The global COVID-19 pandemic turned 2021 into another historic, trying year for the world.
King County Local Services met the challenges head on to deliver the type of service our residents and businesses expect during normal times, let alone unprecedented ones.
Our department helped put much-needed money into the hands of businesses and organizations. We adapted our services to meet the changing needs of unincorporated King County. We even launched a community driven budgeting process that will allow people who live, work, play and worship in traditionally underserved areas to decide how money is spent.
And those were just a few of the things Local Services accomplished over the past year. Scroll down to view our department and our divisions’ top accomplishments of 2021:
1. King County helps deliver nearly $3 million in COID-19 small business grants: With the pandemic affecting small businesses across the country, the King County Council dedicated more funding for Small Business Assistance Grants. As part of King County’s “Revive and Thrive” campaign, Local Services helped get nearly $3 million directly into the hands of hundreds of small businesses the prior year. We continued to deliver these lifelines for small businesses in unincorporated King County in 2021.
2. Local Services works with committee to create framework for community driven “Participatory Budgeting” process for urban unincorporated King County: This year, the King County Council approved a new approach to community investment – one that’s centered on racial equity. It will give people who live, work, play and worship in the county’s five unincorporated areas the chance to choose how $10 million is spent. With the help of Participatory Budgeting Program Manager Gloria Briggs, the 21 members of the Community Investment Budget Committee met weekly via Zoom beginning in the summer to establish the framework for the program. The committee is now working on community engagement plans to identify the projects, programs, and services this funding could support, as well as details of how the public will decide on how the money is ultimately spent.
3. Local Services jumps to give White Center residents cool relief during extreme heat: When temperatures soared past 100 degrees in late June, Local Services moved quickly to establish a “cooling station” in White Center to help residents escape the heat, including those experiencing homelessness. The county worked with Community & Human Services and the White Center Community Development Association to offer 20 air-conditioned units in the Top Hat area available to residents over five days. It was the only such facility in unincorporated King County.
4. Local Services works to help White Center businesses damaged by string of fires: On July 5, a fire damaged several businesses in the White Center business core. Over the next two months, the unincorporated community experienced a total of five fires that caused millions of dollars in damage. Immediately after each fire and afterward, Local Services worked with the Executive’s Office, Sheriff’s Office and other departments and agencies to help affected owners and businesses, including:
- Getting expanded overtime in the King County Council’s biennial budget for the Sheriff’s Office to serve the area
- Obtaining a Small Business Disaster Declaration that made businesses impacted by the first fire eligible for low-interest loans
- Provide enhanced code enforcement in the commercial district to assure business with outstanding life safety issues come into compliance
- Diverting our Community Liaison and Economic Development Manager to assist until a Technical Assistance Coordinator is recruited.
5. Local Services prepares for unincorporated area fireworks ban that begins 2022: In May, the King County Council voted to ban consumer fireworks, something that residents in the unincorporated areas have requested for years. There have been several large wildfires in rural parts of the county during recent dry summers, and several fireworks-related injuries and other incidents in urban areas—including a 2019 house fire in White Center in which one person died. Violations will be a misdemeanor, but the county will defer issuing citations for a year and instead emphasize community education about the new rules.
6. Road Services delivers despite challenges: Our Road Services accomplished plenty in 2021. The division:
- Responded to nearly 200 customer calls and earned 76,000 impressions on social media during a February snow event. Crews plowed or sanded 8,400 lane miles and used more than 2,000 tons of salt/sand
- Completed its American with Disabilities Act (ADA) Transition Plan
- Completed or substantially completed numerous projects, including 18 drainage preservation projects, a culvert/fish passage project at NE Lake Joy Road, bridge repair and maintenance, school zone safety, a road reconstruction project at NE Stillwater Road and bridge replacement on S 277th Street
- Resurfaced some 4.5 centerline miles of pavement
- Cleared 250,000 pounds of trash from roads, used nearly 900 tons of pothole patching material and replaced/repaired more than 20,000 signs
- Took home several industry awards:
- Best County Paving in Western Washington Award by the Washington Asphalt Pavement Association
- Project of the Year Award from the American Public Works Association Washington Chapter, as well as a National Association of Government Communicators award, both for the 356th Drive SE Emergency Slide Repair Project.
7. Permitting goes online: Our Permitting Division underwent a major change to adapt to changing times by partnering with Mybuildingpermit.com and going 100-percent online. Applicants no longer need to physically show up at an office to apply for most permits. Instead, they can submit their application materials via a website. Overall, the division issued permits for more than 220,000 square feet of commercial space last year.
8. Community Van Program comes to Skyway: Metro and Local Services introduced the program that provides residents with 24/7, reservation-based transportation for trips. The program is already a hit on Vashon Island and in other areas, but it’s especially valuable in a community such as Skyway. Metro provides the vans, and volunteer drivers are managed by local Community Van Coordinator Kahdijah Jackson.
9. County expands Conservation Corps program: As part of his $40-million King County Jobs program, Constantine announced an expansion of the Conservation Corps program. In March, Local Services Director John Taylor and team members joined the Executive during a ceremony in White Center. He spoke about how Conservation Corps – which began in December 2019 as a pilot program with the Millionair Club (now Uplift Northwest) – has provided meaningful employment for people experiencing homelessness. It also resulted in thousands of pieces of trash, needles and other litter off the public areas of urban unincorporated areas of White Center, Skyway and Fall City. Work is underway to have the program up and running in February, 2022.
10. County kicks off 20-year subarea plan processes for Skyway-West Hill, North Highline areas; Begins work in Snoqualmie Valley: This year, our Permitting Division embarked on an important process of gathering public input for the plans that express and establish policies for each community’s vision of the future. Over several months, members of our team met virtually and in person with residents to get their feedback on the draft plans, which represent a milestone in the subarea planning process. These plans will guide investments and development decisions affecting their communities for a generation or more. The King County Council is scheduled to review, revise and adopt the plans and their amendments in mid-2022. Later in the year, the Permitting Division began a similar process for Snoqualmie Valley/Northeast King County.
11. Local Services gathers input from unincorporated area residents for community needs lists: We collaborated with those who live and work in unincorporated areas to get their thoughts to ultimately create lists of projects for King County to complete in support of each community’s vision. We established online surveys to gather requests from people who live and work in each community. These surveys will guide what will eventually become community needs lists, which will help the county prioritize projects and will inform the development of the county’s budget.
12. Community Service Area grant program renamed after former program manager Alan Painter: The King County Council approved changing the name of the Community Service Area Grant Program officially to the “Alan M. Painter Grant Program” as a tribute to his passion for the community. The program administered by Local Services – which provides assistance to organizations that work to bring people together and engage the community – is one of the legacies of Painter, whom Executive Dow Constantine named Community Service Area Program Manager in 2012 and who led the grant program for years. Painter lost his brief battle with cancer earlier this year.
13. Partnerships help deliver community kiosks to Skyway: The Skyway community celebrated the installation of a pair of public kiosks in July. One is located on Renton Avenue S near Nevzat’s Espresso, and the other is just down the street from Campbell Hill Elementary School. These kiosks serve multiple functions. Residents can pin fliers and announcements to a roof-covered bulletin board. The kiosks also serve as neighborhood entry signs, complete with side panels designed to resemble maps of the neighborhood.
14. Local Services members get boots on the ground to help protect the community against COVID-19: As we entered the second year of the global pandemic, the need to help community members protect themselves from COVID-19, as well as its variants, was constant. Much like we did in the pandemic’s first year, our team jumped at any chance to hand out personal protective equipment (PPE) and conduct community outreach in the unincorporated areas.
15. ‘Mukai Way’ honorary road designation celebrates pioneering Japanese American family on Vashon Island: In August, the King County Council designated a half-mile section of 107th Avenue SW to honor the Mukai Family and the Japanese American immigrant community’s contributions to the island in the 20th century. Two months later, Executive Dow Constantine led a dedication ceremony. The road name will hopefully serve as a reminder of the contributions Japanese Americans made to the island in the years before World War II.
16. New Project Manager aims to deliver much-requested community center to Skyway: Local Services acted on its commitment to help deliver a community center to the urban unincorporated area. It brought on board Project Manager Malcolm Lee. His objective is to leverage his experience as a resident and a coordinator of high-profile projects, along with a passion for uplifting culturally diverse communities, to help deliver a center to Skyway. The county is also providing $2 million to the Skyway Resource Center.
17. Program Manager works to bring septic system to Fall City business area: The department also welcomed Jeff Wilson to our team, who brings with him a wealth of experience in environmental science and engineering. The Program Manager and Fall City resident’s main goal is to help deliver a shared septic system to Fall City, which business owners have requested for decades and say could unlock the potential of the area’s aging commercial district.
18. Local Services welcomes john miller, our first Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Manager: We also welcomed john miller to our team, who is dedicated to helping our department create a more equitable, racially diverse and inclusive work environment. In this new position, john (who is so adamant about working together that he prefers the lowercase spelling of his name to remind himself and others that our focus and successes gained are about the collective group over the individual) is guiding and supporting Local Services to deliver services consistent with King County’s True North aspiration to be “a welcoming community where every person can thrive.”
19. King County Local Services offers free help to eligible, low-income RV residents to properly dispose of waste without leaving Vashon Island: COVID-19 restrictions highlighted a longstanding problem on Vashon Island – it lacks a public facility that allows RV residents to properly and legally dispose of their waste. Leaving the island via ferry isn’t a viable option for low-income RV residents. In February, Local Services partnered with the Interfaith Council to Prevent Homelessness, a local homeless advocacy group, to allow eligible RV residents to have their waste collected once a month for free until the end of the year.
20. Helping other departments and agencies connect in unincorporated King County: As the local government for the 250,000 residents of the unincorporated areas, we worked to connect them with information and services, as well as give them opportunities to share their concerns and perspectives. That included anti-displacement work with the Department of Community and Human Services, public safety concerns with the King County Sheriff’s Office and questions related to COVID-19 for Public Health – Seattle & King County.
21. Local Services highlights the diverse membership of its team: Throughout the year, Local Services used social media to highlight members of our team who bring diverse perspectives and backgrounds. We started in March with Women’s History Month by highlighting members of our Road Services Division and culminating with a webinar where these members shared their perspectives about working in the industry. Our followers told us they enjoyed it so much, we highlighted other members for Asian-Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Pride Month and Hispanic Heritage Month