City council discusses ideas for student participation with councils and commissions

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Mountlake Terrace City Council members meet via Zoom on July 15.

Mountlake Terrace City Council discussed youth representation on city boards and commissions and also learned about programs that can help landowners in their efforts to remove and / or repair fuel storage tanks. underground.

The council had already spoken, at the end of 2019, of the possibility of increasing the contribution of the students on the matters submitted to the councils and commissions. These discussions were put on hold in 2020, during the pandemic, but board members continued to voice support for the idea during their annual planning retreats. With pandemic restrictions easing and the possibility of returning to in-person town halls soon, conversation on the matter resumed Thursday evening.

After researching ways in which other cities involve young people in their local government, City Manager Scott Hugill presented the council with three options that are commonly used.

One is to designate specific positions on boards and commissions to be filled by students. Mountlake Terrace had previously included student-appointed positions on boards, such as the library board and the community police board. But these were removed over time when it became difficult for students to attend meetings regularly due to various conflicts with other obligations such as school and work. Hugill added that another potential problem with having a specific position for a student on boards or commissions can be the burden of a student trying to represent a larger group.

Another option that some cities use is to have multi-member student councils that can represent a variety of interests and perspectives. Hugill explained that the city currently faces a challenge in having such a council due to its lack of staff resources to support the committee’s efforts.

A third approach is to organize specific events for students to give feedback, similar to the monthly Café with the City forum, but in a student-oriented version. It could possibly be scheduled at different times and days, and maybe even with a virtual component, which then would allow students to attend when they can.

Board member Steve Woodard presented a possible fourth option, which wouldn’t necessarily be a stand-alone program, which would involve providing an annual project for students to work on and report on. He said it could allow students to show leadership while giving them “something tangible to bring to the city.” Woodard added that it would also involve working with schools to recruit students or spark their interest and would likely be more difficult than establishing board or commission positions.

All board members expressed general support for involving young people in one way or another. Many have recognized, however, that figuring out exactly how to engage students on a consistent basis is important to the ultimate success of such a program and may also prove to be its most difficult component. In addition to reaching out through schools, it was also suggested that perhaps engaging with Boy Scouts and similar youth organizations would be effective in gathering feedback and ideas from young people.

Council discussions on the issue will continue in the future and, as Mayor Kyoko Matsumoto Wright noted, “this is the start” of this process. Community relations manager Virginia Clough said she and staff will follow up with the council on various ideas shortly and may also use the city’s upcoming newsletter “to start this conversation” with the community.

Another topic discussed Thursday night was residential underground fuel oil tanks. Following public comments earlier this year regarding the city’s requirements for dealing with abandoned fuel oil tanks, council asked for more information on state programs designed to help homeowners cover the cost of fuel oil. costs of cleaning contaminated soil when a tank has leaked.

Washington state law gives owners of residential underground oil tanks two options for abandoning the tank – either removing it or abandoning the tank in place and filling it with an inert material such as sand. Mountlake Terrace needs a permit for either method so the fire marshal can assess the work and the potential for soil contamination if the tank were to leak at any point.

When a heating oil tank is removed, it is emptied of its oil and the soil around the tank is excavated so that it can be removed from the ground and transported. The excavation associated with this process then allows the fire marshal to search for any traces of contaminated soil around and under the tank. If there is any indication of contamination, soil samples are taken to confirm if and how much contamination has occurred from a leak in the tank. Confirmation of the contaminated soil then leads to a cleanup of the site.

When a tank is simply abandoned in place, there is little or no excavation. Instead, the tank is emptied of its oil and a contractor then fills the tank with usually sand. If the tank was leaking at any point, it should be detected using records of how often the tank has been filled in the past.

Representatives of the Washington Liability Insurance Agency (PLIA) made a presentation Thursday night that covered the programs it offers in the area to help homeowners clean up the environment of these storage tanks.

The agency has a heating oil insurance program where it acts as a reinsurer for coverage that pays up to $ 60,000 per tank for cleaning up and monitoring for contamination from a fuel oil spill. heating oil tank. But following state legislative action, it’s currently only available to owners who registered their tanks before July 2, 2020 – though registration transfers are allowed within 180 days of registration. sale of a property.

It also offers a Heating Oil Loans and Grants Pilot Program that provides loans to owners and operators of heating oil tanks to help them modernize heating infrastructure. Under this program, participants receive a grant of $ 5,000 to help pay for preliminary planning and assessment to help determine the extent of any contamination present on the property, and then estimate the cost of the cleanup.

This program also offers low interest loans of up to $ 70,000, which requires an underwriting based on the information provided in the owner’s application. The money can be used to pay for cleaning and infrastructure, but homeowners must first use the insurance policy funds available to them.

All homeowners without oil tank insurance who must pay for cleaning and / or those seeking financial assistance for upgrading heating infrastructure are encouraged to apply. More information about this program and information about the application can be seen here.

If a cleanup is required, the agency also has a heating oil technical assistance program that can help provide owners with related services, including a site manager, a review of data obtained from the site sampling and testing, toxic substance control requirements, issuance of opinion letters and a $ 1,000 scholarship to pay registration fees.

Opinion letters can provide a plan for cleaning the property, and sites determined to have been cleaned then receive a no-action letter, which can help homeowners obtain bank loans. The request and agreement of this program can be seen here.

In the remaining cases, Virginia Clough was congratulated, in board comments, on her recent 20-year anniversary working for the Town of Mountlake Terrace.

The municipal council will hold its next regular working meeting on Monday, July 19 at 7 p.m. It will include a discussion on the plan to reopen the city’s facilities and a review of the financial report for the first quarter of 2021. See the agenda and information to watch / participate online here.

– By Nathan Blackwell


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