Mayor: Everett looking up; homeless housing to open this month

EVERETT — State of the city addresses tend to be a laundry list of accomplishments, wish lists and jokes, and seldom contain any surprises. By necessity, they are almost always optimistic.

Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson’s 13th such speech, delivered on Thursday, was true to form, but there was a new sense of mission in the mayor’s policy statements.

In addition to the lists of new businesses, construction and transportation projects and financial projections, Everett in 2015 underwent a major turnaround in how it deals with social issues, especially homelessness.

Stephanson has previously said the city would open its first low-barrier housing units for chronically homeless people in the first half of the year.

On Monday, he said the first units would be ready by the end of January.

“By the end of this month, we’ll have lined up permanent supportive housing for five of our chronically homeless citizens, with another 15 targeted for housing by the end of June,” Stephanson told the crowd at the Edward D. Hansen Conference Center.

The city is also beginning a capital campaign to fund the construction of a dedicated facility for 60 homeless people, he said.

Other initiatives the city is pursuing are the creation of a “diversion” work crew as an alternative to jail time for low-level offenders, a second public forum on low-barrier housing to be held Feb. 1, and the creation of a dedicated unit within the police department that includes social workers as well as officers.

Acknowledging that law enforcement is only one tool among many used to deal with the city’s persistent problems of street crime, homelessness, substance abuse and mental illness, Stephanson said that in December alone, police nonetheless had made more than 100 arrests in the area along Smith Avenue near the Everett Gospel Mission. Most of those arrests were for drug offenses, Stephanson said.

On the financial side, Stephanson said the city still faces deficits for several years to come. But he said the city was poised to bring in $127 million in revenue in 2016, the highest it’s been since the previous peak in 2008, just prior to the recession.

The city also issued 6,500 building permits in 2015, worth $3.3 million, and Stephanson expected a similar number for 2016.

Among other projections for the coming year, Stephanson welcomed the pending arrival of three new destroyers to Naval Station Everett, with about 300 crew each, which would partly offset the delay until 2019 of the return of the USS Nimitz.

Work crews at Boeing are also constructing the composite wing assembly building for the 777x, with a scheduled opening in May, and Fortive, the new parent company of Fluke Corp., has become the first Fortune 500 company to be based in Everett, and the first in Washington state outside of King County.

The city also plans to start work in 2016 on a new pedestrian and utility bridge from the Grand Avenue Park bluff down to West Marine View Drive.

In real estate, the new 168-room Marriott Hotel is scheduled to open in June, Skotdal Real Estate’s Aero Apartments building is 60 percent leased, and even the 220-unit Potala Place complex, which is in receivership after developer Lobsang Dargey was indicted for securities fraud, is more than half rented out, and the ground-floor retail space is nearly complete, Stephanson said.

Other challenges remain, such as the future of the former Kimberly-Clark mill site, which has been tied up in a lawsuit over its cleanup since 2014, and which Stephanson has been eager to redevelop, preferably with new maritime manufacturing businesses.

“2016 will bring its own challenges and opportunities, and I know as a city and community we will rise to the occasion,” Stephanson said. “I think we’re poised for great things in the future.”

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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