By Mellow DeTray

Here’s our recap of the Des Moines City Council meeting held on Thursday night, June 23, 2023:

City Water Quality Issues

On June 18th Des Moines residents and business owners were informed of contamination in the water supply, and boiling water before drinking was recommended. Issues with the water district’s infrastructure and practices were found back in 2019, and those concerns were not met with warmth at the time, according to City Manager Michael Matthias.

Council voted unanimously to direct City Manager Matthias to explore opportunities for grants to compensate business owners, who are frustrated at the lost revenue due to the contamination. Councilmember Vic Pennington, a former water commissioner with Water District 54, will be meeting with the water district to address concerns and figure out next steps, including conducting a post-incident analysis.

Council also approved, by a 4:3 vote, to support an independent review of the water district from an outside entity. Calls from City Manager Matthias to the water district haven’t been returned, and he is concerned that they won’t be able to handle the predicted growth in the city. Everyone emphasized that the most important thing is the safety of the residents. Mayor Matt Mahoney said this situation is “not our fault but our responsibility”.

Ferry Season Canceled

Unfortunately, the passenger boat the city intended to use for its ferry service to Seattle suffered a catastrophic failure on its journey to the marina. It was already going to have a late start, as it met with one obstacle after another before even leaving San Francisco. The boat used for the passenger ferry last year is currently being sold, and there is not another fast boat available, so the entire season is canceled. Service will resume next year, with lessons learned.

Public Comments

Speeding in Redondo

Redondo residents are appreciative of the actions taken to increase safety along their streets, but are anxious to see speed cameras installed. Street racing continues to be an issue, causing issues around safety as well as noise. The cameras were intended to be operational by the start of June, but still are awaiting electrical power and dealing with other setbacks.

City Attorney Tim George explained that these will be the first speed cams in the state that are installed near a park, and making sure they’re set up correctly is of grave importance. He expects many of the tickets will be challenged by recipients.

Partying at the Marina

Another commenter implored the city to put the gates back up at the Des Moines marina parking lots, and to do more to keep people out after dark. Currently the parking lot is often used for raucous late night parties.

New Police Chief

The hiring process is complete and Des Moines now has a new police chief, to replace Chief Ken Thomas upon his retirement. The new chief is Tim Gately, who will be stepping into his role in mid August.

Field House Park Upgrade

Council voted unanimously to approve updates to Field House Park. Coming changes include improved ADA access, replacement of a drinking fountain, replacing a portion of the play structure, and improving the South 219th St access. The next park on the city’s priority list, which should be voted on later this year, is Cecil Powell Park.

City Council Protocol Manual Updates

Council has been hashing out some changes to the city council protocol manual for the last few meetings, and at this meeting they finalized and approved the changes. In a 5:2 vote, council decided they will no longer automatically do a second reading of council decisions. On major issues, they still may vote to add a second reading to give more time for discussion and community awareness, but it will not be automatic.

Another change made to the manual is the addition of a dress code, during council meetings as well as other council business. Business casual attire will now be the rule; specifically, no hats. The majority felt the hats-off rule was standard protocol for showing respect during city business, but it seems that this new rule will specifically impact Councilmember JC Harris, who always wears a baseball cap during meetings.

Mellow DeTray is a Seattle native who has spent the last 16 years raising her family in Burien. 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 “Water issues, ferry cancellation, new Police Chief & more discussed at Des Moines City Council”

  1. Re: Water Quality Issues? I just took a walk down at the Marina this beautiful evening and noticed a stunning example of stupidity on the part of some individual in our local government. The wonderful new and clean restrooms are closed, according to the signs posted on the doors, due to E. Coli! What the heck? Has someone lost their mind? The toilets are made for urination and defecation and are inherently dirty. So dirty water makes no difference there. And afterwards there are sinks and soap to wash hands. Just like we are doing at home. So why in the world are the restrooms closed? And on top of that, the city is paying for port-a-potties that are generally a cesspool of bacteria at best. If it were so dangerous, why then are we not told to stop using our bathrooms at home? Somebody in the city government needs a biology lesson or maybe a new job.

  2. We agree completely. Leave the restrooms open and place a sign above the sink reminding users not to drink the tap water. Yesterday we went to the Des Moines library and found that it too was closed due to contaminated water. That is even stupider on the city’s part.

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