CARES funding, lake access hot topics
Medical Lake offers virus assisstance
Last updated 9/10/2020 at 8:40am
MEDICAL LAKE—Small businesses and residents with issues paying utility bills as a result of pandemic-incited economic hardships will soon have a chance to apply for some financial relief.
The city’s CARES act allotment under the Coronavirus Relief Fund totaled $150,500. $30,000 was allocated for utility relief, while $100,000 was designated for small business grants.
City administrator Doug Ross said he hopes to have grant applications for affected parties written and available in the next couple weeks.
“We’re trying to get everybody something from this money,” Ross said. “It’s more complicated that people probably realize.”
He added that the small business grants will be a maximum of $7,500 per business, and may be lower, depending on demand from local businesses.
The CARES funding comes on a reimbursement basis, something Ross said people may not realize.
“It’s not like we’re given a check for $150,500,” Ross said. “You get the money when you spend it.”
The city then has to submit the grant applications to the Department of Commerce for approval before being reimbursed the appropriate amount if accepted. The deadline to spend the CARES money is Oct. 31.
Despite nationwide economic hardships, sales tax revenue has been comparable to previous years.
“It seems like when (the country) has these financial disasters, it doesn’t really affect (city revenue) as much,” Ross said. “The downside of that is when there’s financial booms, we aren’t as affected by that either. But when bad things happen financially, we seem to handle it fairly well.”
“If we just match our lowest sales tax for the next three months, we’ll meet our budget,” he added.
Gas tax rates are down, as is the case in most municipalities nationwide.
“That helps fund our street fund,” Ross said. “That being down is a detriment.”
Elsewhere in city news, Ross said city hall staff has seen improved social distancing and fewer packed crowds at Waterfront Park. He said this is partially because of improvements at Peper Park on the north side of the lake.
“We sort of redirected people to the north end of the park,” Ross said. “We made it a little bit easier to get to the water. There was a bit of a drop-off; we added some ramps to get down there.”
The city brings in an extra maintenance employee every summer to help maintain city parks.
“We have six parks, five of which require maintenance, (so) not all of their work is done at Waterfront Park,” Ross said.
They also had an employee work overtime on weekends this year specifically at Waterfront Park to help improve sanitation.
Employees begin cleaning at 8 a.m. to ensure the park is clean by 9 a.m. They work eight hour days until 4 p.m., so there is no maintenance from then until the park’s closure at 10 p.m.
“The next morning we pick the park up, and the park is clean by 9 a.m. the next morning,” Ross said. “This is the way it’s always been…so I think that idea (that the city isn’t cleaning Waterfront Park) is a bad misperception that’s given off by incomplete information out on social media.”
The boat launch just north of Waterfront Park remains closed. Ross said this helps diminish fire hazards and limit cleanup time for maintenance.
“It eliminates people bringing things to the cliffs,” Ross said. “Every weekend we were having to remove couches, chairs, fire pits, coolers, bottles, hookah pipes, you name it. It seems that if people actually have to carry things in, they’re less likely to do it.”
The city recently completed the Southlake Terrace street project at a cost of $650,000, most of which was grant-funded. Most of the work was done underground, Ross said.
“We were trying to take care of ground water issues we have in that area,” Ross said. “We (wanted) to stop surcharging one of our sewer mains that leaves that area…the looks probably don’t match up with the dollar amount, because you can’t see the bulk of the improvements.”
The new Fire District No. 3 station, which will share a building with city hall, is nearing completion, Chief Cody Rohrbach said.
“It (the station building) is going through final inspection,” Rohrbach said.
The station will have “a minimum of two people” staffed 24/7, he added. There will be a combination of career-based firefighters and volunteers.
“We’re excited,” Rohrbach said. “It’s the first time it will be sleep-able.”
The station is expected to be completed in the next month.