Alaska Airlines to build new office building; Council considers govt. relations manager

By Jack Mayne

Alaska Airlines will begin developing a property on International Boulevard with an office building and parking garage, the start of a more elaborate development later, and the SeaTac City Council decided to approve hiring a new government relations and communications executive during its regular meeting on Tuesday, April 24.

The Council also lauded City Manager Joe Scorcio on his fifth anniversary on the SeaTac staff, the past year-plus as the city’s top executive.

Major new development
SeaTac Economic Development director Jeff Robinson and Megan Ouellette, Alaska Airlines managing director of government affairs, outlined the airlines’s Copper River Project at the site of the old Sandstone Motel (19225 International Blvd.). Robinson said in “an initial informational briefing” to Council that the project will transform the area of the old Sandstone site.

Robinson said a development agreement with the city will be presented to Council in the “next few months.”

Ouellette said the project “represents our longterm commitment to the City of SeaTac and to the Puget Sound region.

The site is “about seven acres” south of 192nd Street between 28th Avenue South and International Blvd., but Ouellette said they are taking “an incremental approach” and will start “Phase One” consisting of a “six level office building, a parking garage as well as landscaping and other improvements.” This portion of the project should be ready for occupancy by late next year or early 2020.

“We are also working with the city to lay the groundwork for the possible later development of the additional three buildings,” said Ouellette.

Room for new people
“So, why this new building? Alaska is a growing, healthy company, so that is good news. We are undertaking this project to support our growth and to really accommodate additional employees, including those that are coming over from Virgin American (Airlines) as a result of our acquisition,” Ouellette, adding the building, called The Hub, is “important to connect our people.”

The new building will be called “The Hub” and will link two of Alaska’s existing facilities – the corporate headquarters on the east side of International Blvd. and the flight training center on the west side of 28th Avenue South. The new building will not be a corporate headquarters, she said, which will remain where it is now. The Hub “will be a warm and welcoming facility for employees and guests” and will include space for support functions and will be a recruiting center, said Ouellette. The new structure will also house the airline’s “integrated operations center … the nerve center of operations for the airline.”

The new space will create “a campus-like environment with an active pedestrian feel allowing Alaska employees and guests to safely walk between buildings.”

Groundbreaking for the Copper River Project will be Thursday, May 3, she said.

Government relations manager
The Council approved Scorcio’s proposal that the city establish and hire a Government Relations and Communication Manager within the City Manager’s office and to make full time an existing part-time administrative assistant graphics design specialist and both would report to the city manager. “This proposals annual cost will be approximately $270,000,” said the message to the Council, but the government relations job would pay $125,000 annually

Scorcio in a summary of the proposal in the council agenda said that since incorporation, “the city has opted to disperse some duties, and ignored others. Over the last two years, council members have also noted that this scattered approach is inadequate and recent negotiations with the Port of Seattle, and prior and current negotiations with Sound Transit have demonstrated that significant management level experience with consistently focused attention to details are needed.”

Resident Earl Gipson objected to adding to the staff.

“I want to talk about this new six figure person we are hiring,” said Gipson during the Councils’ opening comment period.

“We took away the assistant city manager,” he said, and put the duties on two city analysts. “Now we want to hire another person who will report to the city manager, a six-figure person….” He said he did not see the justification for the new $125,000 job.

“We are going to have a new city manager here eventually,” said Gipson, referring to City Manager Joe Scorcio’s plan to retire by year’s end. “Let that person, if you need him/her that badly, them hire. As an executive, you want some of your own people.”

“We need to save our $125,000 a year because things are going well, you don’t want to throw a monkey wrench it,” Gipson said.

Scorcio said starting the new government relations person now – ahead of a new city manager – would allow that person to familiarize themselves with the activities before a new manager takes over. That new manager almost definitely would be from somewhere and totally lacking in knowledge of SeaTac operations.

Councilmember Peter Kwon said that new person should be chosen with the participation of the City Council, and Scorcio said that would be his intent, to include members of the Council in the selection process. But Scorcio said the law required that the actual hiring of a city staff person be made by the city manager only.

The Council voice vote had only Councilmember Rich Forschler voting against, mainly because he wanted time for any citizen to object to such a new city job.

Five years for Scorcio
The Council gave a five year service award to soon-to-retire City Manager Joseph Scorcio, who was drafted from the city’s economic development job after the previous, ill-fated Acting City Manager Donny Payne was forced to quit after an incident ordering a city staffer to take actions she felt were inappropriate.

In February 2017 Scorcio was made City Manager, dropping the Acting role.

“I want to thank the Council for that, I certainly want to thank the members of the pubic who said something…” he said at the time.

“It has been an interesting year,” he said last year, adding that he never aspired for the job but he accepted when asked by the Council. He commended the “city leadership team who worked hard together … we have an outstanding group … and will continue to work very, very hard together.”

At a February 2017 Council meeting, SeaTac resident Virginia Olson said “please, please” vote to make Scorcio the formal city manager because of “all these things he’s stepped into – I think he’s done a fabulous, fabulous job.”

Currently there is a campaign to find a replacement for Scorcio, who plans to retire this year when a replacement is found.

At the meeting last Tuesday (April 24) Mayor Michael Siefkes said Scorcio “has been a natural at city manager, he calmed the seas, brought us out from a time where we were having some difficulties and I think, as a city we are in a great place now. I think, in large part, is due to Joe and his management of the city.”

The mayor noted that “we, as a City Council can only hire and fire one person and that is the city manager … witch seems to be a job that is really a tough balance because he needs to be able to manage the employees at the same time, work with Council that often has very different view from each other and he has be be able to do that in a polite and political way so that he listens to everybody and, at the same time, is able to help move the Council along. My thanks to you, Joe.”

City promotions
The Council was introduced to employees promoted by the city. They are Permit Center supervisor Joyce Kennedy; Administrative Assistant Eileen Bettridge and Civil Engineer Pete Kang.

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