The following letter to Ferndale City Councilmembers is provided courtesy of Ferndale City Administrator Jori Burnett. It provides summaries, and background in some cases, of the items on the meeting agenda for the regular City Council meeting scheduled for 6pm, Tuesday, February 19th.
Our TUESDAY agenda includes the following:
Item B: Consent Agenda.
– Approval of Council minutes, authorization of payroll, approval of claims.
The consent agenda also includes a 2018 Budget Amendment. This is the last budget amendment of 2018, and closes the books on last year. The changes are necessary in order to account for the cash-outs of employee sick and vacation time for one departing employee and to exempt employees, reducing the latter’s accrued vacation time to 240 hours as required by amended contracts. The changes also reflect modifications to the City’s refundable deposit accounting, where deposits must be held in a separate deposit account until such time as the project has been closed out and/or the deposit funds expended, at which time they are transferred into the General Fund. The City receives deposits from a number of sources (the Pioneer Pavilion, development review, etc.). In addition, the end of the year accounting found that the Pavilion did exceed the 2018 budget for maintenance and utility billing, as reflected by the amendment.
Item C: Mayor’s Citizenship Award – Following the consent agenda, Mayor Mutchler will present the City’s annual Citizenship Award. We expect that this year’s winners will be in the audience on Tuesday.
Item D: Thornton Street Overpass – As the Thornton Street Overpass project closes in on final design, the City Council will be asked to discuss two options for the materials that will be used for the wall of the structure. The Council is asked to provide direction on either Gabion baskets or precast concrete. Gabion baskets (gabbione means “big cage” in Italian) are baskets, in this case metal or steel, filled with materials, in this case rocks. Gabion baskets provide structural stability and can prevent erosion. They are also compatible with a variety of landscaping installations in order to minimize the appearance of long walls. Gabion baskets are not prone to vandalism, or at least successful vandalism – the varied texture prevents tagging and other defacement. Gabion baskets are also cheaper than precast concrete.
Precast concrete can take many forms, and can vary from a smooth face to one that has ornamentation, artwork, or which may emulate other finishes. In nearly every case, precast concrete will be more expensive than gabion baskets, and will be more prone to vandalism, necessitating additional maintenance.
Based on the City Council’s direction, Staff will work with the City’s design consultants to incorporate the preferred siding.
Item E: 2019 Public Works and Finance Work Plans – Public Works Director Kevin Renz and Finance Director Sirke Salminen will present their 2019 workplans, combined with an overview of the responsibilities of each department. These presentations are intended to provide more context and background to the City Council and to provide a look-ahead to the rest of 2019. The Public Works and Finance departments have substantial overlap, as a significant portion of the City’s revenues and expenditures are tied to capital and maintenance projects. The City Council is invited to ask questions.
Item F: Public Notification Procedures – due to the cancellation of the Planning and Land Use Committee on February 13th, this item is being brought forward to the full Council as a discussion item. No final decision is expected, but direction is requested. City staff follow codified procedures for giving notice on City actions, specifically pending land use actions. The City Council has requested the opportunity to review these procedures in order to determine whether they are effective, and to further identify what the objective of the procedures should be. Is the purpose to provide basic notification? To provide opportunities to participate in the process at a public hearing (which is often too late to provide substantive feedback), to provide opportunities to participate early in the process? There is no wrong answer, provided that the City seeks to involve the public as much as practical.
Item G: North Whatcom Poverty Task Force – The City Council is asked to approve an ordinance establishing the North Whatcom Poverty Task Force. The task force is intended to spend 2019 collecting data, and to spend 2020 developing recommendations, on the nature of poverty in North Whatcom County, and ways to address this growing concern. The task force is proposed because poverty and homeless issues in Bellingham may sometimes overshadow the same or similar issues in other parts of our community. Further, that the outlying areas (including Ferndale) may not have the same infrastructure as Bellingham does to address homelessness and proximity to services. But that our community must understand the issue, and must identify solutions within the context of our own community, to address it.
Item H: Credit Card Policy – The Finance Committee has requested that an amendment to the City’s credit card policies be approved so as to ensure that City purchases are sent to City facilities, rather than private homes. There were two occasions recently where City staff sent purchases to home addresses, either due to a mistake or to ensure faster shipping by utilizing Amazon Prime accounts. Senior Staff, the Administration, and the Mayor agree that with the changes in online purchasing, this amendment is necessary. As proposed, all purchases on the City’s credit card should be sent to City facilities – unless prior authorization for a home delivery is given by the department head, City Administrator, or mayor for each purchase.
We believe that this policy needs to be established in order to provide internal controls. It also reflects best practices and is a sound risk management policy.
It is important to note, however, that Senior Staff and the Administration do support the continuing education for our staff, the Council, and volunteer committee members. And we appreciate the fact that the City Council has continued to budget for and support these efforts to expand on Staff’s education by funding our ability to attend conferences, webinars, to seek additional certifications, and more. Some of the purchases in question involved books and other reading materials for staff and the Planning Commission. While it is somewhat ironic that we are discussing the purchase of “old fashioned” books via a high-tech online ordering system, the fact is that books continue to provide an important resource for Staff. Frequently books are suggested at conferences or as part of webinars as an additional resource that will allow for the reader to highlight important passages, to learn at their own pace, to keep the book as their own. The mayor has also started a resource lending library in the conference room, with most of the books donated by local business leaders (Superfeet). We also understand that the reading materials in question need to have a direct bearing on our work: just as City Staff cannot (and really should not) watch Parks and Recreation to learn more about City government, neither do we believe the City should purchase the Harry Potter series as a team-building exercise.
In conclusion – Staff and the City Council appear to be on the same page, where this is a policy that should be adopted proactively, before any abuse occurs.
Item I-L: Mayor, Council, and Department Reports and Comments; Committee Minutes
Item M: Executive Session: RCW 42.30.110(i) – An Executive Session to discuss
“…with legal counsel representing the agency matters relating to agency enforcement actions, or to discuss with legal counsel representing the agency litigation or potential litigation to which the agency, the governing body, or a member acting in an official capacity is, or is likely to become, a party, when public knowledge regarding the discussion is likely to result in an adverse legal or financial consequence to the agency.”
Finally, we will leave you with the following thoughts. The week of February 11th was hugely eventful for our community. It might even be considered historic, for a number of reasons. And it illustrates, at least to me, the number of storylines, connections, challenges, and opportunities that we all face.
From my own personal perspective, within a thirty-six hour timeframe, the community voted to assess themselves over $100 million in new and improved educational facilities. The community did this just as the largest snow event in over a decade was taking place, and as our Public Works crew took to the streets for nearly seventy-two hours of continuous snow control. At the same time as the election results were coming in, dozens of people on social media were asking their neighbors what they could do to help. They were posting updates on snow status, celebrating (and then later in the week sympathizing with each other) the fact that children were out of school for several days, and providing a true sense of community.
After receiving an update on the snow even at 5am Wednesday, Mayor Mutchler and I travelled to Olympia to talk to our representatives about potential funding for the City’s Wastewater Treatment Plant expansion. This expansion, which will take place over the next several years, will likely be equal to the costs of the Thornton Street Extension. And this council will have difficult choices to make in terms of precisely how to pay for it. City staff are shaking every tree, at every level of government, for support.
This long day and a half concluded with Western Washington University students presenting their initial responses on a vision for Downtown Ferndale to interested stakeholders and City staff. This vision, combined with other programs and changes currently underway, are hoped to dramatically transform our core area.
All in all, an historic week for Ferndale. It is an exciting time to be part of this community. There are big changes ahead, and while we must still take time to address day-to-day issues (such as our credit card policies and the purchase of books), these big plans are those that excite our souls.
See you Tuesday – Jori
EDITOR’S NOTE: Items D and following have been moved down on the agenda and Item D is now a staff request for the councilmembers to approve an emergency declaration. According to the Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC), a “Declaration of Emergency” is a preliminary step to requesting a “Proclamation of Emergency” from the Governor and requesting state and federal assistance.
The public is encouraged to attend City Council meetings. They are held on the 1st and 3rd Mondays of each month (the Tuesday following in case of a holiday) at 6pm in the City Hall Annex in the Council Chambers at 5694 2nd Avenue.