Council approves increased costs for Hall Creek restoration, incentives to retain child care and recreation employees

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Laura Reed, Mountlake Terrace’s stormwater program manager, answers questions after her presentation to city council on Thursday.

Faced with a light agenda for its August 1 business meeting, Mountlake Terrace City Council voted in its Thursday July 28 business/study session to cancel that meeting and move forward – after the staff presentations and board discussion – approving three points.

Topping the list of approvals was an amended agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers—reflecting a cost increase of $841,750—for the restoration of the portion of Hall Creek that runs through Ballinger Park. The work also includes habitat restoration work in the park’s ponds and wetlands.

City Stormwater program manager Laura Reed said the project is being affected by the rapidly rising cost of diesel fuel, which has risen 75% since November 2021. “This is a project that is fundamentally about transporting large amounts of material – soil, rock, logs, plants, trees, materials for the boardwalk and the bridge – and all of those things are hauled using heavy machinery that runs on diesel,” Reed said.

The project is also impacted by a 25% increase in the cost of steel that will be used for the boardwalk and vehicle bridge, as well as additional labor costs for tree planting, hydraulic seeding and irrigation of new plantations. Additionally, Reed said, the increased costs reflect improvements to the boardwalk and bridge design.

The restoration of Hall Creek is a joint project between the City of Mountlake Terrace and the US Army Corps of Engineers. It includes the installation of new habitats for native plants and animals, the construction of a new creek channel, a flyover boardwalk to allow access for park visitors and to protect sensitive areas. The project is expected to start in the summer of 2023 and construction will continue through 2024, Reed said.

Under the agreement approved in 2015, 65% of the funding comes from the Army Corps of Engineers and 35% from the city. The initial cost of the project was estimated at $5.4 million, of which nearly $1.9 million is the City’s responsibility. In 2020, the city received a $194,000 grant for engineering and design work on the project, and in October 2021, it received an $807,520 grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce to help with construction costs.

With this additional grant in 2020 and 2021, Reed said, the overall cost to the city “is relatively unchanged” despite the increased costs. “The estimated cost to the city in 2020 was $1,613,000; the new cost is $2,464,750.

After subtracting the grant funds, the city will pay $2,068,845, she added.

The additional funding required of $851,750 is available from the city’s stormwater fund.

After Reed’s presentation, there was a discussion within the board, including a question from board member Erin Murray asking what would happen if the related costs went down. Reed noted that if the corps of engineers doesn’t spend all the money allocated to the city, “it’s up to us.”

Council member Rick Ryan asked what would happen if costs continued to rise. “I really, really hope they don’t,” Reed said, “because I don’t want to come back to you and ask you for more money for this project.” Now that all the design work has been done, Reed said she thinks the engineering corps’ cost estimating department “has a pretty good grasp of what they anticipate the cost will be” and is “relatively cautious” on the impacts of inflation.

Council member Laura Sonmore asked if it would be possible to defer some items from the project list to reduce the cost of the project, particularly the boardwalk.

“There is the risk that if you wait longer the costs will be even higher for the works,” Reed replied. “I think we really want this parkway because it’s going to connect the east and west sides of the park. And if we can get it where someone else is paying 65% of the cost, then that’s sort of a net gain for the city.

Council unanimously approved City Manager Scott Hugill’s approval to approve the amended Army Corps of Engineers deal, which is currently undergoing federal review, although costs will not change .

Also tied to Ballinger Park, council on Thursday evening approved a contract with Wyser Construction Company, Inc. — the winning bidder at $268,370 — for a north-south paved pathway that will connect the Mountlake Terrace Community Senior Center (also known as the name of the Mickey Corso Community Clubhouse) with the Ballinger Park boat launch and Ballinger Lake waterfront. Work on the trail is funded in part by the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office’s Aquatic Lands Improvement Account.

The trail project on the east side of the park will include the construction of approximately 1,544 linear feet of 8-foot-wide ADA paved walking path, with a concrete sidewalk entrance from the north parking lot near the clubhouse. The south end of the trail will connect to existing trails leading to the fishing pier and boat launch parking lot. The trail will also provide access to the universally accessible playground.

The city announced last week the upcoming start of construction work on these two projects, which will close access to the large grassy area between the public beach and the clubhouse. The boat launch, fishing pier and senior center will remain open.

Visitors should expect to see reduced parking at the Ballinger Park Senior Center and lake access lots, in addition to increased traffic as teams travel.

Playground rendering

The playground was also the subject of a separate conversation with the council on Thursday evening, as Director of Recreation and Parks Jeff Betz noted that costs for that project had increased by $140,925.

The 6,300 square foot playground will be the first of its kind in Mountlake Terrace and one of the few in Snohomish County. Accessible playgrounds go beyond ADA requirements to be more inclusive for children with disabilities and sensory issues. One of the features of the playground is a cast rubber play surface which is easier to use for people with disabilities. The city had to modify the design to meet Washington State Department of Ecology requirements that any stormwater from the playing surface be treated directly rather than seeping into native soils, explained Betz.

Thursday evening’s presentation was for informational purposes only; staff will present a budget amendment at an upcoming meeting that reflects the increased costs, City Manager Hugill said.

Recreation and Parks Director Jeff Betz addresses the council on Thursday.

In other business, council passed a resolution for a time-limited incentive program to help the city recruit and retain child care and recreation staff.

Betz explained that the $396,026 program will be funded by two grants from the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families — a Child Care Stabilization Grant and a Labor Force Grant. — as well as city funding of $88,026, from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) fund for COVID recovery.

Under the program, child care and recreation staff would be paid quarterly for one year, since all funds must be disbursed by June 30, 2023. Quarterly amounts to be distributed would be $3,000 per full-time, 2 $250 per three-quarter time. , $1,500 per half-time and $1,140 per non-beneficiary part-time employee. An additional layer of compensation would be offered to employees who have achieved three, five or 10 years of service in the form of an additional one-time payment of $300, $500 or $1,000.

Eligible employees will need to be on payroll for two full pay cycles and work a minimum of five hours per week. No seasonal or temporary staff would be eligible, Betz said.

Most of those who would benefit from the program — including front-line staff who teach and take registrations, lifeguards and swim instructors — earn minimum wage, he said. Exempt staff – essentially supervisors – would not be included.

Finally, the board on Thursday evening approved a work order for RH2 Engineering for the review of permits and engineering standards.

— By Teresa Wippel

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