Newest councilmembers take lead on long-term planning

Solutions sought to maintain city services at high level
By Dan Aznoff | Mar 14, 2018

The most recent additions to the Mill Creek City Council stepped forward with innovative ideas to deal with budget issues and attracting new business during two long-term planning sessions held in late February and early March.

“It is important for us to be proactive to take advantage of economic opportunities,” John Steckler told his colleagues. “We can learn from what other cities in similar situations have tried and not fear what others have done that may or may not have worked in the past.”

The semi-retired businessman – who is lightheartedly referred to as “The Rookie” by other councilmembers – offered insights and recommendations based on his experiences in the world of business.

“We cannot be afraid to take chances based on recent trends,” he said. “Like any good business, we need to do our research and write our budget based on the facts.”

Steckler repeated his interest in a hotel or conference center in Mill Creek to coincide with proposed growth in recreation and tourism.

Jared Mead and Steckler presented ideas they had outlined prior to joining the seven-person board. Mead was elected to Position No. 2 in the November general election. He took the seat of retired Councilmember Donna Michelson, who stepped down after almost two decades on the council.

Steckler was selected from 16 applicants in February to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Councilmember Sean Kelly.

Both councilmembers praised City Manager Rebecca Polizzotto for having long-term planning sessions during public meetings. Many government agencies use retreats or other meetings behind closed doors to set goals and establish priorities.

“Bringing new ideas to the council was an integral part of my campaign for a seat on the council,” Mead told The Beacon. “The ideas I hope to bring to the council—and the city—are not just concepts that popped into my head. They are based on my experience working as a legislative aide and as a lifelong resident of Mill Creek.”

The 26-year-old Jackson High graduate said he is concerned about reports that regulations and restrictions make it difficult to open a new business in Mill Creek.

“We need to make Mill Creek a desired destination for new businesses,” Mead said. “We have the population and the demographics in place to attract those businesses that are opening just outside the city limits, costing us long-term revenue from a strong tax base.”

Mead works in the office of First District State Sen. Guy Palumbo (D-Monroe). Mead commuted during rush hour from Olympia during the recent Legislative session to attend council meetings.

Innovative ideas were not limited to the newest councilmembers. Councilmember Mark Bond urged the council to consider using one-time revenue streams, such as building and development fees, for short-term expenses. Large capital expenses, like repair of the city’s aging underground storm water system and road repair, need separate sources of funding.

Bond said the city will need to set aside at least $1 million for storm water repairs in the next few years. He reminded the council that Mill Creek had excellent road and storm water systems when the city incorporated three decades ago. But, like an older car, repairs are needed to keep them running well.

“We have reserves set aside for emergencies. We need to develop a replacement strategy,” Polizzotto told the council. “We need to plan for large expenses. We know that we will need to replace police vehicles and can plan for that one-time expense in the regular budget process.”

The city manager said the current budget does not include an expected boost in sales tax revenue from businesses like Arena Sports.

Veteran Councilmember Mike Todd reminded his colleagues—and members of the sparse audience at the planning session—that Mill Creek is the only city in south Snohomish County or northern King County that does not impose a utility tax on residents.

“We have found a way to live within our means,” Todd said. “Thanks to the lean budget procedures implemented by Rebecca and our staff, we have zero debt.

“How many cities around here can say that?”

Comments (1)
Posted by: Michael Scherping | Mar 14, 2018 23:15

I’m excited to see how this all pans out. Mill Creek is a young and progressive city. I have faith that we will lead the way with new ideas. As for economic development, let’s definitely make MC the obvious first choice for businesses that help attract tourism. Let’s try for a Top Golf Location here. Let’s turn that old abandoned Japanese restaurant into the north end’s CrabPot. Recruit more stores people travel distances for like Home Goods, West Elm, Fireworks, an Ikea, Crate & Barrel and Cinnabar, neighborhood Target, a Sonic...or Diggs! (from Ballard). Maybe a brewery or two. Tons of homes filled with families need furniture and home improvement options ...and date nights. And let’s definitly get a Hotel here.

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