13 Jun Commission Meeting Minutes 5-31-23
PORT COMMISSION OF THE PORT OF EDMONDS MINUTES OF SPECIAL MEETING
(Via Zoom, Hybrid Meeting) May 31, 2023 5pm
Steve Johnston, President
Jim Orvis, Vice President
Jay Grant, Secretary
STAFF PRESENT FOR BUSINESS MEETING ONLY
Angela Harris, Executive Director
Brandon Baker, Director of Marina Operations
Tina Drennan, Manager of Finance and Accounting
Jordan Stephens, Port Attorney
Dave Teitzel, Edmonds City Council
CALL TO ORDER
President Johnston called the meeting to order at 5:00 p.m.
COMMISSIONER CANDIDATE INTERVIEWS
Commissioner Johnston announced that Former Commissioner Angela Harris is now Executive Director of the Port. As a result, a general solicitation for potential Commissioner candidates was posted on the Port’s website on May 4, 2023 and on MyEdmondsNews online newspaper on May 8, 2023. It was also published in the Everett Herald on May 9, 2023. Three applicants were received, all of who are qualified to represent District 1. The Commissioners have reviewed each of the applications, and the purpose of this meeting is for the Commissioners to interview each applicant. Following the interviews, the Commission will meet in Executive Session to discuss the candidates. They will probably come to a decision at the regular meeting following the Executive Session. The new Commissioner will be sworn in at the next regular Commission meeting on June 12th.
Applicant – Darrol Haug
• Question 1 by Commissioner Johnston — What interests you about the Port? Mr. Haug answered that after his retirement, volunteerism became very important to him. He has been involved with a variety of City, educational and charity works. He has reached a point where his plate is too full, and it is necessary to focus more on specific opportunities to make a contribution. In his work for the City, including the Economic Development Commission for years, it became quite important for him to do the best he could for all the citizens of Edmonds. That means spending tax dollars wisely, engaging with the public, etc. The Port Commission and staff have done a great job of running the Port for the past 75 years. While they can always do more, they accomplish what they attempt to do in very fine fashion and the public recognizes that.
Mr. Haug said he believes that with his background in volunteer work, especially within the confines of the City, he could help the Commission understand how to bridge citizen requirements with what the Port can do. The Port has powers, capabilities and motivation that the City does not have.
• Question 2 by Commissioner Johnston – In your experience in volunteering and serving on boards, etc. what would you consider to be your greatest successes and frustrations? Mr. Haug answered that his greatest success was helping the City orchestrate the whole notion of a strategic plan, which was a major accomplishment for the City. He was one of only two citizen volunteers on the committee that shepherded the entire process from hiring a consultant, to managing the consultant work, public involvement, etc. The plan has served the City very well. His greatest disappointment has been with budget work. It has become extremely difficult to get people to look at budgetary issues, and he has been writing white papers to provide the City Council with the background information they need to make these decisions. The City’s wish list is always larger than what can be accomplished. The current Comprehensive Plan update is a type of strategic plan. Its impacts are not fully understood yet, but the Port will have to take a very aggressive role in examining the impacts and identifying the outcomes they would like to achieve and how to accomplish them. This will be a major challenge, and the work must be completed within the next 15 months.
• Question 3 by Commissioner Grant – Other than a 30-minute phone call to the former Executive Director, the Port was basically presented with the Waterfront Plan, which is an element of the City’s Comprehensive Plan, and some of the information was inaccurate. Considering that the Port owns half of the waterfront in Edmonds, Commissioner Grant is afraid that the City will complete the current Comprehensive Plan update without Port involvement. How would you deal with this situation? Mr. Haug observed that the City has a lot of new struggles, in particular affordable housing. It would be his thought that the Port could quietly and effectively begin to engage in helping the City with some of those issues. While the Port can’t actually build the housing, they could help the City Council better understand the issues and remove politics from issues related to the Comprehensive Plan. The Port has great insight and can take a lead role into what is going on west side of the railroad tracks. They need to engage with the City and work on these issues before the agenda has been set. While the City will accommodate public input, it will likely be controlled. The Port can interface with the City in different ways, right now, to begin to build a stronger relationship and, therefore, have an entrée into the Comprehensive Plan.
• Question 4 by Commissioner Orvis. The Port has been through this process a number of times and has been remarkably unsuccessful in even gaining a small amount of City attention. While he understands the Port should engage and influence the City, the Commission has never figured out how to do that. To date, there has been a lack of interest in anything the Port has to say. How do you overcome the inertia at the City level to even be able to have a voice? Mr. Haug responded that rather than the Port taking its answer to the City, they should try to work on the City’s problem from the Port’s perspective. If they can begin to help the City sort out some of the complicated issues, you gain credibility and trust.
Commissioner Grant said he met with Susan McLaughlin, Planning and Development Director, back when Makers first presented the draft Waterfront Plan to try and start that process. He has had multiple discussions with the City Council President, as well. The Port opened the door, but no one has come through it yet. Mr. Haug said it is important to consider the current environment. The City Council is totally different than when the Port presented its plan for Harbor Square years ago. Their objective and game plan are totally different and will continue to change in a more robust, cooperative fashion. For example, they are taking over the budget process rather than having it handed to them for final approval. He sees the City Council becoming far more engaged, and the Port has the opportunity to engage in those budgetary issues for which they have a large interest. This can help evolve the type of cooperation that is problem-solving. The Port has an excellent reputation for evaluating things correctly, understanding the roles and responsibilities, considering the options, and then presenting them in a logical way. That same kind of strategy is what the Port can now do to help the City Council evaluate some of the basic issues they struggle with. If you do that now, you can control part of the interaction as the Comprehensive Plan update moves forward.
• Question 5 by Commissioner Grant. What would you do different as far as communications? Mr. Haug pointed out that the Port District is far larger that the Port. The Port operates on the west side of the tracks south of Dayton Street and Harbor Square up to SR-104. The Port’s primary turf has only businesses, yet the citizens living within the Port District are taxed. The Port should take some form of initiative to engage with the citizens where they are. The City is trying to engage all seven of its districts in different ways than has been done before, and that will be good for the community. The Port could take a lead role in reaching out to all citizens in the community. For example, The City is trying to accomplish neighborhood-type development at Five Corners and Firdale Village, and the Port could play a role in helping the City move forward. There are opportunities for the Port to assist the community on things they are skilled at doing. It may not be direct Port business, but it could result in economic development opportunities, which is part of the Port’s mission.
• Question 6 by Commissioner Preston. What do you know about the Port’s current plans for the North Portwalk and Seawall Restoration Project? Mr. Haug said he has sat in on a number of Commission meetings where the project has been discussed, and he understands that it is massive and necessary. The design work that has been done to date is really great. This is a critical project for the community, and the funding aspect will be a major step beyond design. Through the Commission’s good work, he is sure that it will happen and they will end up with sufficient funds to do the job right, and they are on the right track for obtaining the needed grant funding.
• Question 7 by Commissioner Orvis. This is a big project that will dramatically impact the community, yet it’s very difficult to engage community interest. What are your ideas for soliciting feedback from the community? Mr. Haug said he has discussed the project with his neighbors. It is always a challenge to engage the community because people tend to not pay attention until something impacts them directly. There are opportunities to work on additional access to the waterfront.
• Question 8 by Commissioner Grant. Is there anything else you want to tell the Commission? Mr. Haug said his final thought is that solving problems is more than saying this is the answer, and I’ll sell you the solution. Solving problems takes a combination of ideas. When he worked for Bell Laboratories in long-range planning, they were trying to design the break up of the Bell System. They had to deal with the manufacturing, regulatory and user sides, and no single answer came from any single point. Blending the answers from all sides resulted in a better solution. People didn’t get everything they chose, but they got plenty, and the community and nation was better served. With problem solving, the Port can try to be the grown up in the room to help analyze the options from all sides. He has skills, background and experience with the City that he hopes to share with the Commission.
Applicant – Alan Lawrence
• Question 1 by Commissioner Johnston — What interests you about the Port? Mr. Lawrence said he is a lifelong outdoorsman, boater, and fisherman and has kept a boat in the water since he moved to Puget Sound in 1988. He said he hasn’t done anything that required a fair amount of time for a while, besides being a trustee at the Edmonds Yacht Club. He has a fairly deep financial background, with a long history of business in Edmonds. He has been involved in a lot of volunteer activities, most notably the Center for the Arts for the past nine years, with three years as president. He and his wife are still involved in other groups, but not to that detailed of a level. He believes he would be a good fit for the Port Commission.
• Question 2 by Commissioner Johnston – In all your volunteer and business work, what would you consider to be your greatest successes and frustrations? Mr. Lawrence responded that, when working with a volunteer board, you can’t fire anyone. You won’t see eye-to-eye with everyone, but you need to be collaborators. We live in a world where collaboration and communication are vital, and he considers himself a moderate, swing voter who can see both sides. He tends to be fiscally conservative and socially more liberal. Sometimes people have personal agendas that aren’t really the mission of the group, but you must allow them to have their time. This can be frustrating. He was pleased that the Center for the Arts got through the pandemic with help from the Federal Government. It was a tough time, particularly for the arts and restaurants. The Cascade Symphony went through a difficult time when he was on the board years ago, but now the Cascade Symphony concerts are very popular.
• Question 3 by Commissioner Orvis – When you look at the next few years, what do you see for the Port? Mr. Lawrence said he sees a lot of challenges and the need for a lot of financial support. The County and City have a lot of demands for their money, too, and there are a lot of loud groups right now. He would like to be one of the persuasive groups that are able to find funding and things that need a home. At times, it can be hard to shake the viewpoint that only wealthy boaters can enjoy the marina because people don’t fully understand the Port’s true scope. People use the boardwalk at all hours of the day, and it is a lovely amenity for the City. There is a reason that realtors picture the Port and water when running ads for homes that are for sale within the Port District. The Port is a tremendous asset to the community. The state has also mandated a lot of environmental policies that are challenging to meet. At the same time, a lot of the policies are the right thing to do. As a recreational fisherman and boater, he doesn’t want the Sound full of runoff from automobiles or overflow from the wastewater treatment plant. The Port’s job is to buy financial and emotional support from a relatively small part of Edmonds. It would be nice to expand the Port District to cover more people and have more resources. A lot of people beyond the Port District and Edmonds community consider the Edmonds waterfront their waterfront. Commissioner Grant noted that in the election of 1948, the Port District was identified as all of Edmonds and all of Woodway. He has been considering this issue and collecting opinions from various people regarding a potential expansion. However, he recognizes that a vote would be required.
• Question 4 by Commissioner Grant – After reading all of the Port’ minutes back numerous years, he learned that one of the Port’s challenges has always been the ebbs and tides when working with the City. There have been times of great cooperation and other times of non-cooperation. What would you look at when working with the City of Edmonds? Mr. Lawrence answered that the Edmonds Center for the Arts has had a lot of interaction with the City, particularly regarding the bond issuance and financing. When he first arrived in 1988, he needed a 2-meter satellite dish on the roof of a building at 405 Main Street. Satellite dishes were unheard of at that time, and he was required to go before the Architectural Design Board and appeal before the City Council. He must have made a reasonable impression, as three City Council Members ended up being his clients. He pointed out that some mayors are predisposed to understand the big pictures and others are not. He has been approached with the idea of running for City Council but declined. At the same time, they need people to serve in that capacity. He expressed his belief that they need to move towards a City Executive format of government as opposed to a mayor format. He would be interested in finding something that the mayor can find political capital in by helping the Port.
When talking to people, Commissioner Grant said he finds there is more perception as opposed to fact about certain situations. As you may or may not know, the Port tried years ago to do a program at Harbor Square. A view study was done by the University of Washington that proved going up higher in certain areas wouldn’t block any views. Regardless of that fact, there was significant opposition. Mr. Lawrence commented that so much is based on comments provided by members of the public who speak at City Council meetings regardless of whether or not the comments are supported by facts. This happened when there was a proposal to raise building heights in the downtown by three or four feet to accommodate one to two floors of residential space above commercial space to make redevelopment pencil out. Commissioner Grant said he has found that many of the “not in my backyard” people haven’t lived in Edmonds for very long. Edmonds has changed a lot since he was a child.
Mr. Lawrence pointed out that social media can influence public opinion, as well. Certain groups are attracted to social media groups, and the information they receive might be inaccurate. This can be overcome with a lot of outreach and transparency and communication. The Port Commission is just a small group and doesn’t have the ability to influence thousands of voters on their own.
• Question 5 by Commissioner Grant. What were your biggest challenges with the Edmonds Center for the Arts that you were able to overcome. Mr. Lawrence said his biggest challenges were funding and inappropriately spent money. There were two agendas. One was that we live to serve the community and expose them to all types of entertainments. You can only do that if you have a connected hose to the State Legislature for funding. The financial reality was that the Center for the Arts was really designed as a rental facility with limited performances, and it became a performance facility that turned a lot of nights dark for rentals. Rentals are very lucrative. When you turn away ten or twenty weekend rentals a night, you lose a significant amount of revenue. His orchestra just rented space for nearly $5,000 for a dress rehearsal and concert in the hall. He summarized that while he loves the social aspect, the fiscal aspect frustrates him. Some donors turned away because they didn’t like the approach.
• Question 6 by Commissioner Preston. What do you know about the Port’s current plans for the North Portwalk and Seawall Restoration Project? Mr. Lawrence responded that the project has been discussed at the Edmonds Yacht Club Trustee meetings. He understands it must be done, but recognizes it will have a significant impact to tenants. There won’t be any new marinas, so they really need to preserve the existing one. Recreational boating is important to a lot of people. He understands that the project will be a real challenge to the Port from a financial standpoint, and they will need the support of local and state government officials and other powerful allies who will help push through the Port’s interests.
• Question 7 by Commissioner Orvis. As a tenant, how can the Port communicate better with the tenants and boaters, or do they do okay? Mr. Lawrence answered that the main communication tenants receive from the Port is a bill every month. He doesn’t believe a lot of boaters would come to a special event such as a barbecue. He suggested they give some thought to walking the docks on sunny afternoons, shaking hands with tenants and inviting them to contact Commissioners and/or staff for information and help.
• Question 8 by Commissioner Grant. Do you have any questions for the Commission? Mr. Lawrence complimented the Commission on the job they are doing and commented that transparency in communication is cheap but he isn’t sure it can be done by simply sending out an e-newsletter. It might be more influential for Commissioners to visit the docks on a Friday afternoon when tenants are getting ready to go out. He asked if the new Administration/Maintenance Building would have public space that could be rented out, and Commissioner Orvis answered affirmatively. He observed that Edmonds has a shortage of places for groups to meet at a reasonable price, and that is the Port’s intent for the Commission Meeting Room.
Applicant – Janelle Cass
• Question 1 by Commissioner Johnston. What interests you about the Port? Ms. Cass said she has lived in Edmonds for 16 years. She grew up sailing and has been a Port tenant for 10 years. She has a strong passion for the water. She followed her father’s footsteps and studied environmental engineering at the Airforce Academy. Her father is a great sailor and lover of the environment and was Senior Advisor on Air Pollution to Presidents Ford and Carter. She served as a bioenvironmental engineer in the Air Force, and originally thought she would become a pilot before she realized she would have to serve in some very landlocked places. She is happy to be home in Washington State.
Ms. Cass said that while she served in the Air Force, she was able to do National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) sampling so stormwater compliance is in her wheelhouse. Having access to the water is very special about Edmonds. The fact that the Port is so well run and makes access its core mission really draws her to serving on the Commission. She loves that the Port is also driven to find economic opportunities for the community. In addition to serving in the Air Force, she has worked for the Federal Government’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). She is also an entrepreneur at heart, and having a business in Edmonds helps connect her to the different kinds of businesses that are offered at the Port. Commissioner Johnston pointed out that about 600 people work on Port property.
• Question 2 by Commissioner Johnston. What do you know about the Port’s current plans for the North Portwalk and Seawall Restoration Project? Ms. Cass answered that she learned about the project while touring with the Port a few years ago with Mr. McChesney, the Port’s former Executive Director. At that time, she thought of all of the environmental permitting issues the Port would have to deal with. As an Environmental Engineer for the FAA, she was responsible for doing the Phase 1 and 2 work such as permitting and outreach to a variety of environmental groups, including tribal nation leaders, to make sure they had all the information and were doing everything correctly. She said she anticipates the project will be very challenging, as anything in the water seems to be times two. She finds environmental work quite exciting, which is one of the reasons she believes Port Commissioner will be a really good fit for her. She wants to serve the community, and her technical background will allow her to potentially help the Port save time and money.
• Question 3 by Commissioner Johnston. Do you have any sense on what the relationship between the Port, City and other jurisdictions might be? Ms. Cass responded that the Port should have great relationships with the City of Edmonds, and she gets the impression that they work really hard to collaborate. She doesn’t know if that has been reciprocated. Commissioner Johnston said it has been to a point, as the City Council appoints a representative to serve as liaison to the Port. However, a little more outreach would certainly be appropriate. Ms. Cass said that, with the train and the water, incident issues such as derailments or environmental releases need to be addressed and several organizations will have to work collaboratively. The City has a new Emergency Response Coordinator, and they are starting committees. Commissioner Grant said he serves on the Tsunami and Earthquake Regional Program, and also works with the United States Coast Guard. He said he has been involved with incident management at ports, and he also worries about the trains, etc.
Commissioner Orvis said one major concern for the Port is environmental compliance at the boatyard. Commissioner Johnston added that, so far, the Port has been in compliance due to staff’s hard work. However, compliance will likely become more difficult due to new boatyard requirements. Commissioner Grant said he recently learned that a group out of Oregon is using the Clean Water Act as a basis for successfully suing a lot of ports, both large and small. Commissioner Orvis added that the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance is notorious for this as well. These actions have reduced the number of marinas in Washington State by half since 2005.
• Question 4 by Commissioner Grant. We have had king tides recently that have come right up to the edge of the waterfront. Through Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) money over the years, Edmonds installed pumps, but flooding still happens and most recently a few businesses on Port property had to close. The water is currently pumped right back into the sea. While not directly involved, he worked with the Ports of New York and New Jersey and spent a lot of time working with Rotterdam, who is expert in water management. He has been particularly interested in how the Port deals with flooding during high tides. It’s a big challenge to ensure the things they do today don’t impact the situation further. Do you have any thoughts about flooding and stormwater management? Ms. Cass said she would start by researching places that have similar flooding issues. The Air Force taught her that whenever you look at something, you start by gathering data, observing and evaluating prior to starting the engineering work to determine what makes the most sense and is the most affordable and cost-effective solution. Commissioner Orvis pointed out that the marina is not harmed by the high tides, but people need to be notified in advance if they are in areas that are prone to flooding. It was noted that Harbor Square is the most flood-prone area on Port property. Ms. Cass asked how frequent king tides have been occurring, and Commissioner Johnston answered that the most impactful ones happen approximately once each year. Commissioner Orvis added that when the wind blows from the northwest, there is a wind surge that adds one to two feet to the tide. Then the water floods back and the intersection at SR-104 and Dayton Street experiences significant flooding. The marsh is connected to that same area, and the pumps simply pump the water back into the water. Commissioner Grant pointed out that FEMA has come out with some quite strict guidelines.
• Question 5 by Commissioner Orvis. The Port is actually financially stable, but this project will cost about $30 million. The only way it will get done is with grant money from outside. How would you approach the Port’s quest for grants to fund the North Portwalk and Seawall Rehabilitation Project? Commissioner Johnston noted that the Port has hired a consultant to help the Port lobby for grant funding. Commissioner Orvis agreed that the consultant will be crucial, but it also really helps to have in-house people who understand and can oversee the consultant’s work. Commissioner Preston observed that Ms. Cass’s engineering background would also be a valuable asset for the project. Ms. Cass said that with both the Air Force and the FAA, she was trained to be the contracting officer’s technical representative. When spending taxpayer dollars, it must be done with a keen eye, making sure contractors meet the statement of work, etc. She summarized that she has served as technical oversight for taxpayer projects costing several million dollars. Oftentimes, she has had to hold their feet to the fire to make sure they fulfil their contractual obligations. Commissioner Orvis noted that, unlike most ports, the Port of Edmonds has primarily paid for projects from its own resources. Stepping out into this large project that will require grant funding is a new direction that the Port hasn’t had any prior experience with. Commissioner Grant pointed out that for almost 25 years, the Port had its own structural engineer, and he isn’t sure when this position was eliminated.
• Question 6 by Commissioner Johnston. As a tenant, what do you think the Port could do better? Ms. Cass said things were a bit rocky at first with parking permit requirements, etc., but this has gotten better, and they have been happy as tenants. She has heard some tenants are concerned about excessive electrolysis. Her zincs tend to wear down fast, and she has had some damage to her boat. Commissioner Orvis said this is an issue in many marinas, and the Port had a program for monitoring the situation by checking boats. Oftentimes when people install things on their boat, the grounding gets messed up. Ms. Cass suggested that outreach and education would be a great place to start. Commissioner Orvis said the Port has offered classes on this very thing, and the Edmonds Yacht Club works to educate its members, too. Commissioner Johnston expressed his belief that the Port is doing a pretty good job with outreach, as they haven’t heard a lot of complaints. At the same time, they charge premium prices and should do whatever they can to make the services better.
• Question 7 by Commissioner Grant. Do you have any questions for the Commission? Ms. Cass asked if any of the Commissioners are currently or have been tenants in the marina. Commissioners Preston and Johnston answered that they had been tenants.
• Question 8 by Commissioner Orvis. As a tenant, what project and/or change would you want to push forward? Again, Ms. Cass said the electrolysis issue should be addressed since it is both a safety and environmental concern. She said she feels her boat is safe and secure in the marina.
RECESS TO EXECUTIVE SESSION
At 6:25 p.m., Commissioner Johnston announced that the Commission would move into Executive Session pursuant to RCW 42.30.110(1)(h) to evaluate the qualifications of a candidate for appointment to elective office. He announced the Executive Session would start at 6:30 p.m. and last 25 minutes, concluding a 6:55 p.m. At the conclusion of the Executive Session, the Commission would return to the Commission meeting with action expected.
At 6:55 p.m., Commissioner Johnston announced that the Executive Session would be extended for 10 minutes, until 7:05 p.m.
CLOSE EXECUTIVE SESSION
At 7:05 p.m., the Commission returned to the Commission meeting with potential action expected.
COMMENCE REGULAR PORTION OF BUSINESS MEETING AT 7:00
The Commission commenced the regular portion of the Business Meeting at 7:05 p.m.
All those in attendance participated in the Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag.
COMMISSIONER PRESTON MOVED THAT THE CONSENT AGENDA BE APPROVED TO INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING ITEMS:
A. APPROVAL OF AGENDA
B. APPROVAL OF APRIL 24, 2023 AND MAY 8, 2023 MEETING MINUTES, AS SUBMITTED
C. APPROVAL OF PAYMENTS IN THE AMOUNT OF $6,585,551.02
COMMISSIONER GRANT SECONDED THE MOTION, WHICH CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
There were no public comments.
POSSIBLE ACTION: COMISSIONER CANDIDATE SELECTION
Commissioner Johnston announced that the Commission just concluded interviews with three excellent candidates. The Commission had discussion in Executive Session and will now either make a decision with regard to the new appointment or table it for more discussion at a future meeting.
Commissioner Johnston said he was impressed with the quality of all three candidates. However, he leans towards Janelle Cass, given her environmental and engineering background and the Port’s three years of environmental engineering challenges ahead with the North Portwalk and Seawall Reconstruction Project.
Commissioner Preston concurred with Commissioner Johnston. He likes Ms. Cass’s background, which could provide the Port with another set of engineering eyes for the North Portwalk and Seawall Reconstruction Project. It would be good to have her perspective on the Commission. All the candidates had good community service experience.
Commissioner Grant said he was also very impressed with all three candidates. He carefully considered the management skills of the candidates. All the Commissioners bring knowledge to the Port as far as oversight on projects, and that’s important.
Commissioner Orvis said he also leans towards Ms. Cass. He is very concerned about engineering oversight for the next three or four years. He was also impressed with her enthusiasm, which is something that can easily translate into taking part in things. The Port, including him, has been somewhat neglectful when it comes to participating in environmental committees of the Washington Public Port Association and other agencies. It is important to maintain an influence outside of the Port, and he felt Ms. Cass has both the energy and time to accomplish this task. His hope is that the Port will take part in more statewide activities in the future because they have a lot to offer.
COMMISSIONER ORVIS MOVED THE COMMISSION APPOINT CANDIDATE JANELLE CASS TO BE THE NEXT COMMISSIONER REPRESENTING DISTRICT 1 EFFECTIVE JUNE 1, 2023. COMMISSIONER PRESTON SECONDED THE MOTION, WHICH CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY.
The Commissioners expressed thanks to all three candidates. All were outstanding candidates and the decision was difficult.
CITY OF EDMONDS REPORT
Councilmember Teitzel recalled that there has been discussion about the Fishing Pier Parking Lot recently, particularly between he and Commissioner Grant. Last week Council President Tibbott met with Mayor Nelson to discuss the issue, and Mayor Nelson is now tuned into the need to update the contract that governs how the City and Port will manage the parking lot going forward. The Mayor and City Attorney will be in touch with the Port and its attorney soon.
Councilmember Teitzel reported that there were two items on the City Council’s May 23rd Meeting Agenda related to the marsh. One was a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) for potential purchase of the Unocal property. The other item was a letter to Governor Inslee requesting a meeting to discuss the State retaining ownership once the sale with Unocal is completed. The sale is currently pending the Department of Ecology’s (DOEs) sign-off of the cleanup. He explained that the majority of the City Council approved the MOU, which is a non-binding commitment on both sides to explore the purchase further. The letter to Governor Inslee explores another option for the State, once it obtains ownership, to retain ownership into the future and partner with the City of Edmonds in restoration efforts. This letter was tabled by the majority of the Council. The current plan is to send a letter to WSDOT informing them that the MOU has been approved and that the City intends to send the letter to Governor Inslee. Once the letter to the WSDOT goes out, the City Council will untable the letter to Governor Inslee and hopefully get it sent on. The majority of the City Council was concerned that sending a letter directly to the governor would short-circuit discussions with WSDOT, and the intent is to make sure that WSDOT is fully in the loop. There is more work to be done, and the City will be talking to the Port as the matter proceeds, as the outcome will have an impact on the Port.
Commissioner Grant said he researched Councilmember Teitzel’s question about payment to the Pantley’s way back when, and the record indicates that it was all paid. There were many meetings in 1982 that are documented not only in Port minutes, but also City Council minutes, and his research will continue. An ordinance was passed for the parking lot, and although updates were required per the contract, the contract was never updated after Pantley left. He summarized that there is a lot of information leading up to the contract and why it is the way it is. There was actually going to be a lawsuit involved because the City wanted to subdivide it in half. Basically, the two parties came together and resolved the issue. He suggested this information would provide good context for those working to update the contract.
Councilmember Teitzel recalled that he has also had discussions with Commissioner Grant about if and how revenue from parking citations from the parking lot should be split between the Port and the City. This should be addressed in the updated contract, as well.
Executive Director Harris asked if the City or Port would take the lead on drafting the updated contract, and Councilmember Teitzel said he isn’t sure at this point.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S REPORT
Executive Director Harris reported that the Administration/Maintenance Building Project is on track and looking good. Staff walked through the building today, and they are still targeting early September to move in. There have been a few change orders, but with the exception of the Commission Meeting Room modifications, they have been fairly minimal. One ethernet cabling tie-in had to be switched, and there will be a larger change order for the crosswalk. She said she has been super impressed with how staff is managing the project. There are great partnerships internally, as well as with the contractors.
Ms. Harris said staff is looking to kick off the rebranding project soon. They are currently having pre-kick-off discussions about how to go about the project, and they would like to have a workshop discussion with the Commissioners and the consultant to learn more about how the Commission envisions the Port and its history. Rather than combining this workshop with the upcoming retreat, staff would like to keep it as a separate meeting. She suggested a special meeting at the end of June and agreed to send out an email with a few proposed dates.
Ms. Harris said she is working on some one-page updates on each of the Port’s current projects, including the North Portwalk and Seawall Reconstruction and rebranding. She noted that the North Portwalk and Seawall Reconstruction Project will include a number of sub-projects (permitting, design, funding), and she wants to ensure clear understanding of how the Commission will be involved in each one and what is expected as far as staff/Commission engagement.
Ms. Harris reported that the storage shed by Anthony’s Restaurant caught fire on Sunday May 28th. The Fire Department believes the fire was started by a cigarette butt that had been smoldering for a while. Security staff smelled smoke and called at 10:00 p.m. on Sunday night, which was fortunate since the floor was very hot and the fire was close to igniting. The shed will have to be inspected to confirm it is structurally sound.
Ms. Harris said she contacted the Commissioners previously about an incident on Monday, May 29th, where a tenant was a few miles off shore and the Fire Department and Coast Guard were called in to negotiate with him. Staff was only involved at the end of the incident when the boat was brought back in.
Ms. Harris reported that the north Minuteman Launcher at Dry Storage broke down on Tuesday, May 30th. The oil leak prompted assessment and repairs, and Port staff and Everett Engineering removed the hydraulic cylinder this morning and are waiting on an answer to see if it can be rebuilt or if a replacement will be needed. Mr. Baker added that the Port was able to rent some crane equipment to expediate the removal of the failed cylinder. Everett Engineering is researching cost estimates and a timeline for rebuild versus replace.
Ms. Harris reported that the south Public Launch is functional, but the scale is not active. The parts have been ordered, and the launcher should be back in service by Friday afternoon if the parts arrive on time. Lastly, she reported that a water line broke on the west side of N Dock extension. Maintenance staff made a temporary repair and restored water to the dock, but working on the pipe requires an outside contractor. Staff has already reached out to get this work scheduled. Commissioner Grant asked if this situation was unexpected. Mr. Baker explained that the water line is mounted under the dock with a U-bracket. Over time, the metal has worn on the plastic material until it punctured a hole. Commissioner Grant asked if this is something that would have normally been checked at some point. Mr. Baker said they are checked. However, the way this particular one is mounted, the only way to tell what is going on would be to go underneath the dock. He said he doesn’t know the age of the line, and Ms. Drennan said it might be the original 1985 installation.
Ms. Harris said she has been having discussions with staff to figure things out internally with the changeover. Staff has been fantastic, and it has been eye opening to see all they do to support the Port. A lot of work goes into running the Port, and they do a great job.
COMMISSIONER’S COMMENTS AND COMMITTEE REPORTS
Commissioner Preston said he was sad to see Mr. McChesney leave, but he is excited about Mr. Baker and Executive Director Harris working together.
Commissioner Preston said he has had the idea of walking the docks with a clipboard, asking people who walk by questions about the Port, including what zip code they live in, what do they like and dislike about the portwalk, etc. This could help them get a better feel for who uses the portwalk. Port Attorney Stephens asked if the City has contracts with data companies that use cell phones to collect information about the people who visit. She knows that other cities use this technology.
Commissioner Preston suggested they have a discussion about what the new Commission Meeting Room could be used for. Could the Port offer the space to community groups at no cost, or would there need to be a small charge? Ms. Drennan said staff has prepared some recommendations to share with Ms. Harris. Because of the cost of the facility and other issues, the Port’s insurance company recommends that groups be required to sign an agreement and have insurance, etc. Staff spends quite a bit of time setting up and cleaning up, so they should probably charge something, as well. Commissioner Grant noted that local 501c3 organizations with liability insurance can use the Waterfront Center meeting rooms free of charge. Port Attorney Stephens suggested there needs to be some discussion about forms and processes that spell out the Port’s insurance expectation, etc. She cautioned against allowing groups to use the meeting room free of charge because it will take some staff time to process applications, and set up and cleanup following the events and this could be interpreted as a “gift of public funds.”
Commissioner Grant asked if the Port’s legal requirements would be different than those of the Waterfront Center and Edmonds Center for the Arts when it comes to renting out meeting room space. Port Attorney Stephens said she isn’t familiar enough with these other two entities to comment on whether or not it is legal for them to allow groups to use meeting rooms free of charge. Staff agreed to work with the Port Attorney to prepare a recommendation to the Commission, and it will likely include at least a minimal charge.
Commissioner Grant said he has been looking at data items. He sent an email to the Athletic Club, requesting zip code information for their members, and he is amazed by how far some people come to patronize Harbor Square Athletic Club. He referred to the technology referenced earlier by Port Attorney Stephens to collect data from visitors, noting that it is used all the time for tourism purposes. The data that is collected is generic and doesn’t include any personal information.
Commissioner Grant said he recently reviewed the Port’s signage plan and suggested that some tenants at Harbor Square are out of compliance. He suggested they review this as part of the upcoming branding exercise.
Commissioner Grant said he has attended a number of City meetings, noting that the City Council recently passed zoning changes for Highway 99 but they are still working on the Development Code update. Following his discussions with Councilmember Teitzel regarding the Fishing Pier Parking Lot, he researched and found that the City and Port aren’t splitting the money from parking citations. He recalled that there was some dispute with the original contract, and it was subsequently amended following resolution of the dispute. He said the ordinance related to the parking lot was never updated after the Pantley’s left, and it had to do with a change in the number of parking stalls. From conversations he has had with others, he knew there was an agreement with the Senior Center that allowed people to use the parking lot for overflow. Recently, Ms. Drennan located an Interlocal Agreement that was signed in 2006 between the City and Port that allows for up to ten parking spots from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. during the week with a permit for staff only with parking permits. The Commission agreed that this issue should be discussed further in a future Executive Session.
Commissioner Orvis reported that he attended the Economic Alliance of Snohomish County (EASC) Coffee Chat regarding homelessness and housing. The Mayor of Mountlake Terrace commented that “What I want doesn’t matter. What our children want matters 30 years forward.” Higher densities, taller buildings and fewer choices will be needed, and this won’t impact the older generation. Recognizing that cars won’t likely be any better in the future, she suggested they should be striving to ensure that the situation doesn’t get worse. From another source, he read that if they do what they have passed as law, by 2035 people will be retaining their older gasoline cars.
Commissioner Orvis said that, at the Coffee Chat, it was noted that the only way to solve homelessness was to have more housing. Chris Collier from the Alliance for Affordable Housing pointed out that the average cost for housing was $1,100 per month per person compared to using hospitals ($3,000 per day per person) and jails ($7,070 per day per person). His point was that it is foolish to say we don’t want to pay for more housing, because we are already paying for it, and building new housing is cheaper than doing what we are doing now because housing people in hospitals and jails is costly. Commissioner Preston commented that simply building more housing is just putting a band aid on a gushing wound, and preventing homelessness never gets talked about. They must stop homelessness from happening by recognizing one of the root causes is the systemic breakdown of families. Commissioner Orvis pointed out that cities with the biggest homeless problems are places that are very expensive and more desirable because there simply aren’t enough houses for everyone. Commissioner Preston said there are different aspects of homelessness, such as a single-mother who can’t afford a place to live versus someone with an addiction or mental health problem. Commissioner Orvis agreed but emphasized that part of the problem is caused by the shortage and high-cost of housing and it is cheaper to provide more housing than to house people in hospitals and jails. Providing housing equates to a higher tax base, as well.
While he recognized that a number of homeless people have addictions or mental illness, Commissioner Orvis said that from his experience volunteering at the Union Gospel Mission, many of the people who came each night for a meal had jobs but just couldn’t afford housing. More housing will be needed if the goal is to drive down the cost so people with jobs can afford to live here. Commissioner Grant said he recently read that the median cost of a home in Edmonds now exceeds $1.25 million, which is 260% over the national average, making them one of the most unaffordable cities in the United States. Somewhere in this metropolitan area there needs to be sufficient numbers of housing.
Commissioner Johnston reported on his attendance at the annual Washington Public Port Association (WPPA) meeting, where the venue was nice and the food was okay, but the program was a little lightweight. The biggest take away is that the WPPA is up and operational again. Eric ffitch is going to be a great Executive Director and he has built a great staff to support him.
Commissioner Johnston announced that the Port would have a busy fishing season from about mid-July to the end of September. He anticipates a lot of activity at the marina during this time. He noted there were a lot of boats out taking advantage of the half-day shrimping season.
Commissioner Johnston said he serves on the WPPA’s Investment Committee that met earlier in the day. The committee looks after the WPPA’s building and dues. Ms. Drennan asked when the WPPA would provide their budget and financial statements that includes the building revenues and expenses, and Commissioner Johnston answered that they would be forthcoming. He announced that the WPPA is working to hire a building management company to look after their building, which is currently full and making extraordinarily good money. He said he is reasonably certain that the WPPA dues will not increase next year, and they may even go down. The Port is the13th largest port in the state by revenue. Commissioner Grant commented that there was a different enthusiasm and commitment at the last WPPA meeting. While it is not perfect, there was significant improvement.
Commissioner Preston announced that the EASC’s June 6th Coffee Chat will focus on cyber security.
Ms. Drennan advised that she and Commissioner Grant would attend the WPPA Finance Seminar next Wednesday to Friday. She reviewed that the WPPA’s Executive Director’s Conference starts on July 13th, and the Commissioner’s Seminar is at the end of July.
Commissioner Grant suggested that they appoint a new Commissioner to serve with him on the Communications Committee as soon as possible. Commissioner Preston noted that he is already on the WPPA Communications Committee and could take on this responsibility, as well. The remainder of the Commission indicated support for Commissioner Preston to serve on the Communications Committee.
Ms. Drennan said she would like to schedule a Finance Committee meeting sometime in the next month or two. She has a handful of issues that need to be discussed.
The Commission meeting was adjourned at 8:00 p.m.
Port Commission Secretary