Council hears reasoning for approved group home; school resource pact passed


By Jack Mayne

SeaTac resident Vicki Lockwood said she attended a meeting at the House of Mercy, a drug and alcohol recovery facility located near the YMCA and Highline schools, and “the more I heard, the angrier I became.” She said she was amazed that the city staff had made such a “nonsensical decision” but she found a Supreme Court decision about a house in Edmonds that was trying to exclude a similar transitional house in a residential neighborhood.

“Edmonds lost their battle in the Supreme Court. I couldn’t believe the ruling – in my opinion, Edmonds was right,” Lockwood said, and kept on doing research but it all came up supporting the high court decision in the Edmonds case.

“Even though the Edmonds ruling does not make common sense to me, it is the law,” said Lockwood, adding we don’t have the right to obey only the laws we agree with.

She said it was fortunate she had not been in a position to make a decision on the SeaTac matter because “it could have become very expensive and time consuming.”

She thanked the city staff for making the right decision and “saving me from myself on tis one.”

Mayor chastises
Mayor Michael Siefkes chastised Community and Economic Development Director Jeff Robinson – who approved the decision on the House of Mercy – for not alerting him and other members of the Council that a meeting about the house was held in the City Council chambers.

“Jeff, we got no word,” the mayor said. “The only word we got was because our assistant happens to live in that neighborhood and she let us know the day ahead of time.

“You knew this was a public issue, it was being discussed in this, our Council chambers, and you didn’t tell us word one,” Siefkes said.

Later in the meeting, the mayor apologized “if I came on too hard.”

A funny thing
City Manager Joe Scorcio said “a couple of things happened and I’m going to say straight up that, yeah, looking back things happened. The funny thing is … none of this was intentional.”

People wanted to have a meeting on the subject of public safety issues regarding the House of Mercy and went to Police Chief Lisa Mulligan to ask about a place to hold one and there was nothing, so Mulligan suggested the Council Chambers.

“The problem is that once a meeting is in City Hall and goes into the City Council Chamber, we consider that to be a city meeting.

“What we have here is a procedural glitch,” Scorcio said. “The meeting probably should not have been held in Council Chambers, but it was because it was convenient.”

Councilmembers got a notice later from the community members, not from the city staff.

“The intent of the meeting was to meet with the community at their request,” he said.

There will be no more such meetings in the Council Chambers, Scorcio reiterated, unless Council is advised in advance.

City must issue permit
On the city’s legal responsibility, Scorcio said the city must issue a permit if the applicant meets the standards and requirements of the city, state and federal law, “We must issue the permit.”

“Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, we can’t deny approving it if it is reasonable,” said Scorcio, adding there are six bedrooms with up to 12 people living in the structure, “we determined it was” reasonable, adding “there is very little discretion at all…”

“I do believe that the staff followed the correct procedures in issuing this reasonable accommodation,” he said.

Under questioning by Deputy Mayor Pam Fernald, Robinson said that if the inhabitants of House of Mercy violate any of the rules of the facility, refuse to take drug tests or violate any binding house rule they have signed, “they are gone.”

She also asked what happens if the property becomes a community nuisance.

Scorcio said the house is not exempt from code compliance or legal problems and action can be taken. The only waiver the house gets is the number of unrelated people who can legally live in the structure.

Councilmember Erin Sitterley asked how the group home can have up to 12 residents when other residences can’t have more than five people.

Planning Director Steve Pilcher said city code says “a family of any size can occupy a single family dwelling,” but the code does say up to five unrelated people is the maximum. The city code says the size of the building was big enough to accommodate 12 unrelated people with disabilities recognized under federal and state law, so the ordinance was waived.

‘Safe’ drug site rejected
The Council unanimously rejected a policy resolution accepting a safe hard drugs injection site proposed by King County and so far rejected by Des Moines and still up for more debate by the Burien City Council. Seattle will accept such a facility if the county council proceeds with the plan.

Seattle and King County would be the first places in the United State to allow a so-called safe injection facilities for heroin users, now resigned Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said recently, as an effort to reduce an epidemic of deadly drug overdoses.

SeaTac City Attorney Mary Mirante Bartolo told the Council that there are currently no legal safe drug injection sites anywhere in the United States and that the nearest one is in Vancouver, B.C. She said that several King County cities have rejected such a facility, including Auburn, Kent and Federal Way.

Bartolo said such a facility is already illegal under city statutes, so to accept the county proposition, it would have to rescind current city law.

All Councilmembers spoke against such a safe drug injection site in SeaTac.

School officer pact
This proposed Council agreed to a plan for a school resource officer for Tyee Educational Complex and Chinook Middle Schools in the Highline Public School District schools for one year instead of the three year plan earlier objected to by Mayor Siefkes.

There were failed attempts to lengthen the agreement.

Under the new single year agreement negotiated for the city by Police Chief Lisa Mulligan, Highline Schools will reimburse the city costs at $72,500, an 18.13 percent increase over last year. The money will offset the total $188,055 cost of the SRO paid by the SeaTac, leaving a net cost to the city of $115,555.

She said the officer at the schools gives the department intelligence into potential law enforcement problems as well as establishing relationships with students and faculty at the schools.

“If we continue to place policing efficiencies like this in our staff and our workforce, we don’t need to double the size of our police force,” Mulligan said, but otherwise the city would need police officer increases.

Mulligan said the Council wanted to increase the original first year payment but the school district “was unable to do that” in one year on the short notice.

New charging station fee
City facilities manager Brian Ruda, told the Council study session that the city has replaced the two original free charging stations at the side of City Hall, with four modern versions which provide a “valuable service” to residents as the number electric vehicles continues to grow.

He said the service has been free, but a charge of $2 per transaction will take effect soon to cover the city’s charge service provider’s costs.

Military Road design
Assistant City Engineer Janet Mayer told of $246,00 to design a project expected to be completed in the fall of 2018 that would reconstruct Military Road South between South 209th Street and the I-5 bridge, adding sidewalks. She said the roadway wouldn’t be closed during later construction.

This project was selected because of the deterioration of the roadway surface, she said.

She said the existing concrete road service be ground up and the overlaid with hot mix asphalt and include construction of storm water improvements, addition of sidewalks and bicycle lanes, roadway channelization, and adding permanent signs.

The sidewalks will not be lighted because of budget constraints, she said in response to a question by Deputy Mayor Pam Fernald. Then Public Works Director William Appleton said lighting could be added later.

A total of six firms applied, said Mayer, and KPG was chosen to design the project.

City Manager Joe Scorcio introduced of new or promoted employees at SeaTac Council study session Tuesday night. They are Legal Analyst Ellaine Wi and payroll coordinator Julie Ross to replace a soon to retire after 27 years staffer, Melinda King.


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