County wants fields, lights and sidewalks

EVERETT – Snohomish County officials are looking at shelling out $5.5 million in the next two years on special community projects and programs, including new sports fields and sidewalks.

County Executive Aaron Reardon sent a spending plan to the County Council last week. To launch the program, Reardon is asking for about $900,000 in projects and new employees this year.

The program helps whittle down the deficit in public facilities such as sidewalks and intersection improvements, Reardon said.

“We’ll be working with the community to set priorities in neighborhoods,” Reardon said.

County Council chairman Dave Gossett said the council set aside $2 million a year for the program.

“I’m glad the executive has chosen to support the council’s idea,” County Council Chairman Dave Gossett said. “This originated with something we asked him to do. We’ll go from here.”

As part of the 2007 budget, the County Council requested that Reardon draft a spending plan for neighborhood projects by March 1.

Reardon said his proposal was not in response to the County Council budget requirement.

Instead, it is a continuation of sidewalk, park and transportation projects he introduced last year called the Community Infrastructure Development Initiative.

Gossett chafed.

“I think it’s unfortunate he didn’t give credit to the council in identifying this as something the council asked him to bring forward,” Gossett said.

Regardless, county officials are proposing to identify and build new sidewalks and sports fields, better intersections and street lighting, and introduce rural yard waste recycling to cut down on pollution from burn piles.

Some of the projects rely on neighborhoods and community groups paying a share of the costs with money, labor or land, Reardon said.

Reardon proposed hiring a new team of eight county employees to coordinate and design projects.

A handful of demonstration projects would be built this year under the plan, with many more promised next year.

“While some of the elements are good, it’s very staff heavy,” Gossett said. “One-third of the money will be spent hiring new staff. It’s more important to actually build something, and put every possible dime into infrastructure.”

County real estate excise taxes collected when property is bought and sold would pay for almost all of the proposed spending this year and next.

About $163,000 would come from county road taxes and solid waste fees.

“We’ll schedule this for review looking at the approach he’s outlined, the funding and staffing, and move forward from there,” Gossett said.

Proposals include:

  • $1.3 million toward school safety projects, starting with Chain Lake Elementary School in Monroe;

  • $1.3 million toward intersection safety improvements;

  • $810,000 in grant funds for sports fields;

  • $648,000 for intersection improvements for pedestrians with disabilities;

  • $264,000 in protective flood fencing on the Skykomish River and elsewhere;

  • $572,000 toward missing sidewalk links for parks, senior centers and other sites;

  • $141,000 toward speed bumps and traffic circles in neighborhoods;

  • $310,000 toward landscaping for unattractive storm-water retention ponds;

  • $100,000 to recycle yard waste in the rural areas of Sultan Fire District 5; and

  • $63,000 toward street lighting on arterials.

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