This spring, the city of Bothell is gathering community comment as it considers a public safety ballot measure. The Bothell City Council is urging residents to weigh in on the future of their public safety services.
Population growth, emerging social challenges such as the opioid epidemic and an increasingly complicated legal environment are straining the city’s fire, emergency medical, police and municipal court services, according to a press release. The council wants to hear from the community as it explores options to address the mismatch between public safety demands and the city’s financial capacity.
“Keeping Bothell community members safe is our top priority,” stated Mayor Andy Rheaume. “But resources are being stretched and there’s an open question about whether or not we can continue to provide current levels of service much longer. It’s critical that we hear from our citizens on this important topic.”
During eight years of the Great Recession and its aftermath, city property taxes were not increased in an attempt to help residents weather the downturn. Bothell now faces challenges funding essential services, and may consider going to voters with one or more ballot measures this November to fund public safety operational and/or capital needs.
The first in a series of City Council work sessions about public safety will be on April 17, followed by meetings on May 8 and June 5. The council will make a decision about a potential ballot measure in June.
City Manager Jennifer Phillips said that the city has already looked for budget efficiencies and has been proactive about addressing its financial challenges, but has concluded that current levels of service cannot be sustained at current funding levels. She said that Bothell residents have to make a decision about the future of their city.
The city has also looked to grants to fund services like the police embedded navigator program, which operates in Bothell and Shoreline. It has been a very successful program, Phillips said, as a mental health professional is able to ride along with officers on calls and provide one-on-one help and resources right away to people that need them.
The “nature of public safety work has changed,” according to Assistant City Manager Torie Brazitis, as law enforcement officers are often called to respond to incidents involving mental health, opioids and homelessness. The city also has capital needs, and may look to upgrade its fire stations and court facilities to meet growing demand.
Public comment on the city’s public safety services and funding challenges is encouraged. Residents can share their thoughts online through the city’s website or social media channels, and can sign up to speak to the council before each meeting begins at the table outside the council chambers. For those who can’t make it, council meetings are available live on UStream and posted on YouTube.
“No decisions have been made about the best approach for addressing the public safety challenges we are facing,” Rheaume stated. “We want to be responsive to our community. It’s critical for the City Council and staff to hear from our residents about their concerns, needs and priorities around these essential services.”
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