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. One company owns the rights now, and they are selling them to a different company, both of whom are well-situated to provide good service. Even though action tonight wasn’t necessary, a proposed ordinance was included with the meeting materials, and was unanimously approved.

City manager Michael Ciaravino asked if an item could be added to the agenda at this point, under the reasoning that Scott Snyder’s guidance could be helpful. The issue of concern is the backup of work happening in the Human Resources Department, as the director is out on leave, and will be for some time. Ciaravino has found a local expert who is available to come in one day a week, on an interim basis, to help keep things more caught up. Because the person will be working without benefits, the city manager asked that the usual limit on the hourly pay for such a position be raised, for this situation only. Council members were fine with the change, but it took some time to find the right ordinance wording to make sure the change was limited to the present situation. Having worked it out, with the help of Mr. Snyder, the ordinance was passed unanimously.

Public Works Director Gina Hortillosa presented on the legally mandated update to the city’s Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP). No action was slated, but changes will be discussed at a Public Hearing on October 22, and considered for adoption at that time. With transportation issues, both private and public, being such an important topic for Mill Creek residents, it may be worth taking the time to look at the full 10-page draft. (Note: Two attachments are substantially the same document, with changes tracked on the first, and the clean new version, much more readable, second.)

The TIP is typically considered an “aspirational” document, meaning that it is a list of all of the things we might want to do, without limiting the items to projects for which we have identified funds. However, Mike Todd pointed out that, earlier this year, the staff did a tremendous amount of work to acquire a grant for a crosswalk, and then we rejected the grant. This shows that it can be wasteful to include so many possibilities.

Gordon Brink, Interim Communications and Marketing Director, presented on the 2019 Farmer’s Market. This year, markets were held on Tuesdays, in the hope that we would be able to attract more merchants than last year, on Fridays. Unfortunately, attendance by shoppers was still underwhelming, leading to vendor dissatisfaction. A big problem is insufficient parking, particularly on nights where there are also city council meetings. The future of the market, whether it might be moved to a different location, or possibly taken over by private enterprise, is in doubt.

Director Hortillosa returned to lead consideration of the city’s participation in the program established by House Bill 1406, An Act Relating to Encouraging Investments in Affordable and Supportive Housing. This bill makes cities eligible to have a small portion of sales taxes collected by the state credited towards programs designed to assist in the housing needs of households at and below 60% of median income. This does not in any way raise the sales tax. To remain eligible for the program, municipal governments must pass an ordinance declaring an intention to participate before January 2020. Such a resolution was presented and passed unanimously.

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