Woodinville City Corner
This is a little later than I planned, but the city has been extremely busy. Looking back on my first year as your Mayor, I wanted to highlight some of what was accomplished in 2022. Some of it will be information on what I worked on personally. Some of it was approved and/or funded by your busy City Council as well. As you will read, we had a year of firsts for Woodinville.
Having served in Fire/EMS Service leadership for over 30 years, my highest priority will always be your public safety. A little over a year ago, I navigated the move to contract with Eastside Fire for your related emergency services. These are still your firefighters, and we maintain the same “boots on the ground” staffing and same stations. This amazingly lowered your tax collection rate by 23% in the first year while improving your service levels.
You may ask – “why are you talking about what happened in 2021 for an article about 2022?”
Let me explain. What was attractive to partnering with Eastside Fire was some of its existing programs that would benefit our community and the tax savings. These made a significant positive impact in Woodinville in 2022. Having a robust emergency preparedness division gives Woodinville more capabilities in the event of a regional emergency. This helped lead to training 19 Woodinville community emergency response team members or C.E.R.T. We also had improvements in wildland firefighting, hazardous materials, technical rescue, I.T. Service, and vehicle maintenance.
In 2022, we saw a much-needed benefit in another Eastside Fire program called Core Connect. This program is a first for Woodinville. It provides an effective response for someone experiencing homelessness or behavioral health issues. As you know, this is a growing concern in Woodinville and our region. We must provide more resources for our first responders to help before it becomes harder to manage. My goal is to be proactive, not reactive. With Core Connect, we have our first M.I.H. (Mobile Integrated Health) unit staffed with a trained social worker and EMT. This program has been so successful I worked to extend this resource to our police officers as well. This has been another great collaboration that I will seek to continue and expand with King County.
On the issue of homelessness, Congregations for the Homeless is an emergency shelter in Bellevue that works with clients to transition to long-term housing, helps with access to needed medications, and helps with addictions and behavioral health issues. The direct relationship with this organization is something that I worked on for months and is another positive first for our community. Last month I met with Sofia’s Way, a women’s shelter in Kirkland. I also met in February with Acres of Diamonds, a women’s shelter in Duvall, to explore opportunities to expand needed resources for this demographic. Along the same lines, I have met with King County, Bothell, Redmond, Duvall, Bellevue, and even Issaquah to explore opportunities to work together. In early January, we joined the North King County Regional Homelessness Authority, which expanded our capabilities at no additional cost to your taxes.
Improving mobility is a safety issue as well. We are making great strides with plans to improve traffic, parking, and pedestrian paths. This includes considerations for overall street and sidewalk design, bicycle, and pedestrian routes, and managing congestion.
This brings me to what I would like to discuss next, which is also a high priority – infrastructure.
To help with our infrastructure, one thing we wanted to improve in 2022 was our partnerships and relationships with neighboring cities, the county, state, and the federal government. A common comment that I hear in many meetings is, “it is nice to see Woodinville at the table.” In politics, there is a saying, “if you aren’t at the table, you are on the menu.” We are working extremely hard at changing that direction and perception.
Another early 2022 focus of mine was to build relationships and pursue more infrastructure grants. To that end, I advocated for another first in hiring a federal lobbyist to help Woodinville apply for grants to improve our infrastructure. The cost was under $50,000 in 2022, and I am very pleased to say we successfully received $2.5M in assistance for our plans to improve the biggest bottleneck in Woodinville, under the trestle off 522. We will expand this to eight lanes with a beautiful new pedestrian bridge above the expanded roadway. We also have plans to repurpose the old trestle bridge as well.
The Eastrail Corridor project itself is also moving forward. As I have highlighted in past issues, we have had discussions regarding the opportunity to build a new “linear park” just north of the Post Office where the railroad tracks are located. This will connect Woodinville to 42 miles of trail system. We have also had discussions, which I support, that include robust additional parking and pickleball courts. Woodinville is the last major section in King County to complete work to ensure we provide this tremendous trail opportunity to our residents and people visiting our city. This should not be the case, so I am working hard to ensure we move forward with this important project.
Our efforts around this $17M project continue, and I will provide you with what I hope will be exciting news soon. Council voted last month to send a contingent consisting of myself, the City Manager, and the Assistant to the City Manager, coordinated by our federal lobbyist, to Washington DC on March 22. This will be a concerted effort to gain more support for our Eastrail/ bridge project, construction of new and required salmon culverts, and a complex quasi-legal and political discussion with the Surface Transportation Board to gain permission to pull our abandoned railroad tracks. Our total ask is $7.5M, and the ability to reduce the construction time for Eastrail by five years.
A related traffic improvement is a grid road on 133rd Avenue that will extend north across Woodinville Snohomish Road to Little Bear Ck Pkwy. This will serve multiple purposes that will relieve congestion on 175th and allow a faster and more efficient trestle project. Again, another collaboration was built by and with a partnership with Mainstreet Property Group.
Long-needed sidewalk improvements were also included in our 2022 budget on 124th Avenue near Woodmoor Elementary and Northshore Junior High. This will allow children to finally walk to school safely. This sidewalk also improves the sidewalk with a bus stop without an adequate shoulder.
Parks and trails were another focus in 2022. In addition to the Eastrail project in September, after many years of discussion, we rezoned the undeveloped 56-acre Wood Trails, west of West Wellington, into Woodinville’s biggest park! This will preserve the tree canopy and provide many recreational opportunities for our community. In December, I made and passed a motion to pay for signage, hazard mitigation, and trail construction that will not use taxpayer money but will be paid with developer park impact fees. There is another partnership discussion with Woodinville Rotary about signage and artwork at Wood Trails. Yes, another good collaboration that benefits our city.
Wilmot Park will also see a major improvement. Working with the Chamber of Commerce, Woodinville Repertory Theatre, Woodinville Wine Country, and Whatsup paddle board and kayak in Bothell, I made and passed a motion with Council to start design and permitting on a permanent stage with an attached boat launch. This will also be paid with park impact fees. Ongoing discussions with the Chamber revolve around partnering on fundraising, advertising, and naming rights. Recent discussions with DTG Recycling have the potential for making the stage out of resilient recycled materials. This is exciting because it will allow more and better concert experiences, plays in the park, art exhibitions, and kayak and paddle board rentals. This would be a first in allowing recreational rental opportunities in our parks.
Ensuring that all Woodinville residents have access to quality outdoor spaces and recreation programming is an important priority for the city. These amenities increase quality of life, build a sense of place, and offer gathering spaces and opportunities for creating closer relationships with the city and your neighbors.
Initiative 7, in our adopted Strategic Plan, is to care for the natural environment and ecosystems. To that end, I have advocated for and successfully passed three firsts.
We received a state grant to do our first and required climate action plan. Two, is installing solar panels on City Hall that will provide free, clean electricity. This was partly paid for with a State Department of Commerce grant.
The ribbon cutting for these panels was on March 16.
The other green infrastructure project I steered and passed in our 2022 budget is to pursue grant opportunities for electric car chargers at City properties. We intend to electrify our fleet over time. There is $4B in grant opportunities passed by the federal government that I am optimistic we can utilize to improve our infrastructure and meet state law requirements that state we must move to zero-emission vehicles. In addition to the positive environmental impact, I have a study from PSE that shows for every 4 EVs we buy, think Ford lightning instead of Ford F-150, we will save almost $11k per year in operating costs and maintenance. A 10-year service life would mean $110,000 in savings to our citizens with no emissions, an opportunity we should not ignore. As has been highlighted multiple times in this article, collaboration with other groups and entities is important and has brought many benefits to our city. We will continue to improve and expand these relationships, and in future articles, I will tell you about several planned efforts that have substantial potential benefits for our city.
Furthering the direction with partnerships and collaboration, I worked with Haggen to fund a local scholarship. I am on the Wall of Honor Scholarship Committee, and with two boys in college, I am acutely aware of the soaring tuition rates our citizens are facing. This motivated me to find more money than usual for a local student. The recipient of the Haggen donation was Woodinville High graduate George Ingebretsen. I am sure you are doing well, George, and thank you, Haggen.
Lastly, housing costs in Woodinville and the region have skyrocketed recently. Many of the city’s residential neighborhoods comprise single-family homes, which we want to preserve. To do that, we have to concentrate our growth downtown. This is a binary choice required by the state Growth Management Act. In February, Deputy Mayor Randolph, Councilmember Arndt, and I were voted by your Council to represent Woodinville and will lobby our state representatives.
One issue will be advocating for local control of how we zone our city. Our position is to preserve our neighborhoods and that we know better than Olympia what our city needs. The other main theme we will be expressing is that we need help with our part of the Eastrail trail project. Along with some other council members, I have been building relationships with these elected officials. By laying this groundwork ahead of time, we know we will be able to make strong impressions supporting our issues.
We are in very good fiscal health thanks to our residents, local businesses, the efforts of our staff, and current and past Councils. Next month I will be talking about our exciting plans and what to look forward to in 2023 and beyond!
Moving forward together, Woodinville
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