FW City Council talks leisure pool and financial literacy

Council also heard an update from King County on using the Federal Way Extended Stay America hotel for housing.

The Federal Way City Council discussed work at the community center leisure pool and the city’s new financial literacy program during their Aug. 8 meeting.

The next regular council meeting will be Sept. 5; there will be no second meeting for August.

Pool progress

The city is steadily making progress on refurbishing the Federal Way Community Center’s leisure pool, and the facility may be open as early as September, according to Parks Director John Hutton.

The leisure pool has been re-plastered and the corroded elements inside repaired and treated. A new play unit and slide have been installed, and the facility “is looking good,” Hutton said.

The slide has been offline for about a year, and the leisure pool around nine months. The six-lane lap pool remains open and has not experienced problems.

Hutton said it’s difficult to pin down a specific opening date for the leisure pool, but “if I had to guess, very early September.”

Work at the locker rooms will happen during the facility’s annual closure in September, Hutton said.

Financial literacy program

Federal Way will launch a free program to help residents improve their money skills.

The city sought proposals from outside organizations for financial literacy programs to fund with ARPA money, but didn’t receive any. That’s why the city and council have considered launching their own.

The council approved using general fund money to launch a financial literacy pilot program in the fall. It would consist of a nine-week course teaching financial management skills, with a tentative schedule of Thursday evenings at the Federal Way Community Center.

The class would be free, with room for 40 participants. Using a curriculum by radio show host and financial consultant Dave Ramsay, participants would learn budgeting, debt-management and other financial skills. The program would be run by volunteers, with child care provided by the community center.

The total cost of the program is estimated at $20,000.

Councilmember Lydia Assefa-Dawson, who is a housing advocate with experience helping families become financially self-sufficient, expressed enthusiasm for financial literacy education but shared concern with the Dave Ramsay program, which she said she has taken before.

“It was very informational, very helpful … but there were some aspects that do not work for the population I would like to see served.”

That includes advice about getting rid of one’s credit cards, Assefa-Dawson said, or taking on more jobs — recommendations that may come of as out-of-touch or unrealistic for folks who are already working two or three jobs or who need their credit cards to build credit or have a financial safety net.

“There are a lot of components about the program that are great,” she said. “I’m not throwing it completely out. … (But) what I’d like to see is maybe another curriculum (for) this program. … I feel like it doesn’t serve everyone we are trying to target.”

One compromise was suggested — keep the curriculum, but encourage the program facilitators to talk about differences between the program and some participants’ actual needs in small group settings. The city and council indicated they would find a way to run the program while ensuring it is appropriate for the needs and life situations of the people it serves.

The council unanimously voted to approve the pilot program.

Ordinance updates

The council heard an update from FWPD Deputy Chief Kyle Sumpter on the city’s shopping cart, reckless fentanyl use and pedestrian interference ordinances. The city is enforcing those laws, Sumpter said, though he cautioned that statistics on enforcement rates are not enough to sway a person’s perception of criminal activity.

“Yes, we enforce each of those, and no, it isn’t enough,” Sumpter said. “If you want to hear enforcement numbers tonight, I’ll answer that by saying it doesn’t matter what the numbers are. … You will compare them with the violations you see or hear about, and our numbers, whatever they are, won’t be enough. … It isn’t enough as long as you see widespread violations. … What you should not conclude … is that “the police do not do anything.” … You know that statement is an expression of personal emotion. We need to listen to heartfelt feedback, but it is not a statement of fact.”

Starting Aug. 16, the new state statute on drug possession activates, Sumpter said, giving police more power to enforce laws against illegal drug use.

Also on Tuesday:

• The council heard an update from King County on the Health through Housing initiative and its progress in using the Federal Way Extended Stay America hotel for housing, aimed primarily for people who are homeless or facing the risk of homelessness. The facility will likely welcome its first residents in about a year, said Leo Flor, director of community and human services for Public Health — Seattle & King County.

Multiple residents shared concerns during public comment that the facility could exacerbate crime issues in the region or fail to actually reduce homelessness in the city.

• The council unanimously awarded a contract to Miles Resources LLC for a maximum of $888,470 to perform highway preservation on the section of S. 348th Street from 9th Ave. S to SR 99. The total cost, factoring in construction management, inspection and design is $1.116 million, which will be entirely funded by a federal National Highway System grant of the same amount.

• The council held public hearings and first readings on amending the biennial budget and the residential open space comprehensive plan and code. The council will be able to take action during their next meeting. Finance Director Steve Groom laid out priorities for $870,000 of spending from the general fund, which included $500,000 for repairing the City Hall roof and $200,000 for server room cooling units. The costs can be covered by new revenue from interest, sales tax and permits and fees above and beyond what the city budgeted for.

The change to the open space code would modify how the city calculates the amount of open space required for single-family subdivisions from a percentage of the site area to a square feet per unit calculation. The changes would in most cases reduce the required amount of open space, said senior planner Evan Lewis, but better tie the requirements to the actual amount of units. They would also exempt open space requirements for developments of five or fewer units — except for manufactured home parks.

Both matters were forwarded to the next meeting for second reading and adoption.

• The council unanimously enacted an ordinance expanding the city’s multi-family tax exemption.

• The council unanimously enacted an ordinance renewing the Steel Lake management district.