The following letter to members of the Ferndale City Council is provided courtesy of Ferndale City Administrator Jori Burnett. It is regarding the Ferndale City Council meeting agenda for the regular meeting scheduled for 6pm, Monday, August 5th. The public is welcome to attend.
As noted, a special City Council finance workshop is scheduled for 5:30pm, just before the regular meeting.
Your agenda for Monday night is as follows:
5:30pm Financial Workshop (half hour): Finance Director Sirke Salminen will lead a third financial workshop beginning at 5:30. The focus of this workshop will be on the various City funds, their purpose, limitations, their legal basis and their rationale.
Item A: Public Comment
Item B: Consent Agenda, including approval of July 31st Council Meeting Minutes, July 29 payroll, a budget amendment to add a Complete Streets fund, a resolution to surplus miscellaneous items resulting from the acquisition of property associated with the Thornton Street Extension, and a modification to the City’s Financial Policies.
– The Financial Policies modification reflects the City’s ongoing practice of maintaining a reserve account within the City’s budget to pay for unemployment compensation. Due to the relatively low number of former employees who are eligible for such compensation, this policy has reduced the cost to the City when compared to making regular payments to the State.
Item C: Proclamation – Community Health Center Week – Community Health Center Week is August 4th to August 10th. Community health centers serve 28 million patients in the United states, a number that is growing rapidly, especially among populations that lack access to other medical services. The opening of the Unity Care facility on Portal Way represents a significant expansion in the services that are now available to Ferndale and surrounding areas.
Item D: Introduction, Parks Intern Micah Robertson – Communications Officer/ Recreation Coordinator Riley Sweeney will introduce Micah Robinson. Mr. Robinson has played a vital role in the planning, implementation, and promotion of the 2019 Summer of Fun recreation program.
Item E: Public Hearing, Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) Ordinance – per the City’s existing ADU ordinance, Staff has placed a halt on the acceptance of new applications for ADU’s following the tenth approved unit. The program has worked well, with very few complaints related to these additional units. Staff does not propose that any major modifications be made on August 5th; the changes that are proposed are limited to include a modification to the reporting requirements for owner occupancy (the owner must still live onsite, but would no longer be required to verify this fact with the City every other year), and an allowance for up to forty more ADUs (fifty total) before the next scheduled review.
The Planning and Land Use Committee has directed Staff to begin work with the Planning Commission to review height restrictions for detached ADUs. This review would not be initiated until Fall 2019, and would follow the code revisions that are being considered Monday night.
Item F: Resolution, Greenhouse Gas Policy – In order to be considered for various grants, loans, or funding, Washington State requires that jurisdictions demonstrate the manner in which they have enacted policies or procedures to reduce or mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, and/or to identify other practices that may benefit the environment. In the last decade Ferndale has taken significant steps on these issues, but has never listed these approaches in one document. If adopted, the Greenhouse Gas Policy resolution would do just that. The document reflects the City’s existing standards and identifies potential new policies that could be considered in the future. By adopting the resolution the City will remain competitive for funding, and will reduce time and effort in developing funding applications.
Item G: Discussion, Old Main – The City Council is asked to reach a conclusion on the potential re-use of the Old Main facility on the existing Ferndale High School campus. Old Main, together with the majority of other buildings on the high school campus, is expected to be torn down following the construction of a new high school approximately 800 feet north of the building. The School District is in the process of developing a conceptual site plan for the new campus, and it is likely that athletic fields and/or parking will be built in the space between Old Main and the new school facilities. The District is also working with transportation consultants to determine potential modifications to onsite parking, bus storage and loading, pedestrian access, and overall traffic patterns both on the campus and in the surrounding area.
The City is working closely with the District and the District’s consultants on these issues. Regardless of the outcome of the Council’s decision related to Old Main, the City and the District will continue to collaborate to identify the best overall project configuration.
The City’s architectural consultants have concluded that the Old Main structure is of sufficient size to accommodate City functions (City Hall, Court, Council, storage, and miscellaneous other uses) well into the foreseeable future. The consultants have determined that the building can be renovated to achieve compliance with seismic and other requirements. Including a 30% contingency assumption, the total estimated cost of improvements is approximately $13.3 million.
This cost is generally consistent with other development scenarios for a smaller facility evaluated by a different architectural consultant in 2017. The primary alternative scenario that has been discussed is the construction of a new co-located facility (or an expansion of existing) at the current City Hall location. As has also been discussed, City facilities do not require proximity to a jurisdiction’s Main Street or the core of the City to function, although the symbolism of such a facility in the core may be important. One of the main considerations for alternatives to Old Main, whether at the current site or at Pioneer Park, would be the cost increases associated with building in the floodplain. With that factored in, the costs between all of these options are comparable.
Parking, traffic, and the location of the court facility in proximity to the new high school campus have also been discussed online and by the Council. With regard to parking and traffic, the District has engaged the services of the Transpo Group. The existing parking configuration, bus loading, and the overall traffic patterns are all being reviewed and will be modified, perhaps extensively modified, as a result of the new high school campus configuration (with or without Old Main). Many of the comments online appear to make assumptions that the existing traffic patterns are a given. They are not, and the City and School District are working with Transpo to identify potential alternative traffic configurations.
In terms of the court facility location, while it is not uncommon for municipal courts to be in relatively close proximity to schools, safety concerns should never be ignored. The City has anticipated that a physical barrier or separation would be constructed to prevent court attendees from directly strolling onto the high school campus.
It is likely that Old Main would not be as efficient to operate as a new, purpose-built structure meeting LEED standards. The ongoing costs to operate an old building are, on average, higher than in a new building – although many new buildings require significant maintenance to operate new technologies, to iron out problems, and more. The purpose-built Ferndale library is a good example of this, and is the most costly City building to maintain and operate.
Lastly, many of the comments made by Council, Staff, and the general public have focused on the Old Main structure as an historic building, or one that has sentimental importance. While it is true that the building is intended to be demolished unless it is re-purposed by the City, Staff does not believe the Council should make a decision to re-use the structure only to save it from the wrecking ball. For Staff, the sentimental reasons to save Old Main are similar to the sentimental reasons to preserve City Hall on Main Street – important factors to be sure, but not enough to over-ride other, more technical factors.
The Council will be asked to take a vote on Monday August 5th. Staff does not believe it can provide more technical information to Council, and the decision will largely be made for the City if a decision is not reached this month, as the District has indicated that it must proceed with its site planning in order to meet the timelines established through the bond vote.
Item H-K: Mayor, Council, and Department Reports; Committee Minutes
Finally, as our elected officials are well-aware, August 6th is primary day in Ferndale. Staff and Council frequently note how elected officials and professional staff may have different, valid perspectives on the same issue. And that the general population may have many more valid, different perspectives as well. Reconciling these perspectives, identifying, and then implementing solutions is our shared task.
One key to completing this task is through the sharing of information. What are the facts? What are the unknowns? Are the fears or promises based on fact, or based on assumptions or suppositions? Can they be mitigated? Are there viable alternatives, or simply hopes for these alternatives? And ultimately – how can we arrive at a timely, cost-effective decision, as opposed to simply generating ideas?
The ability to balance short-term concerns with long-term benefits and needs is really the difference between a politician and an elected official. And this Council has done a tremendous job already by reaching the conclusion that new City facilities are necessary (and will be increasingly necessary in the future), regardless of the location and design of these buildings. No matter the outcome of the Old Main discussion and other important choices this council will make, I appreciate the thoughtfulness and foresight of this council, and am proud of the process that led us to this decision point.
See you Monday – Jori
The public is encouraged to attend City Council meetings. They are held on the 1st and 3rd Mondays of each month at 6pm in Council Chambers at the City Hall Annex at 5694 2nd Avenue.