By Jack Mayne
Despite national concerns over the coronavirus outbreak that has killed people 10 in the Seattle area, the Burien City Council met on Monday (March 2) to discuss the effect of the outbreak on Burien, but also voted to give a pay and benefits increase to City Manager Brian Wilson.
Wilson told the Council that the city has been “working feverishly … in an effort to protect our Burien community, our city staff and we are putting into place procedures to help reduce the transmission of this virus in city-owned buildings.”
Disinfecting and sanitizing
Rooms and classrooms will be disinfected after each use, more hand sanitizer facilities will be installed in public places, increasing the frequency of cleaning. The city, said Wilson, is planning internally for potential “operational disruption” that could occur.
Wilson said the city is also coordinating with public health care and service providers in Seattle and King County, as well as with Highline Public Schools “to prepare for a community response.”
“Right now, health officials are not recommending the cancelling of large events or closure of schools, but this may change if the coronavirus (or COVID-19) becomes widespread,” he said. Much information about the virus and possibilities of changes if the problems continue to get worse, will be on the Burien city website, burien.gov, or on 1 800 525.0127, then callers should press #, the pound sign.
Wilson told the Council that “most cases of the coronavirus are mild, with fever and a cough. People should increase protections for themselves with concern for personal hygiene, keeping hands washed, staying home when sick, cover coughs and sneezes.”d
Many have questions
Mayor Jimmy Matta said Monday night that homeless or non-English speaking people need information on where to go for help and find people who can speak their language to assist then.
“We have many questions,” Matta said.
On Wednesday morning, the statewide coronavirus death toll was at 10 and, according to the Washington State Department of Health, there has been another death in King County, bringing the number of deaths in the county to nine (11 nationally). The number of cases in King County is now at 31, up from 21 on Tuesday. Snohomish County now has two new cases, up from eight on Tuesday.
At Monday’s session, Councilmember Krystal Marx said she is on the King County Board of Health and said “it is very important for you to get information from reliable sources” and not from social media unless it is posted by health agencies.
On Wednesday (March 4) Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said his office “is investigating price gouging in the wake of the COVID-19 public-health emergency. We do not identify the targets of our investigations, but we are taking formal investigative actions. If you see price gouging, file a complaint with my office.”
As deputy mayor, Krystal Marx moved to add an item to the agenda that would take up again the recent evaluation and decision on City Manager Brian Wilson’s pay and benefits. Marx said the decision made in a closed meeting, and she was “looking forward to sharing my thoughts about this.”
Pay, benefits adjustment
Apparently some new members of the City Council decided that Wilson was not given a big enough pay raise or other compensation increases.
Councilmember Nancy Tosta said four members of the current Council participated in the decision about Wilson’s compensation for 2020. The four voting on Wilson’s evaluation in December were Tosta, Matta, Olguin, and Marx. Additionally, three former Councilmembers, Lucy Krakowiak, Austin Bell and Bob Edgar participated in the evaluation.
The four voting on Wilson’s evaluation in December were Tosta and three former Councilmembers, Lucy Krakowiak, Austin Bell and Bob Edgar.
“It’s inappropriate, in my mind, that this new Council (with new members) would be talking about that and a potential decision based on that” so she said she would not reconsider Wilson’ evaluation at this time.
Councilmember Cydney Moore said the Council should not “fail to take action” on things that should be considered. “We are here now, we’ve got a job to do and we have to learn on our feet and take things up as we go….”
Tosta said “the previous Council did not neglect taking action. The action they took spoke for itself.”
Mayor Jimmy Matta, who was on the Council at the time, said the evaluation was never finished, “we ran out of time, we never finished it, we had pressing issues that had come to the Council and that took precedence.”
Only Tosta voted against changing the agenda to reconsider Wilson’s pay and reevaluating his job as city manager.
Later in the Monday night regular session, the issue was addressed by Marx again. She said Burien should pay its staff “in alignment with what other cities are paying in staff retention” and based on its evaluation of Wilson.
Recently, the Des Moines City Council approved a total pay and benefits package of $224,000 for their City Manager, Michael Matthias.
Up to $200,500
“I would like to make a motion to increase the total compensation of the city manager to $200,500,” Marx said, adding she was looking at a chart of such pay in other regional cities, such as SeaTac, Des Moines, Edmonds, Bothell, and others.
“For me, in my role as deputy mayor, is to honor the service that I believe our city manager provides and to pay him in alignment,” she said.
Tosta said she would abstain “because this Council has not done an evaluation of the city manager. It was done last year” and because she objected to the process being used by this new Council.
Matta said he had no question on procedure.
Councilmember Moore said, again, “we are here now, we should be doing it,” adding the city does “need to pay our people reasonably,” adding “you get what you pay for… I support this.”
Councilmember Kevin Schilling said he would abstain because he was not involved in the evaluation process.
The final motion was “To increase the total compensation to the city manager to $200,500, with the increase to the base salary.” It was approved by four members, with three abstaining.
The abstentions were Nancy Tosta, Kevin Schilling and Pedro Olguin.
Chris Craig, Burien economic development director, told the Council the city has met with King County officials to “discuss next steps to development of transit-oriented housing” on land south of the Burien transit center garage on SW 150th and 4th Ave. SW. The County ha $3 million in their budget for development of affordable housing on that site. The land is owned by the county and is used now as a parking lot.
Craig said the county will be looking for developers for the land and is seeking the city’s “input on the site.”
The city has also been approached on potential development of a municipal parking lot on SW 151st and 6th Ave. SW. He said plans will be brought to the Council later when more is known.
Heather Dumlao is the new deputy city clerk, a former Renton city employee; Devin Chicras is the city’s new communications intern; David Mattson is a new street maintenance worker; Justin Dewolfe is a street maintenance worker; Rodney Fitch is a maintenance worker and Sean Riley is a full-time maintenance worker.