By Mellow DeTray
At Monday night’s (May 23, 2022) Study Session, the Burien City Council took a deep dive into a few larger topics for voting at future meetings.
All Councilmembers were present except Mayor Sofia Aragon, so Deputy Mayor Kevin Schilling filled in to chair the meeting, which was the first to allow people inside City Hall since March, 2020. It was also streamed online and on local TV channel 21.
Washington Cities Insurance Authority
The first presentation was by Rob Roscoe, Deputy Director of Washington Cities Insurance Authority (WCIA). This organization is a risk-sharing pool created in 1981 via interlocal government agreement. With over $160 million in assets, they have the strongest financials of the three risk pools in Washington State. A risk pool operates similarly to an insurance company, but is run in a way that keeps the costs to cities much lower than a typical insurance company would. Members from each city help run the organization through serving on committees. They assess and handle any liability claim that gets filed to the city. The most frequent claim to cities in the area is for pothole damage, especially after wet weather.
The average cost to Burien is $430,000/year for coverage. Price is based on several things, including value of the property, size of city staff, and number of city vehicles. WCIA pride themselves on stability and transparency in rates, and say that they won’t hit the city with huge increases like an insurance company might. The obligations for members include attending a full board meeting, paying their assessment on time, reporting claims promptly, and undergoing an annual risk management audit.
American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Funds
With nearly $11 million in economic recovery funds on the table, the city has been hard at work to figure out the best use of these funds. Carol Jacobs and her Management Partners team presented findings from extensive research in multiple languages into what community members – including the public, business owners, and city staff – would like to prioritize. For members of the public, top concerns were school closures, public transportation, social services, litter, and homelessness. For business owners, the top concerns were decline in revenue and loss of patrons, involuntary closures, and public safety. For city staff, social & city services, infrastructure, and restoring long term economic vitality ranked high.
$3.6 million of the ARPA funds have already been allocated to address public safety, leaving $7.2 million for the Council to determine. Councilmembers will be giving feedback on their priorities by email, and then the results will be brought back to Council in a June 6 presentation. Councilmembers wanted to make sure that the way these funds are used aligns with what the community actually wants and addresses their concerns, and strongly prefer that they are spent on permanent infrastructure changes rather than things that will have an ongoing management cost.
Boulevard Park Flooding Study
About a dozen homes and yards have been dealing with flooding in the Boulevard Park area. The homes are built around a naturally occurring stream. Since this stream runs through pipes under many private properties, its management has been inconsistent, sometimes unpermitted, and several residents have installed pipes with a far too-small circumference, leading to inevitable blockage that floods properties upstream.
According to the study, much of the flooding, which comes up through septic connections, could be remedied by getting the houses hooked up to sewer services. This is an expensive proposition and may be a good use of ARPA money. During the Public Comments section, multiple community members voiced their concern over flooding issues in the neighborhood, and showed their support of using ARPA funds for drainage solutions.
Mellow DeTray is a Seattle native who has spent the last 16 years raising her family in Burien. She has volunteered at many local establishments over the years, including the Burien Library, Burien Actors Theatre, and Hot Feet Fitness. After working for ten years at Burien Community Center, she moved on to teaching fitness classes and work the front desk of a Burien yoga studio. For many years Mellow kept a moderately popular cooking & lifestyle blog, and she had a brief stint in political journalism during a local election. Clear and informative writing has always been a side hobby of Mellow’s and she looks forward to bringing you unbiased coverage of City Council meetings.