Guess what? We’re still not ‘Deadmonds’Edmonds mayor: City has balanced budget, but must be cautious
It didn’t take long for Mayor Dave Earling to mention the “D” word in his State of the City presentation.
“We still ain’t Deadmonds anymore,” he told an overflow crowd at Edmonds Theater Feb. 9. You may remember that Earling first mentioned the word at last year’s State of the City, reminding all that Edmonds has not been “Deadmonds” for a long time.
Still, some perceptions die slowly.
After that was over, Earling quickly transitioned to touting the city – “We have a balanced and healthy city budget” – while reminding citizens that Edmonds still needs to be cautious about spending in the near future.
“Let's be blunt,” he said. “We have had a marvelous rebound from the 2008 recession. My first year in office in 2012, we had to make dramatic budget cuts. With those cuts, a cautious approach to budgeting, along with an improving economy, we find ourselves in a good financial position today.”
The city’s sales tax revenue has continued its steady ascent, from $4.6 million in 2011 to $6.9 million in 2016, although real estate excise taxes decreased slightly from 2015.
Earling said that the city’s business centers, whether downtown, Highway 99, Westgate or others, are vibrant with energy and activity.
“New businesses keep coming, our real estate transactions are strong and new commercial and residential construction is in a bit of renaissance,” he said. “Bottom line, we have a strong, vibrant economy here in Edmonds. As I have told you many times, I am fairly conservative financially. With the information I just gave you, while I think this year looks financially upbeat for the city, we will proceed cautiously.”
Earling continued with the numbers: By 2040, Washington state is projected to grow from around 7 million people to over 9 million people. According to the Puget Sound Regional Council, greater Puget Sound will grow from 3.8 million people to nearly 5 million people by 2035.
Snohomish County is forecast to grow from about 750,000 people to around 970,000 people. And Edmonds, the third largest city in the county, is forecast to need to grow by another 5,500 people.
Edmonds also is expected to add another 1,000 jobs and to expect the need for another 1,200 housing units.
“All in a city we think of as pretty well built out,” Earling said. “Where and how are we going to make all of this happen? I think this is not a time to procrastinate. It's time for serious plans.”
The mayor then went over several projects in the works to address jobs and growth, which the Beacon has written about over the past year. He singled out two: Highway 99 and Westgate.
Highway 99 consists of a 2-mile stretch with three distinct areas: car dealerships, the International District and the medical area around the Swedish Edmonds campus.
“We are hopeful (a study) will show us how to bridge the area into a cohesive neighborhood, which includes residential over retail and office space along with predestination-friendly areas and improved transportation,” Earling said. “Again, this is an area where we can focus on affordable housing.”
The second project, in Westgate, is a mixed-use development between McDonald's and Bartell Drugs. The design reflects the city's desire to create a walkable center at the 100th Avenue West and Edmonds Way intersection. The design includes 85 apartments – including some designated for affordable housing – in addition to retail space and parking.
Earling said other neighborhoods with similar potential are Five Corners, Perrinville and Firdale Village.
The mayor pointed out a few of the city’s most significant achievements in 2016, including the $8 million signal and interchange at Highway 99 and 228th Street Southwest, and rehabilitation of the 40-year-old fishing pier. The pier is owned by the state, which has requested that Edmonds take ownership of it. The City Council is expected to make a decision on that soon.
In addition, the city successfully completed negotiations with Snohomish County Fire District 1, which serves Edmonds. Earling signed modified language to the city’s 20-year agreement, which provides for advanced life support at all three stations, instead of the previous one station, and saves the city $1.3 million a year.
Earling didn’t forget to point out that the city just held a ribbon cutting for its first downtown restroom, located between Rusty Pelican Cafe and City Hall, and will soon be constructing a tribute to veterans by the Public Safety Complex.
The mayor also cited the increased police presence in town. “With the budget crunch of 2008, we had to make difficult decisions. One was cutting the street crimes unit. We have restored the unit, and it is now moving with great success to reduce residential and commercial burglary, prostitution and narcotics challenges.”
Near completion is the redevelopment of Civic Field, which Earling describes as a legacy project for current and future generations to enjoy. Costs are estimated at between $8 million and $10 million.
Although funds have not yet been secured, the mayor also mentioned a task force’s recommendation for an overpass at Sunset Avenue and Edmonds Street, which will help provide access to the waterfront when trains are stopped on the railroad tracks. The estimated cost is $29 million.
“We have already been in Washington, D.C., and Olympia to introduce the project, and thus far we can report very good initial response from both the Feds and the state,” Earling said.
The search for funds also is ongoing for the planned Edmonds Waterfront Center, which will replace the Senior Center and hold activities for both seniors and the general public.
“We have had great success the past three or four years in building a strong local economy,” Earling said. “I have also let you know the economy always going up is probably not an option. We must continue to be vigilant to generate the revenue to provide for our community’s lifestyle expectations.”