Property rights, police issues face County Council

EVERETT — There’s a new look to the Snohomish County Council this year, and some new issues.

Ken Klein and Terry Ryan got an earful or two from future constituents last year as they knocked on doors seeking to get elected.

The new councilmen were sworn in Monday. Now it’s time to take a run at issues such as police protection and property rights.

Plus, they’re in for a cram session on familiar Snohomish County political themes: commercial air service at Paine Field, keeping the Boeing Co. happy and preparing to bid out the county’s $20-million-per-year garbage contract.

Brave or unsuspecting, Ryan says he’s ready.

“I’m so excited — I can’t wait to get started,” he said. “We have important things to work on: aerospace, transportation and land use. Those will be three of the biggest that we’ll be working on.”

Councilman Dave Somers, of Monroe, also won election in November, to his third consecutive term. His four colleagues on Monday chose him to take the reins as this year’s chairman. That gives Somers a lead role in running meetings and crafting next year’s budget.

Somers sees lots of work ahead, starting soon with discussions about building a passenger terminal at Paine Field to handle commercial flights.

“I would expect between now and March we’ll want to make some decisions on that,” Somers said.

It’s not clear who would build the terminal, the county or another entity.

At the county-run Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe, the council is preparing to look into significant changes, even a seemingly far-fetched plan to move the racetrack.

A consultant’s report is due this month.

“We’ll be putting quite a bit of thought into what we want to see at the fairgrounds,” Somers said.

The county’s long-term goal is to raise the fairgrounds’ profile as a year-round destination, outside of the popular 12-day summer fair.

County lawmakers won’t just be dreaming up ways to have fun. They’ll have to think about garbage, too. More to the point, who will haul it away for disposal.

Allied Waste now takes all of the county’s trash by rail to an Eastern Washington landfill. Allied’s contract runs into May 2017, with a possible one-year extension.

The county expects to hire a consultant this year in preparation of opening the contract to other bidders. At stake: estimated $20 million in yearly revenues. Allied and rival Waste Management, and possibly others, are sure to be in the hunt.

The time needed to prepare the new long-haul contract was a contentious issue between the council and the previous county executive.

Aaron Reardon resigned as executive last year, but other county leaders continue to clean up messes left over from his tenure.

Among other things, the council awaits word on whether anyone will face sanctions over a scheme to harass Reardon’s political enemies through social media and public records requests. Much of the mischief was conducted during work hours and using county resources, records show.

It’s up to Skagit County Prosecuting Attorney Rich Weyrich to decide whether criminal charges will be filed. While the council won’t have any role in determining the case’s outcome, Somers said he wants to talk to Weyrich’s office about the importance of the investigation for Snohomish County.

“I think the public would like to see that we take these things seriously and they’re not being swept under the rug,” Somers said.

Klein, like John Koster before him, is the council’s only Republican.

He and Ryan are already getting to work on issues that came up during the campaign.

Klein, a former Arlington city councilman, wants to prioritize an effort to designate an area between Arlington and Marysville for more intense industrial development.

If successful, the Arlington-Marysville Manufacturing Industrial Center could accommodate thousands of new jobs in aerospace and other advanced manufacturing fields.

“This is definitely something I’ll be pushing as much as I can,” Klein said. “Especially now that we’re going to get the 777X and the wing (production), it’s essential that we get that designation now.”

It’s up to the Puget Sound Regional Council planning group to approve the expanded industrial center.

Ryan, a former Mill Creek City Councilman and commercial real estate broker, wants to work with the sheriff’s office to improve deputies’ response times in the unincorporated areas.

“That’s direct feedback from all of the door-belling I did,” Ryan said. “I want to understand what the issues are. Is it staffing? Is it deployment?”

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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