Legislature approves airport air quality study, rejects airport impact study

By Jack Mayne

The Washington Legislature has agreed to pay for a study of the air quality around Sea-Tac Airport, but refused to pay for an overall impact study of the fast-growing airport’s effects on the cities surrounding it.

This was the message to the SeaTac City Council Tuesday night (July 11) from the city’s lobbyist.

Mayor Michael Siefkes was not pleased that lawmakers did not agree to pay for a new impact study to replace an old study suggesting few harmful effects come from airports in metropolitan areas.

Air pollution study
However, the city’s Olympia lobbyist Briahna Murray (pictured, right), vice president of Honeywell Government Affairs, said the Legislature did appropriate $250,000 for a University of Washington study of air quality around the airport.

Not approved was the requested $150,000 to update the study on the impact of expanding airports.

“We did raise a lot of attention to the overall issue,” she said. “I think if we are able to get some of your neighboring communities to engage the issue, we’ve laid the groundwork to be successful in a supplemental year.”

“We got basically squat to do what we need to do to assess the impacts of the airport on us to update that 20 year old study,” Siefkes said. He was told local legislators worked hard to get the matter approved, especially Rep. Tina Orwell.

Full interchange
The state was told by lawmakers that there should be a full interchange between SR 509 and 1-5 at 188th, Murray said.

“I’m very pleased to report that not only is it on time, but $35 million was moved up this biennium to begin right of way acquisition which means we are actually expediting the timing of the project moving forward rather than it being pushed out,” she said.

A provision was added that keeps any project savings with the project in contrast to all other projects that must share any savings.

Another problem was a local match that SeaTac, Burien, Des Moines and others would have to contribute to the 509 connection project. Murray said there was confusion as to where the money was coming from and when it was to be paid.

Now that money will not have to come from the local cities, but will be due in the 2023-2025 fiscal biennium, spilling into 2027.

Murray said the legislation says the Department of Transportation “must consider a full interchange at 188th.”

Legislature still in session
The session is far slower than usual, mainly because of the State Supreme Court order than the Legislature come to terms with full financing of the state’s common schools. A fourth special session may be in the offing, said Murray.

She said the Legislature has passed a biennial budget of $43.7 billion, she said, adding $2.6 billion in new revenue, including adding the state sales tax on bottled water, and requires sales taxes be collected on internet purchases of products sold to state residents, providing estimated added sales tax income to the city from $103,000 in 2018 up to $393,000 additional revenue in 2020.

Everyone in the state gets a property tax increase, said Murray, and in the Highline School District the tax increase is 96 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The way the tax is structured, there is a spike in tax amount, followed by a dip in 2019.

“Short term property tax increase, long-term decrease,” said Murray.

Closing fire station
During the study session the Council accepted a resolution to eventually demolish the current Fire Station 47 site and relocate the activities of the station to co-locate with station 46, which is a larger facility with space to handle both fire station personnel and equipment. The property would eventually be sold, said City Manager Joe Scorcio.

Currently Station 47 has the fewest calls and many of them are mutual aid calls into Tukwila, Scorcio said, and Tukwila also provides some service into SeaTac. Fire Chief Jim Schneider said the change would not affect the cost of the city’s insurance and response times from the four stations in the north end of the will not change.

Deputy Mayor Pam Fernald said she did not want SeaTac north end citizens to worry about emergency coverage.

The response times and the automatic sharing agreement with Tukwila will mean no decrease of area fire service, Scorcio said, adding that a new station may be needed in the future but one is not needed now.

Award for school program
The city was presented the Association of Washington Cities’ Municipal Excellence Award. City Manager Joe Scorcio said the award was for building a bond between the city and (Global Connections) High School, which is a block away from city hall.

The ongoing program gives students a chance to see up close how a city works, how many people it takes to run a city, and to consider city jobs. Student have career talks with the city, have fun events and learn about the types of career opportunities in municipal government.

Vanessa Audett (pictured, left), the city’s human resources manager, spearheaded the program for the city.

“To my knowledge this is the first program of its kind in the state … and it was tough to get started but I found the more opportunities we had to get engaged with the students the more opportunities it created,” she said.

Watch expense accounts
Vicky Lockwood questioned a $33.17 mileage expense from a Councilmember and asked the Council if it knew what the expense was for.

She said members should know what “you and your peers are charging to the citizens. And you should be questioning and auditing these charges before they appear on the consent agenda” where items are routinely approved without further review.

“Councilmembers, please start policing one another now,” she said.

Resident Chuck Darielli started to chastise a Councilmember for “three times” calling him a vulgar name at a previous meeting, but the Mayor called his comments out of order. Darielli left the speaker’s podium after telling the member he could be contacted directly.

The Council confirmed Mayor Michael Siefkes’ appointment of Mary Fischer to the Hotel/Motel Tax Advisory Committee.

Senior Assistant City Attorney Mark Johnsen was presented a 15-year city employee pin by City Manager Joe Scorcio:


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