By Mina Williams Herald writer
LYNNWOOD — As 2,400 license renewals hit the post boxes of Lynnwood business owners, City Council members voted to extend the hardship program inaugurated last year when the $15.50 annual per-employee business tax was ratcheted up to $85.
The measure, presented during council’s Jan. 23 session, unanimously passed and allowed for quarterly payments of the yearly business tax. Small businesses that employ 50 or less and demonstrate a financial hardship are eligible for the consideration.
Last year less than 10 businesses applied for quarterly payments, according to Lorenzo Hines, finance director.
“It is not unreasonable making this accommodation,” said Councilwoman Kerri Lonegran-Dreke, herself a small-business owner in Everett and Issaquah. “With the condition of the economy and the significant rise in fees this is a good move.”
“We brought the payment plan in on an emergency basis,” Council President Loren Simmonds said. “If the requests reach a threshold of unreasonable, we will need to revisit it.”
Red light cameras extended
Also during the meeting, council unanimously passed a measure extending for one year its contract with American Traffic Solutions, the city’s provider of photo enforcement and red light cameras.
The larger philosophical issue – whether or not to continue photo red services and what options the city has – is a bigger subject needing to be explored, Simmonds said. “This evening we need to look at extending the contract or let it expire.”
Fines from the red light violations caught by cameras brought $2.2 million into city coffers, Hines said.
Some council members said the contract should be put out for bid.
The length of the contract is not at issue, Police Chief Steve Jensen said; it’s the complexity. To gain efficiencies in process and due diligence, Lynnwood piggybacked on a much larger contract ATS has with the city of Seattle. All the specifications and engineering studies were completed by Seattle.
Mayor Don Gough said that by Feb. 6 he will have threshold information about independently bidding out the contract.
Council members also requested another look be taken at extending the yellow light times and explore an all-red option for intersection control.
College gateway project
In a separate move the council voted to proceed with a financial plan for a $3.4 million transportation project centered on 204th St. SW west of Highway 99.
The project includes sidewalks, bike lanes and center turn lanes along with a bus stop and a traffic signal on Highway 99. It will complete the street connection on 204th St. SW from Highway 99 to 68th Ave. W, creating a connection to Edmonds Community College. Traffic at 208th St. SW, Highway 99 and 68th Ave. W. should be alleviated, according to Bill Franz, public works director.
Pressing the council’s unanimous decision was the potential to lose a $1.5 million construction grant. The financial plan proposed will also update the feasibility study and pinpoint specific tasks, including moving water and sewer lines and upgrading storm drainage.
“Granting agencies are more aggressive now,” Franz told the council. “They are not allowing grants to sit. We are being pressed for a financial plan.”
He feels that this project will also spur development and redevelopment along 204th St. SW and pointed out that Lexus of Seattle has already built the first part of the roadway.
Franz is confident that federal and state grants can be had, once the financial plan is in place.
Tax revenue from real estate and development fees, bridge financing, bonds, a potential local improvement district and utility fund transfers can also be used to cobble together the funds to complete the project.
All options will be brought to council as grants are garnered.