April 2020

week ending april 24

Council,

Here is the latest update:

Council Direction

-    Investing in Recovery – On tonight’s agenda, you have an item helping to set the context for Sequim’s recovery planning.  Since we put the packet together, I’ve heard from Councilors with an interest in taking action now, particularly with support for small businesses.  As a part of this item tonight, I will mention an idea to take $250,000 from the City’s Rainy Day Fund (our current balance is approximately $1.8 million) to contract with the Chamber of Commerce to support the Chamber’s Small Business Relief Fund (https://sequimchamber.com/business-center/ssbrf/).  With this idea, funds provided by us would have to go to Sequim businesses (within our City limits), be allocated within the next 60 days, businesses would be vetted, and the businesses benefitting would not be limited to Chamber members.  Funds would be directed towards small businesses.  I’d also be seeking a Councilor to participate in the process of allocating funding.  I could execute this idea as early as this week, through our Declaration of Civil Emergency, with later contract ratification by the Council. I will be asking for Council consideration of this idea tonight.  If we receive a successful motion, we can get it in place quick.

We could provide $250,000 to support small businesses, through the Chamber’s fund or other means, up to 4 times during the next 2.5 years (through calendar year 2022) using the Rainy Day Fund.  I recommend that we start with an initial outlay mentioned above, monitor its progress, and consider another later this year if it is working well.

I will also mention tonight the idea of setting aside in the Rainy Day Fund an additional $100,000 per year, starting this calendar year, to directly support critical human services agencies.  An example of this need, which represents up to $20,000 for the first year, is the recent emergency contract amendment we did with the Boys & Girls Club to support childcare and food provision.  These is something we would include in the plan and does not need immediate consideration.

In total, the investments above represent $1.3 million of the $1.8 million Rainy Day Fund.  Hopefully, there will not be a need to continue support in this way for these aspects of our community for 2.5 years, but we are positioned to do it, if needed.  We are essentially backstopping our community and accelerating its recovery as a result of funds saved by previous City Councils for this type of event.

-    Special Legislative Session – We are hearing rumors that the Legislature may reconvene to deal with COVID-19.  We are beginning work on some priorities for such a session.  We anticipate bringing them to you for consideration at a future meeting.  Mayor Armacost and I are also invited to a North Olympic Legislative Alliance (NOLA) meeting on this topic this week.

Council Follow-Through

-    Code Scrub – We’ve been able to increase our efforts on the code scrub due to additional focus time provided by COVID-19.  Our challenge as meeting restrictions are lifted will be not overwhelming you with code amendments.  We’ll work with you to bring forward some of the higher priority items first.

-    Broadband – We’ve temporary suspended work with the Sequim Broadband Action Team (BAT) due to COVID-19.  We’ll be picking it up again as things settle down.  Staff continue to research the topic and COVID-19 has further illuminated the digital divide for students in the Sequim School District.  As a result, we expect to receive some helpful data from the Sequim School District regarding where students do not have internet access.  We’ve been working with the District to support their efforts to get access to students.

Related Items

-    Reducing General Fund Expenditures – Senior Management Team members last Friday met to create a plan to underspend our $11 million General Fund by $900,000 in response to COVID-19.  This is in anticipation of underperforming sales tax and development revenues beginning in March.  We plan to bring you a budget amendment later this year to reflect revised numbers and other assumptions we used.  It is a best practice to make early budget reductions heading into a recession.

-    Construction Restarted – Governor Inslee announced a Phase 1 restart of construction, for existing projects, late last week.  Staff issued a new emergency order on construction today and are working with builders/developers to support their restarted projects.  City projects, like Fir Street and the solar project on the Civic Center roof, will also restart.

-    Meeting with Commissioner Ozias and Mayor Armacost – Commissioner Ozias, Mayor Armacost, Assistant City Manager Charisse Deschenes, and I met virtually last Friday.  Items discussed included COVID-19 response, COVID-19 recovery, and Pacific Northwest National Labs (PNNL) expansion.

-    COVID-19 Budgeting Webinar – I will be a panelist this Wednesday on a Washington City/County Management Association (WCMA) webinar done through MRSC on budgeting during COVID-19.

-    Planning Calendar – Was attached, we’ll cover this tonight

Thanks,

Charlie Bush

City Manager


Week ending april 17

Council,

Here are this week’s items:

Council Follow-Through

-    Emergency Orders – We are keeping track of actions taken by the City of Sequim, under the City’s Emergency Declaration, through written emergency orders.  Some will need to come to you for action and we plan to start bringing them forward in the next 1-2 meetings.  In the meantime, we are posting them on the website.  You can find them here: https://www.sequimwa.gov/914/Emergency-Orders

Related Items

-    Recovery Plan – We continue to work on a recovery plan.  We’ve split into five staff teams that are working on helping the community and organization stay healthy, community economic recovery, city finances, organizational health, and long-range visioning.  We anticipate bringing some initial guiding principles and assumptions to you in early May and some further policy options to you in the meetings following that one.  Staff have been turning to webinars, podcasts, professional relationships, and other resources to learn more about recovery approaches from other communities as we continue to develop possible policy options to best position our community for a strong recovery.

-    Emergency Coordination Center (ECC) – The ECC is at Guy Cole once per week, on Mondays, and is working remotely the other days of the week.  It continues to work on long range medical planning, providing public information, and monitoring/coordinating the production and collection of personal protective gear, the provision of childcare, and the provision of food in the community.

-    Sequim Health and Housing Collaborate (SHHC) – The SHHC met this past week and spent most of the meeting discussing COVID-19 response.  As a result, we are going to help the Sequim Food Bank with some public messaging to help encourage people who need financial help in our community access services provided by the food bank, so that limited dollars stretch further for those folks.  While some new people are seeking service there, the food bank is concerned that the stigma of going to the food bank is keeping some people away who would benefit from their services.  Other issues that came up on the call were a need for a place for homeless people to camp, clarity about operations of the County’s new Recovery Center for unsheltered individuals in Port Angeles, and hotel rooms for homeless people in Sequim and Port Angeles that were reportedly available through the County until the Recovery Center opened (expected next week).  Nobody on the call knew how to refer people to those rooms, or that they were available.  Those items were referred to Clallam County for resolution.

-    Youth Services Task Force (YSTF) – The YSTF continues to meet weekly during COVID-19 via Microsoft Teams.  The Boys & Girls Club is further expanding services to assist Middle School students without internet access by providing tutoring, computer access, and dinner.  They are considering a future expansion of the program, possibly by using YMCA’s facility, to serve high school students in the same way.  They continue to partner with the School District to meet the feeding needs of children and some families in the community by fully activating their summer food program.  The attached email includes the description of a new collaboration that provides soup/meal delivery to low income families in Sequim.

The Sequim School District is challenged in providing online instruction by some students having no internet access.  This call featured some additional collaboration as an outcome, where various agencies and private partners are working together to try to solve this problem from various angles.  I’ve mobilized some members of our Sequim Broadband Action Team to assist and the ECC, through its Community Liaison, is also working on the problem.

North Olympic Library System is making their Wifi available to students and continuing to push out new online programming.

-    Phone Conversation with US Representative Derek Kilmer – Mayor Armacost, Assistant City Manager Charisse Deschenes, and I talked with Derek Kilmer by phone on Monday.  Items discussed included City and ECC actions during COVID-19, small business assistance, the Governor’s Order as it relates to hunting and fishing on the Peninsula, and Pacific Northwest National Lab’s (PNNL) Sequim Campus expansion plans.

-    Planning Calendar - Was attached

Thanks,

Charlie Bush

City Manager


Week ending april 3

Council,

It has been a while since I’ve sent out an update and I will continue to send them when I have time during the COVID-19 response.  Here are the current items:

-    ECC Update – The Sequim Emergency Coordination Center (ECC) opened on March 16.  The ECC has been running during normal business hours on weekdays since that time.  Our ECC is a partnership between Fire District 3 and the City of Sequim through an interlocal agreement we put in place over a year ago.  This video of Chief Andrews provides an excellent overview of the ECC https://www.facebook.com/ClallamFD3/videos/224309035349438/. During this disaster, we’ve done things we would have struggled to do separately by pooling staff and resources.  We’ve helped to address childcare, food provision, and public information in the Sequim area.  We received a delegation of authority (we were asked to serve the Sequim Operational Area, everything east of Morse Creek, on the County’s behalf and at their expense) to support the County’s collection and distribution of personal protective equipment, believed to be the first delegation in the County’s history.  We are also supporting the County with transportation planning from the Sequim Operational Area to the Recovery Center for unsheltered people in Port Angeles.  The ECC continues to proactively plan the future for the Sequim community related to this disaster and is developing several contingency plans should this event escalate.  We are monitoring key areas, like childcare, food, and behavioral health, daily for our community and will respond if any of those areas struggle or are threatened.

-    Boys & Girls Club Contract – I am in the final stages of executing an addendum to our standard Boys & Girls Club contract for recreational services.  The Boys & Girls Club is providing childcare for essential employees in our community and has activated their summer meal program several months early to support food for kids.  The Club has plans to expand services to serve more kids if demand increases, including a plan with the YMCA to use their facility.  It is serving some teens and is considering serving pre-school children.  The Club requested financial support to provide these additional services and we are executing an addendum to their contract for up to $20,000.

-    King 5 Visits the Sequim Emergency Coordination Center (ECC) – King 5 visited with Chief Andrews and Jim Buck (former State Representative and a volunteer from Joyce) at the ECC last week.  Here is the link to the story: 

https://www.king5.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/rural-washington-counties-struggling-with-lack-of-coronavirus-supplies/281-1c30da7a-9b81-4cd0-a186-287a6ac9495b

-    City of Sequim Organization Update – The Information Technology Division of the Administrative Services Department (Anthony and Fred) has done a tremendous job helping us move employees to remote working.  At this point, they have satisfied the immediate needs for our departments, helping us do our part to abide by the Governor’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy Order.

While some of our work has changed, employees are able to do their normal work, work on projects related to their normal work, or have been reassigned to duties related to the COVID-19 response. There is work for employees who are able to work in our organization at this time.

Similar to other public organizations, we’ve also established a system of COVID-19 leave for our employees to use.  It is in addition to our other accrual banks and can be used for sickness, feeling unsafe coming to work, potential exposure to the virus, if there isn’t enough work to do in their modified role, or for any other family/personal reason.  This leave expires 12/31/20 and has no cash value – so it cannot be cashed out as with other accruals.  Employees received an initial allocation of 104 hours.

Every department played a key role in helping us get to this point.  We’ve encountered a rapidly changing environment over the past several weeks, both locally as well as across our State and nation.  There are more kudos for our staff to go around than I can possibly offer right now.

-    Washington Cities Insurance Authority (WCIA) Guidance on Building Permits – I’m attaching the guidance we received from WCIA recently.  It supports the position we’ve taken regarding continuing to process building permits, especially those in the pipeline.  Our Community Development staff are also an essential part of our emergency response.  Currently, they are working on policy analysis for various economic and business assistance programs, working in our ECC, and supporting enforcement actions related to the Governor’s Order and construction.  Community Development is also leading the development of a recovery plan for the community and may be called upon to assist with permitting and inspecting emergency facilities, should they be needed.  In addition, staff continue to process all permit types remotely and are operating as usual with the exception of the areas directly impacted by the Governor’s Order, such as inspecting construction since most construction has been halted.  There is a lot of additional material by MRSC on the topic of the Governor’s Order and how it relates to local government services, including a reference to building permits in the last link below:

•    Essential Services and Workers During the COVID-19 Emergency, by Steve Gross, MRSC Legal Consultant, MRSC Insight, March 26, 2020

•    Office Closures, Telecommuting, and Essential Employees, from our Ask MRSC - Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQs for Local Governments page (see particularly What does the governor’s “stay-at-home” order mean for local governments and their employees? and Are local government employees that issue building/land use permits and complete construction-related inspections essential workers?)

As you can see, we are dealing with a fast changing and complex environment.  The general philosophy for a city during an emergency is to maintain services to the extent possible, to maintain a sense of normalcy in the community, and we continue serve the public through our essential services. The intent of the Governor’s Order is to have people stay at home to the extent possible and we’ve accomplished that goal as an organization as well.

 -    Public Service Announcement from the ECC – We had fun at the ECC last week filming this PSA about social distancing https://www.facebook.com/sequimwagov/videos/864440507405534/

-    Kudo for the Sunshine Festival – It seems like ages ago, but the attached message came in regarding the Sunshine Festival and it has been on my list to share so it is attached.

-    Planning Calendar - Was attached

Thanks,

Charlie Bush

City Manager