Tonight’s Ferndale City Council meeting was one of the longer ones in recent memory and it was well-attended, for the first couple hours at least.
Here is a quick summary of what transpired:
Several attendees took advantage of the public comment period to voice their displeasure with the recent round of water and sewer billings. In addition, a request for left turn lanes at the Grandview Road and Portal Way intersection and better pedestrian access around the new roundabout on Portal Way were requested.
A representative from the Whatcom County Health Department gave a presentation on their recently published 2018 Whatcom County Community Health Assessment.
City staff gave a presentation of their summer parks events.
The consent agenda was approved by unanimous vote.
Police Chief Kevin Turner introduced three new Senior Citizens on Patrol Enhancement (SCOPE) volunteer members.
- Doug Abbe
- Jim Rothenbuhler
- Dick Gadsden
City Associate Planner Haylie Miller provided a presentation on two proposed residential developments in the area of Vista Drive and Thornton Street and a proposed commercial short plat on Barrett Road, south of Main Street.
Council approved adopting a “Complete Streets” ordinance by unanimous vote.
Council approved granting tax exemptions to qualifying multifamily developments in the downtown and Griffintown areas for 2 years. There was a public hearing prior to the vote and 5 speakers were opposed and 2 were in favor. This was opposite the council vote which was 5-2, with councilmembers Keith Olson and Cathy Watson opposed.
There was a lengthy discussion on how to provide payment options to water and sewer customers who received higher than normal billings in August. The topic was led by a presentation by Mayor Jon Mutchler who provided a recap of the drier than normal summer and the city’s desire to communicate better and provide better leak detection (1,000 dye packets to aid in detecting toilet leaks will be available by the end of the week).
Since the mandatory water restrictions were implemented, city staff reported no one was fined, no one had their water shut off and the one warning issued was to a customer who was using a private well for their irrigation source.
When the discussion got to the topic of how and what payment options to provide those most impacted, most of those in attendance had left the meeting, now at 2 and a half hours in duration.
While there was several options put forth, such as payment plans of differing durations and with interest or without interest charges, the final decision was for city staff to bring more concrete options to the next council committee meetings on September 26th. One important item was agreed to by consensus though. It was that no one’s water service would be shut off for non-payment until the next council meeting when payment options could be approved.
Councilmembers then discussed approving engineering contracts for the proposed Water Treatment Plant and a pumphouse for the new deep well. Councilmember Watson said she was concerned over information she had seen from the Department of Ecology (Ecology) regarding how the wells were recovering each season at lower levels than the season prior. Public Works Director Kevin Renz said that was their observation as well but believed it had been happening from before the city began drawing from the wells. Watson also said Ecology had indicated the city’s use of the aquifer was negatively impacting the Nooksack River.
Council voted to approve both contracts. The vote was 6-1 with Watson opposed for the Water Treatment Plant engineering contract and 5-2 with Watson and Olson opposed for the well pumphouse engineering contract.
The meeting was extended 20 minutes at 9pm by unanimous vote. It was extended another 10 minutes at 9:20pm by unanimous vote.
It was agreed to put off discussion on the last item on the agenda, an ordinance regarding temporary outdoor encampments, until the next council meeting.
The city council meeting was adjourned at 9:25pm.