City council agrees on five more ARPA spending proposals

Acting City Manager Andrew Neiditz discusses the new city manager’s contract.

The Mountlake Terrace City Council at its March 16 meeting decided to fund five new proposals with the city’s allocation of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars.

The council had put off discussing various spending options for the past few months and still has $4.6 million of the original $5.9 million in ARPA funds to spend.

Thursday night, councilmembers discussed 14 proposals from various city departments.

“We ended up with a list of recommendations that total about $1.3 million more than the available funds,” Acting City Manager Andrew Neiditz said. “So, this is not intended to be a balance of budget presentation at all, nor is this intended to suggest to the council that the other things that a number of you have spoken about that are not on the list are not to be considered.”

Neiditz explained the council did not have to make any final decisions that night, but he wanted to reopen the ARPA conversation as the council only has until the end of 2024 to decide how to spend the funds.

Short presentations were given by the city’s parks and recreation, public works, police and IT departments.

The council decided to put five of the 14 funding projects on its Monday night consent agenda. These five projects will cost roughly $2.4 million – about half of the remaining ARPA funds.

The council is planning to approve roughly $1.2 million for a two-year pavement preservation project, which includes a pavement hot box truck to help with street repairs. The council is also planning to approve funding for multiple IT department equipment updates, 30 police body cameras, two back-up generators for Mountlake Terrace City Hall and Fire Station 19 and updated radios that city staff use during emergencies when phone lines are down.

However, councilmembers agreed that funding needs to be made available for all the requests made.

“These are all very important and need to be funded,” Mayor Pro Tem Bryan Wahl said. “Whether it’s through ARPA or some other way, we have to figure out how to be able to fund everything on this list.”

In other business, councilmembers also received a presentation regarding the city’s long-term communication strategy.

Mountlake Terrace Communications Manager Rikki Fruichantie told the council that as staff progress into the new year and start working with the new city manager, they want the council’s opinion on what their focus points should be moving forward.

“We work in a field where everything is important,” Fruichantie said. “But if everything is important, then nothing is important. So, it’s really an everyday triage of what are the high points and what are our main targets?”

Councilmember Erin Murray said she would like to see the city sending out more text notifications about things happening in the city, rather than only sending them for public safety alerts. As someone who rarely uses social media and is constantly inundated with emails, Murray said text is how she feels she’s best connected to the city’s happenings but doesn’t receive as many as she’d like.

However, Councilmember Rick Ryan disagreed with Murray, saying he gets so many texts that receiving any more would be too overwhelming for him. Ryan advised Fruichantie that having a easy-to-navigate website should be the staff’s main focus, as it is a centralized location where Mountlake Terrace residents can get all their information.

“I like having that one-stop shopping,” Ryan said. “And then that means you don’t have to update every social media site.”

Regardless of how messages are being sent to residents, Murray said it is imperative that all city staff work hard to maintain good relationships with the residents of Mountlake Terrace, as that is what makes the city great.

“I do think relationships are a really powerful way that we can get our messages to folks that aren’t necessarily getting them from some of these other ways,” she said. “As part of that, I would hope that we would all be community ambassadors as well as members of the council.”

In addition, the council approved new City Manager Jeff Niten’s contract Thursday night. Niten will begin his duties with the city April 17.

— By Lauren Reichenbach

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