Council discusses grant funding for Ballinger Park restoration project, affordable housing agreement

Mountlake Terrace City Councilmembers met via Zoom at their work/study session Thursday night.

The Mountlake Terrace City Council at its Sept. 30 work/study session discussed a grant contract with Washington State for funding to help with the Ballinger Park and Hall Creek restoration project. Additional items covered Thursday included talks about an interlocal agreement with the Housing Authority of Snohomish County (HASCO) and reviews of several engineering on-call work orders and other supplemental work contracts.

City staff recommended that the council authorize at its Oct. 4 general business meeting a grant funding agreement between the city and the Washington State Department of Commerce (DOC) that will provide $807,520 to help with construction costs of the Ballinger Park and Hall Creek restoration project.

The restoration project will create new native plant and animal habitats. Hall Creek will run along a more naturally curved channel and additional wetland area enhancements are planned throughout Ballinger Park. Plans also call for improved walking trails and a boardwalk section. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2023.

It is a joint project between the City of Mountlake Terrace and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE). The joint cost share of the project provides that 65% of funding comes from the ACE and 35% from the city. The project is anticipated to cost $5.4 million, nearly $1.9 million of which the city is responsible for.

In 2020, the city was awarded a $194,000 grant for engineering and design work on the project. With the new grant from the DOC, Mountlake Terrace’s estimated cost-share for the project would be reduced to almost $875,000 that will be funded from the city’s stormwater budget.

Two engineering on-call work orders and two other contracts for supplemental work that will be on Monday night’s consent agenda were also reviewed.

Under America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018, the city must develop two documents — a risk and resilience assessment and an emergency response plan for its water utility. To complete the second document, city staff recommended the council approve a contract of more than $38,000 with Murraysmith, Inc.

The engineering firm previously developed the first document required of the city earlier this year and the emergency response plan must be completed and submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by the end of the year. Funds for the work order will be provided by the city’s water utility fund.

A second on-call work order recommended by city staff would cost nearly $124,000 for RH2 Engineering, Inc. to provide the city with support in processing engineering applications. The number of development applications that require review by the public works department’s engineering division has continued to increase over the past two years, resulting in a backlog of permits waiting for approval.

Assigning minor/small permit proposals and other ongoing changes to permit review processes to an engineer from RH2 is expected to eventually allow the city to start reviewing new applications within weeks of being submitted rather than months. It was also noted that the city is advertising to hire another full-time development review engineer in the coming months and doing so will replace the support efforts of RH2 provided by this work order.

In other business, the council reviewed a recommendation to approve a supplemental agreement with KPG the engineering design firm working on the city’s Main Street Revitalization Project. Right-of-way and design change activities are beginning for Phase II of the project.

Under the city’s right-of-way procedures required and approved by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), property acquisitions to complete the project must be negotiated by a consultant selected from a WSDOT pre-approved list of firms. Those firms must be capable of negotiating and documenting acquisitions consistent with federal requirements. Right-of-way activities must be certified by WSDOT as complying with federal statutes prior to obligating awarded construction funds for Phase II of the project in June 2022.

In coordination with city staff, KPG has selected Epic Land Solutions as the firm to provide property and right-of-way acquisition services at a not-to-exceed fee of $478,137. Epic would negotiate on the city’s behalf, document, and also assist the city with processing the acquisition of right-of-way, easements, and temporary access rights for Phase II construction. KPG would be paid additional consultant fees to administer Epic’s efforts.

City staff noted that executing the supplemental agreement will allow Phase II of the project to proceed and be completed prior to advertising for construction.

The council also reviewed authorizing a small works contract with C.R. Contracting, LLC of up to just over $64,600 for repairing sections of damaged pavement and markings. On June 23, a Waste Management truck developed a hydraulic oil leak during its regular weekly service and the leak continued as it drove throughout a significant area of Mountlake Terrace.

Following Waste Management’s cleanup efforts, city engineers visited the affected areas and determined that the road surface, but not the overall pavement structure, was compromised by the spill and/or cleaning activities. City engineering staff identified and marked locations where the application of a “fog seal” coating would restore the pavement surface to “pre-damage” or better condition along with any pavement markings impacted.

City staff added that while damages to the pavement caused by the hydraulic oil leak are generally minor at any one location, their large geographic extent warrants repair and mitigates the reduced life cycle of the affected roadways from that damage.

Waste Management filed a claim with its insurer to cover the costs of repairing the road surface. City funds authorized for the contract’s repair work are expected to be reimbursed by Waste Management.

A map prepared by Waste Management highlights the roadway segments impacted by their truck’s transmission oil leak.

During Thursday’s work/study session, the council gave City Manager Scott Hugill the direction to further pursue entering into an interlocal agreement with HASCO for the creation of more affordable housing in Mountlake Terrace. Such an agreement would aim to create additional “workforce housing” that is for families earning less than 80% of the area’s average median income, which is approximately $85,000 in Snohomish County.

Under Washington state law a county-created housing authority like HASCO must get city council approval to operate within a city. That approval process can delay a housing authority’s ability to pursue and purchase properties as they become available on the real estate market. The council has previously authorized HASCO to operate in Mountlake Terrace, but it has been in connection with specific projects rather than an approval to operate city-wide.

Entering into an interlocal agreement would enable HASCO to operate in Mountlake Terrace without requiring additional city council approval. It also identifies particular aspects of interest to the city, such as limiting the number of properties that would come off of the tax assessment under HASCO’s public ownership.

Hugill said HASCO is amenable to such an agreement and that it would be similar to one the agency executed with the City of Edmonds earlier this year to provide additional housing there for low-income households.

A different approach to address the issue of delay discussed would be to designate HASCO as the city’s housing authority, which would have provided the agency the ability to pursue any future projects without needing authorization from the council. However, it was noted that doing so would enable HASCO to pursue properties that the city may want to put to a different use.

Councilmembers said that absent the ability to tell the future, they felt pursuing an interlocal agreement made more sense and also offers the city more collaborative control moving forward.

Hugill said he would inform HASCO of the council’s direction and he hoped by the end of the month to have an agreement proposal they could then discuss.

The city council will hold its next regular business meeting Monday, Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. It will include a discussion of code enforcement. See the agenda and information for watching/participating online here.

— By Nathan Blackwell

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