Here’s our recap of the Des Moines City Council meeting held on Thursday night, Mar. 14, 2024:

Flock Camera Updates

Mayor Traci Buxton gave a brief update on the Flock camera project, saying nearly all the city’s new Flock cameras are now active. Flock cameras are not traffic cams, and do not issue citations; they are only used to read license plates and help law enforcement find wanted/stolen vehicles. These cameras are also being used in a few neighboring cities, and are being considered in others. The camera systems will help police coordinate efforts to track suspects in real time as they drive through the area. 

Mayor Buxton added that the long-awaited traffic cameras in Redondo will finally have their trial run in April, and should be fully operational a few weeks after that.

YMCA Kindergarten Readiness Program

Council heard a presentation on the services provided by the YMCA Kindergarten Readiness Program. This is among the many community organizations that are supported by the city’s Human Services fund, with $30,000 per year of city funds going to the program.

According to the presentation, the Kindergarten Readiness Program helps kids have better success transitioning to school. The majority of participants are learning English as a second language, something the program helps with. They partner with schools as well as the Des Moines Library to teach children and families skills that will help them navigate school. They served over 206 children and their parents in 2023. 

Senior Center Closed For Repair, Still Offering Services

While the actual building is closed after a pipe burst during the winter freeze, the Senior Center has found other locations for some of its various offerings, and is still hosting field trips. Current offerings can be found on their Facebook page, and include Zumba, senior self-defense classes, and a Beach Park community picnic.

City Manager Tim George added that the state has given approval for emergency funding for costs associated with the burst pipe, including the insurance deductible, lost revenue, and staff time. There is no set date for the building’s reopening.

Saddlebrook Apartments Rezone Approved

Council voted unanimously to rezone the Saddlebrook Apartments lot from Single Family to Multifamily. This brings the zoning in line with the city’s Comprehensive Plan, as well as with the current use of the lot, which is not expected to change.

Potential Switch To Biennial Budget

Finance Director Jeff Friend presented to Council on the differences between Annual Budgets and Biennial Budgets. According to Friend, a Biennial Budget may take more time and energy to develop initially, but would be a more economical and efficient way to conduct the city budget long term. It gives more time to review trends and forecast projections. Friend also said it encourages a more long-term planning focus.

Council voted unanimously to move this budgetary switch to a further discussion at the March 28 meeting.

Levy Lid Lift Presentation

The only way for cities to raise property tax revenue by more than 1% per year is to get voter approval. Property tax is the largest revenue source for Des Moines. As the city’s General Fund expenditures increase due to inflation, they are looking for ways to raise more revenue.

It will cost around $62,000 to put this on an upcoming ballot. A few other nearby cities have successfully increased property tax by ballot initiative, including Normandy Park and Shoreline. Staff recommends a permanent levy lid lift, potentially changing the tax rate to 1.35 per $1000 of assessed property value. 

If this step is approved by council, the city would send out mailers or include info in the City Currents, letting voters know how this will impact homeowners. Cost to homeowners will be based on the value of their home, and will likely include senior exemptions. 

The increased revenue would likely go towards public safety, such as officer wages. City Manager Tim George said there will be cuts without increasing revenue. New officers were hired with temporary ARPA funds, and this would be a permanent funding source for their positions.

Staff will present a draft ordinance for discussion by Council at the next meeting, with a vote at a following meeting. There is a May 3rd filing deadline for this to be on the August ballot. Mayor Traci Buxton said that it is vital that community members see a tangible benefit from this tax increase.

Achziger Resigns from Pool Commission

Councilmember Gene Achziger said that last week a King County Superior Court Judge ruled on his case. The judge deemed that serving on both the city council and the Board of Commissioners for the Des Moines Pool Metropolitan Park District presented a possible conflict of interest

This was his third time being elected to the commission, by nearly two-thirds of voters. He was told that he had to give up one of his positions. Achziger explained that his priority is protecting the families of Des Moines and preserving city services, and has stepped down as Commissioner in order to keep serving on the city council. He received supportive applause from those in the room.

Mellow DeTray is a Seattle native who has spent the last 16 years raising her family in Burien. She has volunteered at many local establishments over the years, including the Burien Library, Burien Actors Theatre, and Hot Feet Fitness. After working for 10 years at Burien Community Center, she moved on to teaching fitness classes and to work the front desk of a Burien yoga studio. For many years Mellow kept a moderately popular cooking & lifestyle blog, and she had a brief stint in political journalism during a local election. Clear and informative writing has always been a side hobby of Mellow’s and she looks forward to bringing you unbiased coverage of City Council meetings.

3 replies on “Achziger resigns from Pool Commission, Flock camera update & more at Thursday night’s Des Moines City Council”

  1. Gene Achziger is a dedicated public servant. He did great things as a Pool District Commissioner. Des Moines is worse off without him serving in that role. His contributions will be missed.

    It’s important to understand that a “possible conflict of interest” isn’t necessarily an actual conflict of interest, and the only reason a King County Superior Court judge ruled on the matter at all was because then-mayor Matt Mahoney decided, on his own, to bring the issue to the court.

  2. Gene Achziger is the single reason we still have a pool, and that it is being well-managed. Mahoney and his vindictiveness just forced out a qualified, committed pool board member for no reason other than spite. Will certainly remind the voters of Des Moines during his upcoming election.

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