City accepts state grant for Peace Park

Some councilmembers voiced concern over how funds were accumulated
By Brandon Gustafson | Nov 07, 2018

Editor’s Note: This story pertains to a business item at the Oct. 29 Mukilteo City Council special meeting. There was not enough space to run it in last week’s paper, but as the Peace Park has been a big topic the last two years, we wanted to make sure it ran this week.

 

The Peace Park at Byer’s Park took a big step forward at the Oct. 29 special council meeting as the city accepted a $400,000 grant from the state of Washington

The project came about shortly after a July 30, 2016. shooting, where three Kamiak graduates were shot and killed and another was injured at a house party in Harbour Pointe. Organizers say the park will be used as a quiet place of healing and reflection. Its located in Old Town, on the west side of SR 525.

Despite receiving what some would call “free money” from the state Legislature, some councilmembers voiced concerns with how the money for the project came to the city.

 

Funding history

Originally, the state Legislature allotted $721,000 to the Japanese Gulch Daylighting Project . That money was later pulled, and split into two other projects in the 21st Legislative District: the Peace Park Project and the Mariner Community Campus Project.

Councilmembers learned about the shift in funds at their March 5 meeting, and questioned why they were receiving $400,000 when the park’s budget was originally $40,000, before increasing to roughly $80,000.

Mayor Jennifer Gregerson said at the March 5 meeting that Sen. Marko Liias helped the city secure funds for Peace Park.

Liias told Councilmember Bob Champion via email that he asked the funds to be switched.

“I asked to postpone the funding for the Japanese Gulch restoration project because there are two more pressing projects that have emerged as urgent needs in the 21st District, and as you well know, the Japanese Gulch project does not yet have a pathway to full funding and implementation,” Liias wrote to Champion.

Gregerson forwarded a string of emails between herself, Patricia Love, Mukilteo’s former community development director, Jeff Price, the city’s recreation and cultural services director, and Liias’ assistant, to the Beacon.

In the emails, it shows the city requested state funds for the Peace Park on Jan. 26.

 

Presentation from Price

According to Price at the Oct. 29 meeting, the project is roughly five weeks away from advancing to the design phase.

He also told councilmembers that the Mukilteo Water and Wastewater District is building a sidewalk – at its cost– to help improve pedestrian safety. He also said there will be a bike rack and bike station at the park, and that there will be no on-site parking due to issues discovered by their engineers.

He also said the city has received over $56,000 in cash and in-kind contributions.

Price said they expect to advertise the project to contractors in March, and construction will likely occur between May and July 2019, with it opening either at the end of July,or beginning of August.

 

Council feedback

Despite some issues with how it received the grant, the council ultimately voted 6-0 to accept the $400,000. There was also an amendment, which passed 7-0, to ask that city staff ensure any money that has already been spent out of the city’s park acquisition fund on this project be covered by the state grant. The amendment also asked to ensure that no additional city money is spent, and that the grant covers all costs.

Councilmember Scott Whelpley abstained from voting on the main motion.

He said he was happy with the progress of the project and that it was nearing completion, and asked to abstain from the vote because of how the city received the money.

“I can’t vote for a blatant misappropriation of funds,” Whelpley said.

After Price’s presentation, many councilmembers voiced their appreciation with Price and other city staff for their work on the project.

Council Vice President Christine Cook was especially happy with the community outreach aspect of the project, namely citizens and businesses wanting to donate time, money and supplies.

“I know there have been a lot of community members who have come forward and said that they wanted to help,” Cook said. “Giving them that opportunity is a very positive thing, and it helps with the healing for our community.”

Councilmember Anna Rohrbough also thanked Price for his work on the project, noting how it’s shaping up to look like how victims and survivors of the 2016 shooting imagined it to be.

She also followed up on Whelpley’s comments, noting how surprised she and her fellow councilmembers were in March when they first heard the announcement of the grant, and saying that funding for the Japanese Gulch project was so near to finalization in the legislature, that it would take someone from the city to go in and request it be pulled. She pointed the blame at Gregerson.

“I want the public to know that this is why Scott is abstaining, I’m sure,” she said. “I’m going to vote for this because our city needs to move forward, but I don’t want to because of the way the grant was lied about here, on record, and how it was achieved.”

Gregerson followed Rohrbough’s comments by saying it was on the record how they applied for the grant, and that she didn’t lie about anything relating to it.

Council President Steve Schmalz said he would support receiving the grant, but noted his displeasure with how the cost of the project ballooned from the original $40,000 scope to $400,000.

“I don’t think it’s very normal how the process went, but what I heard was it was kind of a bait and switch thing changed at the last minute,” Schmalz said, “and I do hope that the daylighting goes through and if it doesn’t, we’ll know the reason why.”

Whelpley said Love was instructed by Gregerson to write the grant and send it to Olympia, which is when Liias went to the legislature’s Ways and Means committee to request the Japanese Gulch funding be pulled, and split into two other projects – the Peace Park and the Sno-Isle Mariner Library Community Campus project.

Gregerson, after Whelpley finished speaking, said, “Yes, that is the truth.”

Rohrbough then closed the discussion saying Gregerson and Liias went into 21st District Representative Strom Peterson’s office to request the Japanese Gulch funding be pulled, and that in her 10 months as a councilmember, she has learned Gregerson “likes to lie.”

Gregerson reiterated that what Whelpley said was true, and adjourned the meeting.

 

 

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