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Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert, right, talks with City Administrator Paul Ellis on Dec. 29. 

 

Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert said 2020 was defined by unprecedented challenges for Arlington but the new year can bring the first steps to recovery.

Tolbert said the year has been tough on most people and businesses because of the pandemic.

"You'd be remiss in not talking about all the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought," she said.

The city has  worked with federal and state agencies, as well as local organizations, in response to the coronavirus.

"We used a majority of our portion of the CARES Act funds to help small businesses," said Tolbert.

Some of those funds were also used for rent and mortgage assistance that was often distributed through local nonprofit organizations. "We've been partnering with the Arlington Community Resource Center to help residents pay their bills." 

The Stilly Valley Chamber has also worked with the city to promote small businesses and provide initiatives such as the Arlington Outdoor Eatery, which provided a place for locals to eat their takeout food from restaurants.

The Arlington Farmers Market was also able to stay open longer to provide an outdoor marketplace for local farms and businesses.

"I'm very impressed with the city's response," said Tolbert, as most employees were able to adjust to safety measures quickly.

"A lot of the staff engaged in remote work," she said, which required some changes in policies and technology licenses, but staff was able to get those done.

"The employees rose to all of the challenges," said Tolbert.

Safety was important to the city and they were challenged initially with safety supplies, said Tolbert, but were able to receive enough with help from the state.

Elected officials also changed how they did business, with the City Council holding online meetings which were posted online.

"We developed a YouTube channel from that, which has helped increase our transparency to the public. That is one of the good things that we want to keep after COVID," said Tolbert.

Moving forward the city will continue to focus on preventing the spread of COVID and supporting local businesses.

"Our concerns will remain in both the safety of our residents and the economic vitality," said Tolbert.

The first vaccines in Snohomish County were distributed at the end of December and Tolbert said "that is really the first step on a path toward economic recovery."

City staff is advocating for some public vaccine distribution sites in Arlington for when the vaccine is in a more public phase of its rollout, said Tolbert.

Currently, the Snohomish Health District is giving the vaccine primarily to hospital workers and staff, first responders and staff, and residents in long-term care facilities.

Under a successful vaccine rollout throughout next year safety measures could begin relaxing and big events could return to downtown.

Those events are crucial to downtown businesses who rely on them for revenue, Tolbert said.

Beyond pandemic recovery, Tolbert said she hopes to continue to support growth in the Cascade Industrial Center.

"We're really focused on providing family-wage jobs here," she said. With the looming potential of Boeing layoffs those manufacturing jobs could be even more important, said Tolbert.

The city will continue improving their road network as well.

"We have a number of transportation projects and new roads that will provide congestion relief around SR-531 [172nd Street]," said Tolbert.

The city is also completing the design work for an expansion of that road as well, which will add lanes to the section which is currently only two lanes.

"That road is right next to an airport, so there are additional layers of regulation," that the project has to go through, said Tolbert.

City staff is also looking at a ballot initiative this February that would approve the annexation of the Arlington Fire Department into North County Fire and EMS.

The new Regional Fire Authority is meant to help secure funding for local fire services.

"That will provide a sustainable funding source for the fire services of the north county," said Tolbert.

More information on that upcoming vote is available at arlingtonwa.gov/672.

Tolbert said many staff members have helped throughout the year and she thanked Community Revitalization Project Manager Sarah Lopez in particular.

"She has been dedicated to the efforts to mitigate the impacts of COVID and the economic downtown," said Tolbert.

Tolbert also wanted to recognize the community for coming together during a tough time.

"I just want to thank the staff, the residents and the small businesses for banding together … everyone is working on a forward path," she said.

 

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