New city manager has big plans for Mill Creek

MILL CREEK — There’s a new city manager in town.

And she has plans to expand city buildings, build a senior center and a public works shop and reorganize how work is done in Mill Creek. The hope is to address the city’s needs and save money, said Rebecca Polizzotto, the new city manager.

When she interviewed for the job earlier this year, Polizzotto said, the City Council talked about how Mill Creek had long outgrown its space at City Hall, leaving the police and public works departments cramped.

The city has been looking for a place for those departments to work and house equipment that fits the budget. The council also wants a senior center.

On Tuesday, the council gave Polizzotto the green light to start working on her plans.

This week, she and city staff announced a deal with a developer to address the need for senior housing and more police space.

Vintage Housing has proposed building two five-story buildings along 132nd Street SE. It plans to have senior housing on the upper levels of the buildings and commercial space on the bottom.

The developer has agreed to allow the Mill Creek Police Department to use 500 square feet of space on the lower level of one of the buildings as a satellite precinct, if the council approves the deal later this month. Vintage would not charge the city for use of the space.

Kelly Chelin, the longtime city clerk who has been promoted to director of public information as part of the staff reorganization, said having a new precinct would offer better police response time and more space for officers to work.

The city would pay for furniture and computers for the precinct. That would cost less than the $4.5 million the city put in its capital improvement plan to deal with law enforcement space in 2017 and 2018, Chelin said.

The $4.5 million, however, is not allocated in the city budget because Mill Creek hadn’t found a source of funding.

The developer has also agreed to allow a senior center to use 2,800 square feet of the space on the lower level, if the council approves. The seniors also could use the Vintage Housing amenities, such as a community kitchen, a fitness center and a beauty salon.

“It would give them so much more than they have now,” Chelin said.

Seniors in Mill Creek have been meeting in a room in the Annex building next door to City Hall.

Polizzotto has a plan to revamp and expand both City Hall and the Annex to provide more space for staff. It would cost an estimated $396,950, compared to the $4.2 million the City Council included in its capital improvement plan for the two buildings in 2018 and 2019.

“It’s been hanging over our heads for a long time to figure out what we’re going to do” for space, Chelin said.

Polizzotto wants to build a shop for public works near the Heatherwood Apartments by the Mill Creek Sports Park. It would cost an estimated $600,000, instead of buying another piece of land the city was eyeing on 132nd St. SE for $1.5 million.

Polizzotto also is reorganizing the city’s nine departments by shifting duties in hopes of making Mill Creek run more efficiently. She expects it to save Mill Creek $333,015 in 2015 and 2016.

The most notable change is moving the handling of public records from the city clerk to the city attorney.

Polizzotto, a former assistant attorney general for Alaska, said because public records can be such a “big liability” in Washington, she wants them handled by City Attorney Shane Moloney. There also are plans to develop an electronic records management system so people can look up more city documents online.

The change gives Chelin, who previously handled records requests, more time to focus on her new public relations and marketing duties.

Polizzotto also has rolled economic development into the community development department. She made engineering its own department and plans to save money by doing more of that work in-house.

For the finance department, Polizzotto purchased an electronic payroll and employment records system to free up staff who were entering time cards by hand.

Polizzotto also said she sees a problem with the city spending millions of dollars per year for its fire protection contract with Snohomish County Fire District 7 but having no oversight of how that money is spent. Polizzotto plans to take on as her next project negotiations with the fire district for a contract beyond 2016.

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; anile@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @AmyNileReports.

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