The following letter to Ferndale City Councilmembers is provided courtesy of incoming Ferndale City Administrator Jori Burnett. It provides summaries, and background in some cases, of the items on the meeting agenda for the regular City Council meeting scheduled for 6pm, Monday, December 3rd.
On Monday you will meet for what could be the last meeting of 2018. Your agenda is substantial, some of the topics are complex, and the decisions you make on Monday will set the stage for 2019 and beyond.
Recognizing that you have a fairly dense agenda (four public hearings), the Council Committees have placed a number of items on the consent agenda. There are four contracts slated for consent, extending our relationships with a variety of individuals and businesses. An ordinance amending the storm mitigation fee is also included. Councilmembers are aware of the City and State’s increased focus on stormwater-related issues, but the Ferndale Municipal Code chapter that addresses the stormwater mitigation fee has not been significantly updated since the early 1980’s. Staff proposes modifying the regulations to ensure that developments that should pay stormwater fees do pay them.
Mayor Mutchler has nominated Susan Cole and Greg Crim for new four-year appointments to the Planning Commission. Ms. Cole has served on the Planning Commission as chairperson for over a decade, and Mr. Crim is being renewed for his first full term. Both are valued members of the commission, and their continued presence is welcome. The mayor will nominate a third person to serve on the Planning Commission in early 2019, replacing Tom Black. Mr. Black has served the City both as a Planning Director and later as a Planning Commissioner. His contributions to Ferndale cannot be over-stated. The City thanks him for his years of service.
Katy Radder and I have elected to accept a cash-out of existing excess vacation time. While this vacation time has accrued and would normally be cashed out at the end of our service to the city, this one-time payment will decrease the City’s liability, and will be paid based upon current (not 2019) salary levels.
Finally, the Council is asked to approve amendments to Chapter 5.04 of the Ferndale Municipal Code, adopting language from a model ordinance that is one of the first steps to a streamlined statewide business license system that will be put in place over the next several years.
Item C: Judge Mark Kaiman. For the first time in several decades we will swear in a new municipal court judge. Judge Mark Kaiman is then expected to briefly address the Council.
Item D: 2018 Comprehensive Plan Amendments. Next is the first of four public hearings, beginning with the 2018 Comprehensive Plan docket. The City seeks to keep its comprehensive plan fresh through periodic amendments, but these amendments cannot occur more than once per year. This year Staff has proposed three changes to the Land Use Map, generally for the purpose of removing older land use designations that have been in place for many years. The Planning Commission recommended approval of the majority of these changes. The Commission did not recommend approval of a land use change along Thornton Street that is associated with the Thornton Street extension. The Council may hear that a land use change would be unnecessary if the City were to redesign elements of the Thornton Extension. Here, it is important for the City Council to remember that the infrastructure associated with the extension is for the most part locked in, as are various time tables and funding associated with the project. The Council will have the choice to approve the land use change, but modifying the design of Thornton should not be considered as an option that should be linked to the land use.
Each of these public hearings has been well-advertised, and several adjacent property owners are expected to make comment on this issue.
Item E: Public/Institutional Zone. Next is a zoning text amendment and public hearing that proposes to adopt setback requirements to the Public/Institutional Zone. The P/I Zone is intended for public buildings and uses – but does not provide clear direction on setbacks for these uses. The change would establish relatively conservative setbacks.
Item F: Nordic Way Rezone. The last of the land-use related topics is the Nordic Way Rezone, also a public hearing. City Staff have worked with each property owner in the rezone area (both sides of Nordic Way as well as the west side of LaBounty Drive between the Ferndale Lube and just south of Anderson Paper), and all are in support of a zoning change from Mixed Use Commercial to General Business. The City is likely has more Mixed Use Commercial-zoned land than it needs, and not enough land zoned for General Business activities. The Planning Commission has recommended approval.
Item G: 2018 Budget Amendment. This budget amendment is associated with the Washington Street Improvements that were completed this year. A budget amendment is necessary in order to reflect the final costs of the project, which remained within the overall scope approved by the City Council. Councilmembers had noted the inclusion of speed tables, which were added at the direction of the City Administrator.
Item H: Budget Adoption. Finance Director Salminen, working closely with the Administration and Department Heads, has provided a balanced budget for the Council’s review. A public hearing has been scheduled.
Item I: School Resource Officer. The Finance Committee has recommended that the SRO contract with the Ferndale School District be continued for 180 days, which Staff has interpreted to mean that the contract would now run from September 2018 through June 2019 (school days, rather than calendar days). This would ostensibly provide the District with an additional 180 days (a school year) of support, when a new contract would be considered. The Council is asked to clarify their meaning of a 180-day period (calendar days or school days). Of vital importance to Staff is to be able to rely on a contract that will provide, and pay for, services at least through the end of the 2018-2019 school year.
Based on the existing contract, the District’s annual payment to the City in November prepays for the majority of services for the remainder of the school year. As it currently sits, the District (in 2017) paid for services through June 2018 – the end of the 2017-2018 school year. This school year (from September until now), the City has provided SRO services in anticipation of the District’s annual payment in November, which will be based on the approval of the contract that is now before Council.
In theory, if the Council decided not to renew the contract, the City would likely invoice the District for the services rendered so far during the 2018-2019 school year, on a pro-rated scale. Payment of that pro-rated amount would make the City whole. The City would then need to decide whether the SRO would be pulled after the winter holidays or would remain in place without payment.
If the City were to adopt a 180 day (“one-year”) extension, the City would obligate itself to continue to provide the SRO to the school for the remainder of the academic year (to June 2019). The payment the City would receive this month would pre-pay for those services.
The chart below is intended to show the time that is paid for by the District’s annual payment. We maintain that the original two school-year contract that was agreed upon by the District and the City Administration be adopted. We propose that the two parties enter into negotiations in February 2020 (essentially one year from now), in the hopes of reaching an agreement that would enable a new contract that would coincide with each party’s budget process. Otherwise, the negotiation would need to begin within the next two months.
Item J: Ferndale Arts Commission Appointment. The mayor has requested that the City Council approve Andrew Hansen to the Ferndale Arts Commission. It is customary to bring candidates through the Finance and Administration Committee, but due to the timing of the receipt of Mr. Hansen’s application, it was not possible to bring the matter before the committee in time for him to fully participate in the December (or possibly the January) Arts Commission meeting. The Council may choose to either approve the appointment or to remand it to committee. Mr. Hansen is a Ferndale High School student and would represent the third generation of a family that is active in City-related activities.
We will close with our typical Council, Mayor, and Staff reports, and will seek confirmation that the December 17th Council meeting is cancelled.
On a personal note, I have had the opportunity over the last few weeks to work more closely, or at least differently, with senior staff and other City employees than I had in the past. And consistently – really, without exception – I am amazed at their level of knowledge, their professionalism, the complexity of their individual jobs. But mostly, by their dedication and their desire to deliver for our residents. It is not an easy thing to work in a small city, especially one as dynamic as ours. I hope that as we close this year with big changes on the horizon, that we tackle next year’s challenges knowing that the best and most important objective of us all is to make Ferndale better than it has ever been. We may disagree at times as to how we will get there, but it is a goal that we all share. Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays!
The public is encouraged to attend City Council meetings. They are held on the 1st and 3rd Mondays of each month at 6pm in the City Hall Annex in the Council Chambers at 5694 2nd Avenue.