EVERETT — The city of Everett may be getting portable offices for public works employees. Some have said they fear being crushed in their current work space if an earthquake strikes.
At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Mayor Cassie Franklin announced that she has directed staff to consider short-term options for the aging public works complex on Cedar Street. That happened on Tuesday, her first official work day as mayor.
The city for years has been talking about the need to address the building, which has been deemed likely to see “extensive damage and potential failure” in a natural disaster.
Six potential plans, including price tags, were shared with a council committee last month. All the options would raise utility rates. Wednesday’s presentation did not go into the numbers.
Councilman Scott Murphy and Councilwoman Brenda Stonecipher questioned why the full council was being briefed without cost estimates. Murphy said that made it impossible to provide meaningful feedback.
“Without that information, my request would be we just end this conversation now because for me, quite frankly, it’s almost a waste of time to hear this without some context …,” he said. “I don’t mean any disrespect. I know there’s been a lot of hard work done, but I’m not sure what we’re talking about, nor am I sure, with no dollars, what they mean, so it’s like, what’s the point?”
Murphy was told the numbers had been pulled from the presentation due to uncertainty over how they might change under the mayor’s new directions.
Public works employees “felt their lives were in danger going into the office,” Franklin said. She said she asked staff to focus on, “What do we need to do to get the team members safe as quickly as possible?”
She also clarified on the numbers, asking Public Works Director Dave Davis, “We’re talking about a $100 million project. Correct?”
“Plus,” he replied.
The mayor followed: “The shortest, quickest, least expensive was an enormous number. And then the other number more than doubles. So we’re really talking about huge numbers here.”
Part of the urgency is that public works would play a key role in the city’s recovery efforts after a disaster, Davis said. A collapsed building could delay essential services, he said. He apologized for the flap over the numbers.
“We’re not trying to hide the ball by any means,” he said. “It’s really the timing of the way this has unfolded.”
A special council meeting on the topic now is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday.
The mayor has asked to see the report on short-term options in the next few weeks. Ideas could include shoring up the Cedar Street building, putting the staff into portables or finding another space, city spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke said.
Meanwhile, the city has made moves to buy the Snohomish Health District building at 3020 Rucker Ave. for public works use. The health district is looking at moving to another space downtown, pending the sale.