The Federal Way City Council meeting on Feb. 6 covered everything from mold at the Federal Way Community Center to a new location for City Hall. Here’s a recap.
Mold in locker rooms
Pool visitors to the Federal Way Community Center after Feb. 2 will have noticed that changing rooms look a bit different.
Parks Director John Hutton shared with the city council that toxic mold was discovered in the locker rooms at the center on the evening of Feb. 1. After the discovery, Hutton said “the locker rooms at FWCC were immediately closed for critical remediation efforts as part of the comprehensive renovation project to guarantee a safe and enjoyable space.”
Pools are not allowed to operate without changing rooms, according to Washington state health codes. For now, visitors can use the party rooms to change, Hutton said.
As soon as next week, the city hopes to have six trailers with a total of 12 changing rooms rented to provide longer term changing rooms.
“Moving forward, King County Public Health has said we may operate the pools currently in the temporary situation until we can get these sourced and as long as we’re moving quickly. The goal is to have those potentially on site as early as Monday,” Hutton said, referring to Feb. 12.
The community center is in the middle of a long-term renovation, the most recent update including the reopening of the leisure pool. The locker rooms were already scheduled to be demolished and rebuilt, but the discovery of the toxic mold moves that timeline up, and adds the extra cost of the temporary changing rooms.
Councilmember Paul McDaniel asked how the locker rooms would be secured and to make sure they are not utilized by people who are not community center members. Hutton said “we’ll be applying whatever resource is needed to make sure that they’re there for the members and guests and not for unauthorized people to be using,” but did not specify what those resources or measures would be.
The Community Center project is already $600,000 over the original approved budget of $1.7 million, and the emergency rental of the changing rooms will cost an additional $560,000. For updates on the locker rooms, Federal Way residents can visit www.itallhappenshere.org/lockerroom-renovations.
City Hall locations
The city is considering various options for either expanding or completely moving City Hall. One option is to build a new City Hall into the Town Center 3 development project, site of the former Target building in the downtown core near the Performing Arts and Event Center.
The other option being considered is to explore building a second level on the Operations and Maintenance Facility building and to move some staff there.
Local resident Anna Patrick spoke on the subject during public comment and advocated for the option of utilizing the Operations and Maintenance Facility. Patrick’s concern focused on how it would be paid for if it were built in the Town Center project. She said that while it sounds like a great opportunity, her worry focused on the “tax revenue that would be lost,” especially after “that type of investment,” specifically on “losing that revenue for firefighters.”
She expressed that “I think that’s going to have a devastating effect, considering the drug epidemic that we have in our city. We need to be able to still be able to serve the people in our community.”
Mayor Jim Ferrell responded, emphasizing the importance of the Federal Way community’s involvement in decisions of this scale.
“It was very clear that everybody on the council wanted to make sure that the public heard this discussion,” he said, referring to discussions at the council’s planning retreat the previous Saturday. “There are no imminent plans. We’re entering into a visioning process about what downtown looks like and if a city hall would be moved down there.”
Ferrell stressed the importance of “making sure that the community is involved in discussions like this, especially when we’re talking about tens of millions of dollars.”
March of Diapers
The March of Diapers fundraiser has returned, and this time has an exciting new change that founder Cheryl Hurst shared at the council meeting during public comment.
The annual fundraiser will now have a permanent location and a paid employee. While the location won’t be open to the public, it will provide storage space for the hundreds of thousands of diapers that are donated.
The location will be called the “Babies and Beyond Diaper Bank” because Hurst clarified that people of all ages use incontinence products. The diaper bank will allow the organization to respond more easily to community needs and have a place to store diapers in bulk.
Typically the March of Diapers raises donations from 80 different businesses in 15 different cities. In one month last year, Hurst shared that they had 412,019 diapers donated and over 137,000 wipes.
Three separate funding proposals were heard to discuss how to spend American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars that would focus on economic development in Federal Way. One involved enlisting a marketing company to help “put Federal Way on the map,” as Economic Development Director Tanja Carter said. Another would create training, support and a platform for up to 200 businesses in Federal Way to start selling products online. The third would provide digital literacy support to business owners who want to modernize their business practices and level up their skills in general.
Council members shared updates and opinions from a recent meeting with representatives from the Urban League who will be managing the transformation of the Extended Stay America into transitional housing. An upcoming presentation from Urban League on how they will manage the property through the “housing first” model will provide more details soon. Council president Linda Kochmar expressed concern about the housing first model. Councilmember Susan Honda said that after a visit to the property and seeing furnished rooms that seem ready to be occupied, “it’s just a concern keeping people out in the cold when we have a perfectly good place to put them.”