By Nicholas Johnson

Burien’s city council will get its first look this Monday, July 19 at a $610,000 proposal intended to bolster public safety in the city – primarily in its downtown business core.

The proposal from Police Chief Ted Boe, Fire Chief Mike Marrs and Human Services Manager Colleen Brandt-Schluter is a response to “pressure from the community and business leaders to ‘do something’ about homelessness” while also respecting the rights of people experiencing homelessness, according to the proposal’s agenda bill for Monday evening’s city council meeting.

Under the proposal, city staff recommend hiring a social worker focused on downtown, establishing a downtown storefront resource center staffed by a police officer, and creating a community response team comprised of a mental health professional and an emergency medical services (EMS) professional.

“This 3-prong effort complements our existing partnerships and allows our community and Council to continue to develop a crisis continuum of care that results in the continued reduction of harm, arrests, and use of jails and emergency departments while promoting the development of and access to quality, appropriate services that our businesses and community are requesting,” according to the agenda bill.

Hiring a social worker would cost $90,000, according to the proposal. Hiring an EMS professional and a mental health professional, also referred to as a designated crisis responder, would cost a total of $320,000, with the EMS professional paid for using $160,000 in EMS levy funds. Establishing a storefront resource center staffed with a police officer would cost $200,000.

The remaining $450,000 cost, after using the $160,000 in EMS levy funds, would be covered either by available funds in the city’s 2021/2022 budget or money received through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), or a combination of the two.

Burien has so far received half of a total $10.8 million awarded to the city through ARPA, and staff are in the process of determining how to use that money.

The city council is not expected to take action during Monday’s meeting, but it could do so during its Aug. 2 meeting. When it does take action, the council could direct the city manager to implement all or part of the proposal, or it could reject the proposal outright.

According to the proposal, the city could have its downtown storefront resource center established and both a police officer and a social worker hired sometime in October, if the council signs off on the proposal. The crisis response team would be implemented by January 2022.