Candidates running for three Mill Creek City Council positions in the November election say the biggest issues facing the city are growth related — increased traffic and demand for city services, economic development and long-term planning.
Ray Graves, Chuck Wright, Mark Harmsworth, Ed McNichol and council incumbents Mark Bond and Mike Todd are seeking election to positions five, six and seven.
All of the candidates expressed concern over a decline in the quality of life for Mill Creek residents affected by rapid growth in and around the city.
“Growth is a good thing, as long as it’s planned,” said Harmsworth, 37, who is running for position five against Graves and Wright. “We need to plan strategically, so we’re not growing so fast that we can no longer serve the needs of the community.”
Complaints about congested roadways, construction debris and similar problems are surfacing at city council meetings and other community gatherings more frequently these days.
“Things like noise, pollution and speeding weren’t as noticeable a few years ago,” said Graves, 60, a Mill Creek real estate agent and retired Navy officer. “All of the sudden these issues have become a big problem, lessening the quality of life for our residents.”
While the recent addition of Mill Creek’s Town Center has generated much needed revenue from retail and property taxes, it also has spurred development and increased traffic in and out of the city.
“We need to make sure we have sufficient revenue to maintain the integrity our infrastructure as we reach out to other communities just outside our borders,” he said.
Bond, 39, who is running unopposed for re-election, agreed.
Requests from residents in surrounding, unincorporated neighborhoods to be annexed into Mill Creek need to be examined carefully, he added.
“I think the citizens that elected me are very reluctant about adding new property and residents to our city that will jeopardize the quality of life for our existing citizens,” he said.
Wright, a 62-year-old mental health professional, said there’s a growing fear among residents that police and other vital services are not equipped to handle the city’s growing population.
“People discovered the jewel that Mill Creek is because of developments like town center, but it has unfortunately added to the crime rates in our neighborhoods,” he said. “We have to maintain the strength and quality of our services and communicate with our police officers to ensure the safety and security of our residents.”
McNichol, 43, also has been approached by community members about their desire to see a greater police presence in Mill Creek neighborhoods.
“People want to know their neighborhoods are safe,” he said. “We have an excellent police force and I think it’s important that we maintain that.”
McNichol said development in the city needs to be monitored closely to ensure adequate revenue will be generated to sustain city services without raising property taxes.
“We need to work with people when we annex new areas and make sure it’s beneficial to everyone involved,” he said. “I think communicating better with the county and the surrounding cities also will help preserve the quality of life we have here.”
Todd, 53, said it’s important not to forget about the quality of life for Mill Creek’s youngest residents and pointed out the need for additional parks and playfields.
“We’ve been lucky that some of the schools have allowed us use of their facilities, but most of the fields we’re using are outside the city,” said Todd, who’s been a soccer coach in the area for several years. “We are in desperate need of playfields and I think it’s important that we plan for them now in the midst of all this growth. No one wants to live in a concrete jungle.
“That’s why everyone is moving here from Seattle.”