By Jack Mayne
Police Chief Ted Boe told the Burien City Council Monday night (June 3) that all of the campers at midtown parks were gone while the Council also heard about a potential replacement of the city community center and the possibility of more police officers.
The update was on the four-month pilot program to â€œcontrol and regulate unauthorized useâ€ of Burienâ€™s parks and adjacent facilities.
Boe said that when the review began on May 6, there were about 25 people â€œactively livingâ€ during evening hours in the Annex/Skateboard Park and Puget Sound Park and most of May’s city focus was talking with people and providing outreach for necessary services.
Police worked with campers
Then on May 20 â€œeverybody in the parks was provided 72 hours noticeâ€ to leave and â€œother service providers offered servicesâ€ to those living in the park, Boe said. The next few days, city officials, sometimes police officers, spoke with those living in the parks, offering assistance to those being told to leave.
There were 13 people left in the parks on May 23 and they were offered assistance in finding a place to stay and any other assistance, including help in packing and moving their belongings, said Boe. Six people got services from the Union Gospel Mission and police helped one person move his inoperative vehicle.
â€œAfter than evening of May 24th, there was nobody remaining in the parks,â€ Boe told Councilmembers. Nine people were later â€œoffered resourcesâ€ and one person was arrested for being in a park outside business hours and refused to leave the park at the request of officers.
Moved down the road?
Councilmember Krystal Marks wondered where the people who left the parks after being warned ended up. â€œI do not want the end result (being) us kicking people down the road and making them a problem that needs to be solved â€¦ by another city.â€
â€œNo, we donâ€™t track people, that is not the game we are in,â€ Boe said.
Burien Human Services Manager Colleen Brandt-Schluter (pictured, left) said the city does keep in contact with teams working with the city, â€œthey are in our city and we continue to try to put services in front of them.â€
Deputy Mayor Austin Bell also wondered if the city is â€œjust pushing people from one place to the next â€“ unintentionally…â€
To this Brandt-Schluter said people do move around and some may just find a place of opportunity in the wider South King County area but the intent is not to move homeless or itinerants to the next city.
Mayor Jimmy Matta said â€œas long as we donâ€™t have some kind of shelter in Burien, we are going to push them somewhere â€” they are either going to go somewhere where they can sleep underneath a tree somewhere out in the wilderness or they are going to go to another city, so I donâ€™t think the four-month solution is really going to resolve anything other than to move people around.
â€œThis is not something that Burien will come up with the solution tomorrow,â€ Matta said. â€œIt is a financial investment, it is a county issue that is affecting the county.â€
He said people are going back to the parks in Burien, but the â€œissue is not going away yet, we are going to have to continue the conversation.â€
New Community Center?
Parks Director Steve Roemer (pictured above), who is retiring next week, said he has looked at other area projects similar to the proposal for Burien, and others have taken a longer time coming up with costs, area interests and what key citizens and officials want. At the same time, he said there’s lots of public input â€œso at the end of the road when you are looking for funding from your residents, you have a lot of support already built up and you know what your costs are going to be very clearly, very specifically so there are no surprises.â€
He said the city currently spends $30,000 to $50,000 a year for community center repairs.
Roemer noted that the north county city of Shoreline had a three year process to survey residents, study costs and acceptability of charges to the public to see if a new community center would be what residents wanted at a price they could and would pay. He suggests the Burien Council take the first year to talk to the public, have a series of public meetings to â€œdefine what that space will look likeâ€ what the building will cost.
Their cost is $88 million. Burien Council member Nancy Tosta noted that is almost three times what Burien in considering early on for a replacement facility.
Tosta says she does not hear a lot of people asking for a new community center but are asking for more playground space, more recreation activities.
â€œI appreciate your expressing us to take the time to figure out what the community really wants, and what our needs are,â€ she said.
Councilmember Krystal Marx said she would be more interested making the community center space better for the public and those already using the center.
Krakowiak said she would move ahead with Roemerâ€™s recommendation to take time and work up options, costs and develop a plan for later replacement or repair and upgrade of the current community center.
City financial plan
When the Council was considering the budget for 2019, it was told the city administration had engaged a consultant, FCS Group, â€œto assist with developing a long-range financial modelâ€ to assist development of Burienâ€™s general fund.
â€œBased on City Council input during the March meeting, staff presented another forecast to the City Council Meeting on April 1, 2019,â€ Wilsonâ€™s Council memo said. Included is a potential process for a (tax) levy lid lift.â€
More police officers
â€œFour total officers are included in the (proposed) public safety sales taxâ€ proposal and two budget options from the city manager, said Christensen.
â€œThere are two (budget) scenarios that do not address the cityâ€™s long term financial sustainability,â€ he said. They are the public safety sales tax for new police officers and a new community center. To pay for these, the city would need to reduce other costs or â€œexplore other revenue options.â€
Voters could approve an increase in the property tax levy rate to make additional upgrades, Christensen said.