Oak Harbor City Council stumbles over EnviroIssues contract

Erin Taylor, an EnviroIssues associate, fields questions from the Oak Harbor City Council last week.  - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
Erin Taylor, an EnviroIssues associate, fields questions from the Oak Harbor City Council last week.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

The Oak Harbor City Council could not come to an agreement last week on which path to take regarding a second contract with EnviroIssues, a Seattle-based communications consulting firm.

The purpose of the contracts, which could total roughly $90,000, is to open a dialogue between the merchants, city and greater community and ease any negative effects of next year’s construction on Pioneer Way business owners, many of whom are already irate over the decision to make it a one-way street.

EnviroIssues associate Erin Taylor presented a “phase two” plan to create a project design logo, fliers, newsletters, fact sheets, web plan suggestions, drop-in sessions, design workshops, community relations outline and “businesses are open” advertising campaign among other communication and marketing-related duties.

The work is expected to cost Oak Harbor $60,098.86 and does not include printing and mailing expenses.

Mayor Jim Slowik already signed off on “phase one” of the contract in the amount of $29,986.04. The payment includes a business survey of the Pioneer Way merchants and a presentation by EnviroIssues to City Council members on its findings. The contract did not require authorization by the City Council because it was under $30,000.

The absence of City Council members Beth Munns and Danny Paggao exacerbated the complexity of last week’s proposal which required a majority of the full governing body — or four votes — to pass.

Councilman Rick Almberg’s motion to accept a $60,098.86 contract failed in a three-to-two vote. Almberg, Jim Palmer and Jim Campbell voted for the contract award; councilmen Bob Severns and Scott Dudley voted against it.

The unsettled issue will return at the next City Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, June 1, 6 p.m. at City Hall.

Dudley extensively questioned Taylor and Oak Harbor Development Services Director Steve Powers about their plan and exactly what services EnviroIssues will provide for the $60,098.86.

So far, Taylor said she and her associate Katie Fredlung have contacted “about 50 businesses” and completed 35 to 40 surveys.

At one point Slowik capped Dudley’s 20-minute-long questioning of Taylor and Powers by reminding him that council members are limited to 10 minutes during the first round of questions.

Almberg and Palmer expressed concern over spending more money on the downtown revitalization, but they felt money spent on the phase two EnviroIssues agreement would be well spent.

“This step is necessary,” said Almberg of the consulting contract.

Merchants apparently haven’t been shy about expressing their views to Taylor.

Scott and Miki Wotring, owners of Good Times Pizza, spoke with Taylor May 7 when she visited with them and Gloria Carothers, who owns The Jewelry Gallery, for about 45 minutes, Scott Wotring said.

“She was on an information gathering quest,” Wotring said. “She got an earful.”

Taylor asked about hours of operation, their busiest times of day and if the business owners had any marketing ideas, Wotring said.

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