MLT council receives mid-year performance review of city departments

Mountlake Terrace City Councilmember meet via Zoom during their July 29 work/study session.

The Mountlake Terrace City Council at its July 29 work/study session reviewed the performance measures of city departments through the first six months of 2021.

The city’s recreation fund continues to be affected by decreased classes and capacities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recreation programs have been opened and offered as allowed by health guidelines and it was noted that the swimming lessons in particular filled up especially fast. Gymnasium and room rentals still aren’t happening and the total hours scheduled at sports fields remain low.

Park Services and Property Management Superintendent Ken Courtmanch noted that vandalism incidents at city properties had increased slightly. Also highlighted were a number of grants the Recreation and Parks Department had received to assist with child care costs during the pandemic and others to make improvements and the Evergreen Playfield Complex and Ballinger Park.

Community and Economic Development Director Christy Osborn said her department has been able to significantly reduce the average number of days it takes to produce a decision on building permit applications. “We’re continuing to try to enhance our permitting processes,” she said, adding that includes migrating several of them online, which then helps speed up the turnaround time.

The total value of projects for which the permits have been finalized is up from this point last year, although Osborn noted that number can fluctuate throughout the year depending on the size of projects and also when applications are filed and ultimately completed. She added that the construction of a new building on the Premera Blue Cross campus was a big reason that total value for the first six months of this year had increased, along with several subdivisions and townhomes developments that were finalized.

Total pre-applications submitted to the department have also grown, “so there’s still a great deal of development interest in the city,” Osborn said, adding there are a number of larger development applications currently being processed.

Since 2020, Mountlake Terrace has increased its population by approximately 1,000 residents and added 122 new businesses, the majority of which were home occupation operations. The median taxable value home price rose to nearly $393,000 – although it was noted buyers would be hard pressed to find a residence at such a price in the current real estate market.

Public Works Director Eric LaFrance highlighted that stormwater maintenance remote TV inspection services had examined two miles of infrastructure and the department now has a list of pipes that need to be fixed. Also the use of a sewer line rapid assessment tool had provided significantly quicker results in identifying problem areas and also required less staff to complete that work.

He noted that the utility department would soon be getting new radio equipment for conducting meter reading and anticipated that installation of the replacement part on individual property meters might begin in approximately one month.

City Manager Scott Hugill informed the council that 14 new city employees had been hired, while five employees had left their positions. The increase was partially due to positions being brought back or added as city facilities have been able to re-open during the pandemic. He also highlighted that the new City Hall building will soon have publicly available Wi-Fi, likely beginning in September.

City Clerk and Community Relations Director Virginia Clough noted that the city had recently hired a new community relations specialist, after not having that position available for more than a year. That employee will be ramping up the city’s community outreach efforts. She also highlighted mask deliveries and city support provided for public health through COVID-19 testing and vaccination events.

It was noted that the City of Mountlake Terrace had received more than $3.7 million this year in funding for various projects from the Washington State Legislature’s capital budget. Additionally, the city earned a WellCity award for the third consecutive year and was also named a Tree City USA for the second straight year.

In other business, the councilmembers were given the opportunity for a second review of the city’s financial report for the first quarter of 2021. They had previously reviewed the report at their July 19 regular business meeting, but due to receiving that informational packet shortly beforehand a second review was held to answer any additional questions that occurred once the councilmembers had more time to examine the report.

Hugill told the council that the city currently has “a lot going for us,” and its “finances continued to stay strong” throughout the pandemic. City leaders continually plan for financial contingencies to address cyclical recessions which the city hasn’t experienced for close to a decade now even during the pandemic. He said that current economic trends don’t fit traditional models that would indicate a recession is imminent.

“We’re just that much better suited for when it does happen,” Hugill said, “and you have money now that you can invest from the federal American Rescue Plan dollars for kind of your big swing ideas and you’ve got time to think about that.” He also noted the city currently has funds to “invest in the organization in services such as the technology to really get us into the 21st century.”

The city council will hold its next regular business meeting Monday, Aug. 2 at 7 p.m. It will include a discussion about a cost-of-living adjustment for non-represented city employees. See the agenda and information for watching/participating online here.

— By Nathan Blackwell

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