Coronavirus: Phase 1 begins
Some parks reopen; grants, aid, construction approved
Last updated 5/11/2020 at 4:10pm
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect every aspect of life in Edmonds, a touch of normalcy returned this week as the City of Edmonds reopened several parks in alignment with Gov. Jay Inslee's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order and phased reopening of the state.
Those openings included the Fishing Pier, Marina Beach Park and parking lot, and the Brackett's Landing North parking lot. Play structures, ball fields, and the City Park spray pad will remain closed, as does the off-leash dog park.
Due to COVID-19 – the disease caused by the coronavirus – social distancing and safety guidelines will still need to be observed by park visitors.
As of Wednesday, May 6, numbers from the Snohomish Health District show more than 2,500 confirmed cases in the county, with more 230 more listed as probable.
In Edmonds, that number was 292 confirmed cases, with 178 recoveries. Edmonds has recorded 23 deaths, although that number is expected to increase with time.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced May 1 that the statewide stay-at-home order set to expire May 4 has been extended through May 31. His four-phased approach to reopening businesses, with social distancing guidelines, began May 5.
The first phase includes some outdoor recreation, such as hunting, fishing, golf, boating and hiking, notably the reopening of state parks and other public lands.
Drive-in spiritual services are also allowed, with one household per vehicle. Only essential travel is allowed. For business and employees, essential businesses remaining open include existing construction allowed that meets agreed on criteria; landscaping; automobile sales; retail (curb-side pick-up orders only); car washes; and pet walkers.
Edmonds gets grants
To help weather the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, Edmonds Mayor Nelson said the City will receive a $1.26 million CARES Act grant. He made the announcement April 28 during a virtual open house held on Zoom.
Nelson said the grant will be specifically related to COVID-19 issues, and could include grants to small businesses. On March 27, the president signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The $2 trillion aid package is intended to provide financial aid to families and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Nelson also said he estimates the City will experience a 9.2% reduction in revenue to the general fund, but added that this number was a projection that is being updated monthly. He added that he expects Edmonds' financial health to be OK for 2020, but said the effect on the 2021 budget was currently unknown.
Nelson said he and City staff are not taking pay cuts, but "everything is on the table."
Some construction projects can move forward
With construction limited or slowed due to the coronavirus, the City of Edmonds says it wants to help builders know which projects in Edmonds can move forward and to help them plan for the extra time needed to complete projects.
Inslee's new construction order April 24 allowed many existing construction activities to be resumed. The updated information reflects the new activities allowed, along with those already allowed, such as constructing essential facilities and repairing or preventing damage.
The City's permitting webpage (http://www.edmondswa.gov/2015-01-22-21-27-29.html) will continue to be updated to inform applicants about new and changing construction requirements, including the current COVID-19 safety rules and the process for getting a City inspection.
Also, the expiration date for active development permits has been pushed out. On April 21, the City adopted an ordinance that automatically extends most permit expiration dates by 120 days.
The extra time applies only to permits issued before the end of the governor's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order. To provide a safer environment, the City's Development Services Department changed its process for meeting with applicants.
Instead of in-person meetings, staff now meets with applicants through online video conferencing. Credit-card fees have been temporarily waived to make it easier for applicants to pay for permits remotely.
$100,000 fund to assist Edmonds families
The Edmonds City Council on April 28 passed an ordinance establishing a short-term fund to assist Edmonds families with lower incomes and financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Families can receive up to $1,000 per household for assistance with rent, food, medical, child care, or utility costs.
The ordinance, proposed by Councilmember Luke Distelhorst, passed 5-2, with Councilmember Kristiana Johnson opposed, with Councilmember Diane Buckshnis abstaining
To create the fund, the $100,000 will be transferred from the council's Homelessness Response Fund, which City Council established "to provide monies with which to alleviate the problem of homelessness in Edmonds and the surrounding area."
As of April 8, $225,443 remained unspent in the fund.
The funds will be distributed in increments of $33,000 in an attempt to ensure accountability. That came from an amendment to the ordinance proposed by Councilmember Laura Johnson. Monthly reports will be required outlining the organizations that have received funding.
The proposed concept authorizes City staff to establish specific program requirements and enter into agreements with one or more qualifying human services organizations.
For the program's purpose, "lower income" means those households that earned no more than 60% of the county median family income in 2019. For a four-person household, the maximum 2019 income would be $59,040.
In Edmonds, an estimated 4,450 households – about 25% of the total – have incomes that were 60% or less of the county median family income, according to the City. Another criterion would be that the household must have experienced lost income or increased costs due to COVID-19 impacts.
The household must also be physically located within the City of Edmonds, which excludes those living in Esperance.
Buckshnis said she believed $100,000 was not enough, and raised concerns about accountability and how to determine which families would receive the funds.
"If we believe in this, we should look to see how many families would be impacted. We should attempt to provide some sort of financial ramification if, in fact, they need it. I believe in the concept. I just believe we need to have more information. We should be looking out for all of Edmonds. I just find it heartbreaking that we are just picking out 100."
Kristiana Johnson, in expressing her reservations with the ordinance, said that that it could lead to a duplication of services, as larger funds are available at the state and federal level. She mentioned unemployment insurance, food stamps, utilities relief, and the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
Resolution: No rent increases
Also on Tuesday, councilmembers passed a resolution – also proposed by Distelhorst – calling on local landlords to not increase rent payment during the coronavirus pandemic, calling on Inslee, President Trump, and federal legislators to use emergency powers to address rent and mortgage payments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The resolution noted that "a professional report delivered to the Edmonds City Council in 2019 estimated that a combined 32% of Edmonds households were cost-burdened or severely cost-burdened, including over 40% of renters."
What opened on May 5?
– Fishing Pier: Beginning May 5, the public may walk and fish from the pier. The City will post signs and provide visual guidance to maintain social distancing. Portable restrooms and wash stations will be available. Permanent public restrooms remain closed.
– Marina Beach Park and parking lot: The park and parking lot will reopen with additional Americans with Disability Act (ADA) parking stalls to provide enhanced access. Existing portable restrooms will be open. The playground and sand volleyball court will remain closed. The dog park will also remain closed.
@– Brackett's Landing North parking lot: The parking lot will reopen with additional ADA parking stalls. The restroom and drinking fountain will remain closed. No portable restrooms are available at this park.
– Parks remain open: All other city parks, trails and open spaces are open for public use. Amenities such as permanent restrooms, drinking fountains, playgrounds, picnic shelters, sports courts and the skate park remain closed until further notice.
While the City of Edmonds Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services Department said it appreciates and recognizes the physical and mental value of recreation, exercise and being outside, it also requests people who visit the city parks, trails and open spaces adhere to the COVID-19 safety guidelines including:
– Avoid small and large gatherings in parks.
– Do not participate in organized activities or sports.
– Avoid high-touch surface (benches, playground, picnic tables, gates, etc.).
"I am happy to share that we got the go-ahead to open some of our most popular open spaces in Edmonds," said Nelson. "They will look a bit different. These are the steps we need to take for the health and safety of our residents and visitors, and to improve access for those who have difficulty walking."
"Not the time to give in"
Late last month, Mayor Nelson made the following statement:
"Now is not the time to give in to this virus, to give up on our neighbors or our community. We need to keep on practicing social distancing, not moral distancing. We need to look out for one another now more than ever in Edmonds and beyond.
"We need to keep supporting our local businesses, keep supporting our first responders, and we will get through this difficult time in our lives.
"We need to continue to trust our medical professionals that have helped us make it this far. They have guided our governor's emergency decisions and they have saved countless lives.
"Our state is working on a careful, phased-in approach to reopen when it is medically safe to do so, but until then we need to follow the stay-at-home order. Asking the governor to set an arbitrary timetable, unsupported by medical data, which is not likely to be met, is misleading and gives false hope to our community.
"I trust our governor and support his leadership in getting us through these unprecedented times together.
"Because the sooner we can protect everyone's health, the sooner our economy will truly recover."