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Lynnwood Council discusses how to spend $1.1 million of ARPA funds

LYNNWOOD, Wash., February 24, 2023—Lynnwood City Council discussed some potential uses for remaining American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds during its Feb. 21 business session.

To date, the Lynnwood City Council has allocated approximately $9.8 million of the money it received from ARPA. There’s still just over $1.1 million left.

The Parks, Recreation & Cultural Arts Department requested $388,432 in funding for two full-time, temporary maintenance workers to largely address the graffiti. Director Lynn Sordel stressed the need to increase staff, saying the parks department was “hit by unprecedented acts of graffiti”. The two positions would be paid with ARPA funds for two years and will be evaluated to decide whether to keep them or not.

“I think using ARPA funds is the right approach. This idea meets ARPA guidelines and will benefit the entire community as it is a true investment in public safety” Sordel said.

According to both the Parks Department and Lynnwood Police, there is a noticeable decrease in graffiti when it’s removed quickly. Therefore, the main goal with the addition of these two full-time employees is to remove graffiti within 24 hours or less.

“Rapid graffiti removal has been shown to discourage this behavior and make it ineffective,” Sordel said. “It takes away from the gang’s purpose, which is to glorify themselves and mark their territory.”

Lynnwood Police Department Deputy Chief Chuck Steichen shared the same sentiment as the Parks Department.

“We support it. Of course, it perfectly follows the “broken windows theory” to cover up graffiti as soon as possible” Steich said. “If you fix it quickly, particularly within 24 hours, it will create less desire for them to come back and retag it. In essence, it’s a waste of their efforts to go out there, take a chance, put the tag in only to have it covered 24 hours later. So clearly, we support that. I think if you continue this aspect of responding and covering it quickly, hopefully you will reduce the amount of graffiti that is impacting the city at large, not just in our parks.

The parks department currently addresses the graffiti as quickly as possible, but Parks Operations and Maintenance Manager Eric Peterson commented that it is delaying the routine maintenance schedule.

“Currently, staff have been able to provide reactionary maintenance based on external factors,” said Peterson. “This is a great opportunity to redirect existing staff to our ongoing routine maintenance needs.”

Peterson added that in addition to graffiti, the parks department is dealing with “daily” cases of vandalism. He noted the destruction of the drinking fountains, which cost the city $7,000 just to replace a single drinking fountain, not including manpower and staff time. Peterson stressed that the additional staff would have other responsibilities, such as patrolling parks and properly closing facilities at closing time.

Council Chair Shannon Sessions asked the parks department and Steichen about volunteer efforts to clean up the graffiti and the possibility of hiring a private company to deal with the graffiti, but both said they had concerns about the speed of response.

“This is not something that is self-healing. Bands don’t suddenly say, “Hey, we labeled everything, now we’re going to go somewhere else.” It doesn’t work that way,” Council Member Patrick Decker said. “Unless we invest to address this problem, it won’t go away, it will only get worse.”

As for other uses for the remaining ARPA funds, Lynnwood Councilman Decker suggested using some or all of the $1.1 million for road maintenance. Board member George Hurst disagreed, saying the board had already used Transportation Benefit District (TBD) funds to repair the roads.

Hurst instead suggested using the funds for community outreach, specifically mentioning the increased need for mental health services in schools.

Sessions and Board Vice President Julieta Altamirano-Crosby asked Chief Financial Officer Michelle Meyer about the uses of ARPA funds benefiting the Northwest Veterans Museum in Heritage Park. This included event funding, but also an application in December of last year to cover between $5,000-10,000 in insurance, utilities and non-profit costs during the months they were closed due to COVID.

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