By Jack Mayne
When longtime Des Moines Councilmember Donald Wasson died a year ago he left his waterfront property located at the entrance to Beach Park to the city and now City Council and staff are working to figure out whether to continue it as a rental house or making other plans.
City Manager Michael Matthias at the Thursday (March 2) study session said the immediate question is what happens to the property now that no one is living there.
During Council comment period resident Rick Johnson suggested the city investigate putting a fish and chips restaurant in the Wasson house.
“It seems to me it would be an excellent venue and also give decent revenue badly needed in Des Moines. Once the building is destroyed, you can bet no other building would be built there.
“I have talked to a number of citizens and their feelings are he same as mine – Don’t tear the Wasson house down.”
But Matthias said the property could become part of the marina complex.
The city staff report says the parcel is developed with a single-family residence located along the shoreline of Puget Sound. Up until June 2016, the property had been rented as a single-family residence. Since that time, it has been vacant.
It is part of the marina, and the property along with the entire complex must generate enough revenue to pay the costs of owning and operating it, said Matthias. New paid parking will aid in revenue generation.
The city says the “disposition” or “redevelopment options” include keeping it a rental house – the building has been vacant for about a year and would have to occupied soon to retain its existing use. It could also be developed into a restaurant or made into a public plaza or promenade along the existing bulkhead as part of Beach Park, which is north of the house location.
The city says the property could bring in revenue by continuing the rental of the house, with considerable updating and repair costs.
Councilmember Jeremy Nutting said using the property as a rental or commercial property would be “very costly” but recommended the city not demolish the house prior to developing a more complete plan.
Matthias said there never was any thought to tear down the house until some plan as to what to do with the property.
Councilmember Rob Back thought some renovation would allow the house to be rented while the city figures out what the eventual use is, but Councilmember Dave Kaplan said he was not in favor it being a rental but that could be an interim consideration, perhaps a commercial use like a kayak rental area.
Mayor Matt Pina said the city needs to do repairs to the house to bring in revenue while the city figures out a long-range plan.
“We need to find the right thing before we take any decisive action,” Pina said.
City staff was told to look into potentials and come back to Council for decisions.
More court staff
The Council voted unanimously in study session to add a city court clerk because the current staff is “over-burdened yet working diligent,” said the meeting agenda. As background, the city staff noted that last year the city court staffing was decided “upon an estimated 30-40 citations per day for all red light enforcement locations, totaling about 12,000 tickets per year.”
But in reality the estimate, at up to 24,000 tickets a year.
Because of the increase, the Court asked the Council for “an 18-month limited term court clerk” beginning in June. But Councilman Rob Back said situations in the court have changed and the Court needs the position filled “as soon as possible.”
Councilmember Luisa Bangs said the staffing size was an estimate for the red light cameras and the reality is that estimate “far exceeded that.”
The Council approved an optional emergency standby generator that would provide sufficient power to the public works and engineering building adjacent to City Hall to operate on a normal basis during a power outage.
The city staff said there were three options for Council consideration. One would be for a $507,000 generator to power both complexes, or a $334,000 generator only for public works and engineering with the potential to add it city hall later; the third option would be to spend $162,000 for a generator only for the public works and engineering complex.
The Council approved the recommended $162,000 option,
The idea is to protect major city functions for a long period of time and the adjacent public works and engineering building is “vitally important to maintain critical services.”
It costs a lot to provide emergency power to the city hall building because of additions and changes over the years, which complicate easily powering it.