Photo by Shakira Ericksen
The Normandy Park City Council wants new chambers. Citizens there don't like the first option, a rented space in the new shopping center.

In Normandy Park, the citizens shout down the city council over new council quarters

By Shakira Ericksen

A public hearing to determine whether or not Normandy Park City Council would rent new chambers took a dramatic turn when the owner withdrew the lease offer after barely two hours of the public hearing.

Over 70 people packed into Normandy Park City Hall, the majority of them to voice displeasure over a lease agreement between City Hall and The Normandy Park Towne Center.

Tom O’Keefe, owner of Normandy Park Towne Center, took the lease offer off the table after strenuous objections from the public were voiced. The withdrawal was greeted with loud applause, whistling and clapping.
The only advocates for the move were the owners of businesses already located in Towne Center.

“I find it a little ironic that the city hall does not meet code compliance and has code issues but every other property owner in the city must meet code compliance, “O’Keefe said during the public hearing before he withdrew his offer.

O’Keefe also said that the city had a number of employees that deserved to know where they would be working if indeed the chambers were to be moved.

Mayor Susan West barely managed to control both the crowd and council during the heated public hearing.

“We can’t have any personal attacks on individuals. I expect that from the public and from the council as well. We need to have a logical, fair and professional conversation.” said Mayor West.

Mayor West had to make this request several times of both the audience and the council. Councilmembers frequently spoke out of turn or tried to interrupt other members. The audience remained a part of the meeting throughout, cheering at some actions and booing others, several times audience members shouted questions at councilmembers.

The agenda for the night was to have public hearing and then a vote regarding whether or not City Hall would be relocated to Towne Center.
Public comments ranged from people urging the council to rethink their options to people threatening to vote against any council member who voted yes. Statements of this nature were greeted with cheers and loud applause.

The council was debating on whether or not to vote, when the offer was withdrawn.

Karen Steele a community member asked the council if they had even read the lease pointing out that in addition to the rent there was a $20 per hour charge for air conditioning and since the Police Department uses air conditioning 24 hours a day, the costs could be very high.

“If you sign this lease, you may lose this town’s generosity just when you need it most,” said Steele. “We will not forgive nor forget ever each and every one of you who votes yes.”

Mike Ditchik another community member said that nobody he knew was in favor of the lease.

“I’m here to say what I want to say without attacking anybody. I think 90 % of the people here will vote against any councilmember who votes for this move. Most of the population is not for this,” said Ditchik. “What the council is contemplating is disgusting it flies in the face of common sense, nobody wants it, and in my opinion anyone who votes for it is committing political suicide.”

Dagmar Jackson a resident of Normandy Park since 1976 said she was totally against the lease plan and said that the city did not need a multi-million dollar complex to serve a community of just over 6,000 residents.

“I cannot understand how anyone can come up with such a stupid plan. We are not multi-millionaires, we are seniors, and a lot of us are families that come to Normandy Park because it’s a beautiful place to raise families,” said Jackson. “I can think of a lot of people who work 9-5 jobs in buildings that are not as nice. We count every dollar, don’t put more burdens on us tax payers.”

Jackson suggested that instead of renting a facility council could put the money to better use by upgrading the building where they are currently located.

All of these comments were met with loud applause from the audience.
The audience accused the council several times of not reading the lease thoroughly and a few councilmembers did admit to not reading the lease. The residents were concerned that the City was going to rent a space instead of investing in repairs of the building they already owned. The current building where the chambers are located is in desperate need of renovation.

Councilmember Stacia Jenkins said that all the public comment she heard about the city’s financial status was in error. She then attempted to single out of member of the audience by name to point out the flaws in their statement.

She was immediately stopped by Mayor West who had to demand that respect be shown in the city chambers.

Councilmembers Shawn McEvoy, Kathleen Waters, and Mike Bishoff were absolutely against the lease agreement while councilmembers Tom Munslow, and Jenkins seemed to favor it.

Mayor Pro-Tem Doug Osterman was neutral but stressed the need for a strategic plan while Mayor West did not voice her opinion. She stated that from her attitude people might guess where she stood.
The lease agreement with Towne Center was for five years. The lease package was for a 6,091 square foot space on two floors. The average cost was $11,857 per month or $142,286 per year. The rent for the space went up in price from $134,004 for the
first year to $150,816 for the fifth year.

Audio from council meetings is available online. More information on Normandy Park City Council can be found on the cities website.

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