much less likely that the notices will create fears where there were none previously. Having addressed all of the Council’s previous concerns, the measure was approved unanimously.

The next piece of business to return to the table was the proposed agreement with Puget Sound Energy for a fee in lieu of services. The gist of the question: PSE tore up our pavement, and are obligated to update the current, temporary patches, and fix them to our standards.… Read More “Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 6/4/2019”

Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 5/28/19

Old business this meeting brought back the potential settlement with Comcast, to recover fees that were not assessed in the past of $87,297.17, as well as the costs for the audit that discovered the issue, $5,310, for a total of $92,607.17. I previously wrote about this here. After a few comments, the Mayor asked if there was a motion, and everyone demurred. This tipped off a conversation about whether a motion was necessary, and the staff suggested that a motion to reject would be appropriate. Such a motion was made, and Council unanimously passed on collecting the $87, 297.17. The costs of the audit will still be pursued.

During the second Audience Communication opportunity, at the end of the meeting, I addressed concerns with three issues: this was the first. I found the lack of discussion to be jarring, as though I had missed something between one meeting and the other. If all, or even some, of the council members had taken a moment to explain their vote, it would have seemed more transparent. Particularly, in a case where the decision is contrary to the staff’s recommendation, it seems appropriate to state what policy is guiding the vote.

The first item of New Business, the second item of my concern, was the Snohomish County Housing Task-force. Dave Somers, Snohomish County Executive, reached out to all Snohomish city managers and mayors on May 1st, about the creation of a task-force modeled on the one formed to address the opioid crisis.… Read More “Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 5/28/19”

Peace Officers Memorial Day

Since 1962, May 15th has been federally proclaimed as Peace Officers Memorial Day, and the week it occurs in is Police Week. Mayor Pam Pruitt offered a proclamation of Police Week at the May 14th City Council Meeting. In future years, I will ask that we also lower the flag at City Hall to half-mast on the 15th.

I attended the Citizen’s Police Academy in 2018, and had the honor of meeting several members of the MCPD, as they came to teach us about various aspects of policing. Each one made me more and more proud to be a member of this community, and I would like to acknowledge them.

Det. Sgt. Stan White is the community coordinator, and was responsible for putting the program together, along with the PD’s hardest working volunteer, Sally Dagna. He is also responsible for recruiting volunteers to help with traffic at parades. Also, he’s a great person to talk to about challenges to the field of policing. I appreciate those efforts so much, and the opportunities they have made available.

Corporal Rory Mundwiler taught us a bit about the history of Mill Creek, gave an overview of the department, and, along with Det. Sgt. White, led tours of the station. This included showing us a patrol vehicle, and the equipment they carry. For Corporal Mundwiler, this includes a handful of toys for any kids who might find themselves on the periphery of police involvement. While he did not let us turn on the siren, he did promise me, on my ride along, that I could light any flares we might need.… Read More “Peace Officers Memorial Day”

Mill Creek City Council Meeting 5/14/19

The majority of the time at the May 14th City Council meeting was spent on two very complicated and difficult decisions: Creating a safer Mid-Block crossing and whether to accept a contract bid for making repairs to our surface water infrastructure. Both situations involve big money, and significant risk.

On SR 96/132nd Street, west of 35th, there is a point where there have been multiple incidents of cars striking people. The reason for this is a residential area on one side, and commercial on the other, where it would require several hundred yards of walking to reach an established crosswalk. Therefore, it has become common practice, one most people admit they would be prone to, to cross mid-block. Generally, one-lane is crossed at a time, with a stop at the median.

Unfortunately, we learned in Audience Communication that the median is far from safe. A young woman and her family came and shared their personal story of tragedy. The teen had been standing in the median when a truck came on to it, knocked her off, where she was then hit by another car. Her grandfather spoke, describing the problem with the lack of official crosswalk, and read his granddaughter’s account of her experience. The chamber fell absolutely silent as her mother spoke about the experience of learning that her child had been struck.

The family acknowledged how lucky they had been that she survived, and offered a plea on behalf of those who might not be, in the future.… Read More “Mill Creek City Council Meeting 5/14/19”