Council approves basement addition for new city hall, learns more about need for roadway repair dollars

A rendering of the planned Mountlake Terrace City Hall.

To accommodate anticipated future growth at the new city hall building, the Mountlake Terrace City Council at its March 18 business meeting unanimously approved a plan to add a 500-square-foot basement for the mechanical/electrical room to the existing city hall design.

The council also heard a report on the city’s pavement management system and future funding needs to prevent further degradation of the city’s roadways.

The vote to add the city hall basement was unanimous — 5-0 — with Mayor Kyoko Matsumoto Wright and Councilmember Laura Sonmore absent. Those absences did prompt a lengthy discussion among the other councilmembers present about whether the council should hold a special meeting to get the missing councilmembers’ input on the decision prior to voting. However, because an immediate decision was required to incorporate the design change into the city hall plans prior to bids being issued, those present decided to take a vote to expedite the matter.

Assistant City Manager Stephen Clifton explained the rationale behind moving the mechanical/electrical room to the basement. By following recommendations from the City Hall Advisory Committee to minimize the square footage — and thus the costs — of the. new City Hall, the result is that the planned 18,000-square-foot building will accommodate 13 offices compared to the current interim City Hall building, which has 18 offices. In addition, the square footage of many office and non-office for areas were reduced and storage areas minimized. The result: The square footage of the new City Hall may be too small to meet the community’s needs as the city grows and more staff positions are added.

Moving the mechanical/electrical room from its current first-floor location to a new basement would open up 500 square feet that could accommodate four to six new employees in the future, Clifton said. The basement addition would be connected to the first floor by an elevator and a stairwell.

The cost of the basement addition would be $268,000, Clifton said. It would be funded by councilmanic bonds, which are similar to voter-approved bonds, but repayment of the debt and interest is made with general government dollars rather than a voter-approved property tax levy.

In 2020 and 2022, the city will be paying off a series of councilmanic bonds, thus reducing the annual debt service costs by approximately $395,000. Once paid off, the city will have additional councilmanic bond capacity available to pay for additional potential expenditures.

According to City Manager Scott Hugill, the city’s financial policies state that when debt is paid off, the dollars used to pay for that debt will be reinvested for new debt. In this way, the city ensures it has the ability to pursue a long-term project every 20 years (rather than putting the dollars into operations).

Clifton told the council that councilmanic bond capacity could also be used to pay for the following in the city hall design:

  1. Use man-made materials for the siding of city hall and the police station rather than cedar siding in order to reduce maintenance and maintain long-term aesthetics
  2. Use asphalt shingle roofing
  3. Address the need for generators, which weren’t included in the initial ARC Architects design. Currently, the police and fire departments share a generator. Instead of acquiring/installing new generators for the police and fire stations, Clifton suggested one cost-effective option would be to retrofit and continue to use the existing generator for the police department –then add a new generator to the fire station. This could make sense since the plan is to eventually remodel the current police station and a new generator could be added at that time, Clifton said. A new generator would also be needed for city hall to accommodate critical needs during a blackout, he said. T

While the basement room will be included in the bid, according to the March 18 vote, the council will have an opportunity to further consider the other proposed changes after construction bids come in, Clifton said.

“Alligator cracking” on 66th Avenue West is a sign of road failure and may require replacement of the road base. (Photo courtesy City of Mountlake Terrace)

In other business, the council heard a report from Public Works Director Eric LaFrance on the status of the city’s pavement program and possible ways to address needed repairs to the city’s streets. LaFrance noted that finding money for needed repairs is challenging because unlike the city’s utilities, rates can’t be increased and grant money is not readily available. That means money needs to come out of the general fund, he said.

The city has 127 lane miles of pavement, and a two-lane road a mile long would count as two lane miles.

In the past, the city has relied on a chip seal program, which is appropriate for roadways in the middle of their useful lives, LaFrance explained. However, roads that have deteriorated too much must then be overlayed with new pavement. Chip sealing is half the cost of an overlay. If a road has degraded to the point of not being eligible for an overlay — and LaFrance pointed to 66th Avenue West as an example of a roadway where that might be possible  — it must be rebuilt. And that process costs three times as much an overlay.

While it makes sense to use Transportation Benefit District money for an ongoing overlay program, the city is current using those funds for the Main Street Project. That money could be available to the city once the Main Street Project is complete, LaFrance said. Of interest is that Initiative 976 — which is being organized by long-time government watchdog Tim Eyman and will appear on the upcoming election ballot — “would take away our Transportation Benefit District. And we would not have those monies coming in every year,” LaFrance said.

Under state law, Transportation Benefit Districts are independent taxing districts that allow cities to collect up to a $20-per-vehicle fee through a vehicle owner’s license tab renewals.

At the end of his presentation, LaFrance told the council to expect a proposed funding request for pavement management during the next budget cycle.t

Also on Tuesday night, the council:

– Authorized the city to submit a draft sewer comprehensive plan to the Washington State Departments of Health and Ecology for review. The council later in the year will have additional discussions on potential rate increases required to fund the plan. See more information on that in our earlier story.

– Approved the appointment of Crystal Gamon to the Recreation & Park Advisory Commission interim term expiring on June 30, 2020, and James Culver to the Planning Commission.

— By Teresa Wippel


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