The following was provided by Ferndale Mayor Jon Mutchler to MFN.
Far from the chaotic struggles of Washington, D.C. and Olympia, we are an example of how people, with diverse opinions and values, solve problems and improve our community in responsible ways.
2018 saw the rebuilding of the final section of Washington Street and installation of a new roundabout at Portal Way, making that intersection safer and easing congestion coming off I-5.
Engineering is nearly done for the “Thornton to I-5 connection” and we secured the final funding for this $22,000,000 project. This year we will purchase some land (“right of way”), break ground, preload the road, and start construction, looking for a 2022 completed project that will benefit city-wide traffic-flow.
Thanks to a grant from the Transportation Improvement Board (TIB) we converted our streetlights to energy efficient LEDs, saving the City hundreds of thousands of dollars. We are relentless in looking for ways to save energy and cut costs. On that theme of saving money, senior staff worked with the mayor to modify some employee benefits with expected city savings of tens of thousands of dollars.
We drilled over 1,000 feet into the earth to find a new source of water and expect this well to help supply our water needs for years to come, securing our water independence. We anticipate permitting soon and will move swiftly to get this resource online. Until then we will continue to ask all citizens to limit summer usage ensuring that our fire department has the fire-flow they need for a large emergency.
Water is a frustrating issue and it is tempting to think that solutions are easy. They aren’t, and both the administration and Council are working hard to provide solutions not just for us, but for our grandchildren as well.
As most know, our waste water treatment plant is reaching the end of its useful life and nearing maximum capacity. Per state law, we must upgrade the plant. Our council courageously did the right thing—the hard thing—and started the process of raising utility rates to pay for it. Wisely, the Council worked with both rates and (new home) connection fees so that those moving here join current residents in helping to pay for the construction.
As we did with the Thornton project, the mayor and staff continue to work with our elected 42nd District representatives to receive state assistance for this essential project.
Paying water/sewer bills is never fun. The Mutchlers have seven kids, a bustling home, and there are two days I dread: the day I open my water/sewer bill; and the next day when I hear about yours. Trust me, we hear you.
But as public servants we can’t just kick the can down the road, blame someone else, or just do what’s easy. It is a complicated challenge but working hard together we will get through it. Again, kudos to Council for making difficult decisions on our behalf.
We again secured our place as one of Washington’s safest cities. Over the last 12 years we have seen crime cut by 2/3rds. That’s correct, we have less than a third of the crime we had in 2005, per FBI stats.
Typically, as cities grow, crime increases. But thanks to the hard work of the Ferndale Police Department (and you) the opposite is happening here. Let’s face it, little else matters if families, businesses, and visitors aren’t safe. I sometimes think that government tries to do too much. However, there is no debate with me: public safety is our first mission and highest investment.
At City Hall we make multitude decisions about traffic, budgets, codes/rules, our community. First and foremost, we ask safety questions. And it’s paying off. We live in a remarkably safe city. Let’s work together to keep it that way.
And we want a better community for all. So, at south Portal Way, Unity Care has broken ground on a brand-new health facility that will provide accessible and affordable services for north Whatcom County. We’ve increased our investment in services that help people in need through our partnerships with The Commission against Domestic Violence and The Food Bank, etc.
A new drug store opened near Exit 263, with another opening soon downtown. Taco Time is up and running, and on its heels is Taco Bell. I won’t comment on what fast food restaurants do to one’s waistline, but I can tell you what these new businesses do for the city’s bottom line; a fast food restaurant near I-5 can bring in more city revenue than a normal one-year city-wide property tax increase of 1%.
Said another way, the best way to finance a city is not through tax increases, but healthy economic development.
Our parks program rocked last year, with over 3,000 people participating in free activities. With state help, we installed wheelchair accessible sidewalks throughout Pioneer Village, making this iconic Ferndale attraction enjoyable to folks year-round. We are also working hard at securing state funds for a skate board park.
And a healthy economic climate made it possible for your Council to approve both air conditioning and handicap bathroom doors for our library, making it comfortable and accessible to all year-round.
We invest in kids and have a record number involved in our boards and commissions. We just started up the Ferndale Civic Youth Council (FCYC) so that our teens have a voice in local government by discussing the same business items your city council is debating. And the City initiated Love Thy Neighborhood, an opportunity for youth groups to be more involved with neighborhood pride and cleanup.
Let’s peak into 2019. We plan to break ground on the eagerly-awaited Thornton Road overpass. We will start construction on our upgrades to our sewer treatment plant, water treatment plant, and our new well head. We will add new murals to our downtown core (at minimal expense) and expand our community events so more can join in our Summer of Fun.
We continue to set the standard for transparency by engaging with our community in person and online, ensuring citizen access to their government. We are becoming the model, the standard for citizen participation. You are proving that, if you have read this far!
We will continue to offer free $10 Woods coffee cards to those who attend their first Council meeting, so they too can “brew over city business” with a friend. We invite you to watch the “sausage making!”
As more people discover Ferndale, we work to incentivize downtown housing, working with developers to prevent sprawl (and unnecessary city infrastructure costs) and ensure that our residents have a walkable city with a thriving downtown.
Key to healthy growth and economic development are dynamic businesses. That’s why City Hall embraces a “find-a-way-to-say-yes” attitude and continues to work alongside, and not against businesses. As a result, look around, we are seeing new businesses and job creators who have discovered what a fantastic place Ferndale is.
I toured over two dozen of our employers this year and will visit yours at your invitation. I value listening to your challenges and celebrating your successes. Trust me, we have some amazing and remarkable job-creators throughout our city.
Leadership is key to a successful government and I am very pleased with your City executive team. You may have heard we made some staffing changes, all good ones. Our new city administrator comes on board January 2. In a city like ours where the elected mayor is our chief executive and administrative officer, the city administrator is arguably his most important appointment. We hit a home run with Jori Burnett.
Mr. Burnett (Ferndale High class of 2003) has been with our community development department for a decade and has proven his integrity, commitment, creativity, and intelligence. I am fully confident in his and all our executive staff’s abilities to assist Council and the mayor in Ferndale’s near and long-term success.
Finally, let’s end with a challenge. In these times of growth, it can be easy to give in to the anxiety that with the influx of new neighbors we will lose the essential small-town character that makes this home.
That does not need to happen! Ferndale is what we make it. Ferndale is bigger than a few more residents. It is our home and I challenge all to welcome our new neighbors with warmth and compassion. No matter their creed, religion, culture, or background, they have come to our city and we will welcome them as brothers and sisters of Ferndale. As always, we remain Ferndale-friendly.