EDMONDS — After lengthy debate about one councilmember’s proposed amendments that would have diverted money from green infrastructure projects to support for businesses and residents, the city council passed the ordinance creating the Edmonds Rescue Plan Fund 6-1.
Councilmember Diane Buckshnis, a vocal proponent of tree preservation and other green initiatives around the city, was the only no vote.
“As I stated last week, I think it’s foolish to put 42% into green infrastructure,” Buckshnis said. “I think that citizens need more money. I think nonprofits need more money. I think individuals need more money.”
The Edmonds Rescue Plan, as approved by the council Tuesday night, will provide $750,000 for city expenditures associated with the pandemic, nearly $4.2 million for household and utility bill support and housing repairs for those earning no more than 40% of Edmonds’ median income, $1.1 million for business and tourism support, $500,000 in nonprofit support, $600,000 for financial aid to cover tuition and other expenses for those seeking new job skills at local community colleges and/or trade schools, and $4.7 million for green infrastructure projects.
The money will be distributed through 2024, and the council can revisit how the aid is divided into programs if greater need is identified elsewhere.
Patrick Doherty, director of Economic Development and Community Services for the city, said last week that outreach about the available dollars will likely come in the form of postcards, social media posts and press releases.
During the council’s first in-person meeting in over a year, Buckshnis proposed several amendments to the rescue plan, including cutting the allocation for green streets and rain gardens in half to provide $250,000 more to both the job retraining and nonprofit support funds.
Buckshnis said there are incentives available through the Snohomish Conservation District for homeowners who want to create stormwater solutions and the rescue dollars should be directed toward local residents’ immediate needs.
“The spirit of this rescue plan is to rescue citizens or rescue people that have been in trouble and businesses and all that,” Buckshnis said. “I just believe that we should do that.”
She ultimately failed to get enough support to pass any of her proposed amendments.
Councilmembers Luke Distelhorst and Adrienne Fraley-Monillas both highlighted that the guidelines for disbursement of American Rescue Plan Act funds call for investment in green infrastructure improvements, such as the Edmonds Marsh water quality and flood control, Lower Perrinville Creek realignment and green streets and rain gardens outlined in the rescue plan.
Public Works & Utilities Director Phil Williams said these projects would help mitigate some of the pollutants that currently run into the stormwater catch basins off of Highway 104 and throughout the city.
“This is something we can do right now — it’s entirely within our control,” he said.
While millions will go directly toward local residents’ immediate needs, the infrastructure improvements will aid the community’s wellbeing in years to come, Distelhorst said.
“But this comes back to environmental justice and looking at where we’re fixing the problems,” Distelhorst said. “If we’re only looking at the end of the pipe and not the beginning of the pipe we’re not going to see a whole lot of improvement there.”
Since Doherty’s first presentation of the rescue plan, councilmembers made small amendments, including expanding the job retraining fund to include grants for trade school programs and adding that financial aid will go to working adults “with demonstrated financial need” and removing the requirement for businesses to be outside of downtown Edmonds to be eligible for business support grants.
“We obviously have several buckets here to consider as we go over these years,” Doherty said. “And I think that helps provide some comfort that you don’t have to solve all the problems tonight with a crystal ball.”
Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @BredaIsabella