Health District’s exchange program needles M’ville to the point it may stop funding

MARYSVILLE – Kamille Norton predicted this would happen.

The Marysville City Council president said if the Snohomish Health District decided to become part of a needle exchange program as was rumored, she would vote for the city to no longer provide funding for the district.

For the past few years, the city has helped fund the countywide health program to the tune of $1 per resident.

The council decided to pay it again, with the knowledge it would pull funding if the needle exchange happened. The city is adamant about not having such a program in town.

Council Member Jeff Vaughan, who represents the city on the health district board, said at Monday night’s meeting that it seems to be leaning toward the needle exchange program, and if it makes that decision he also would be in favor of pulling funding.

Council Member Michael Stevens said the same thing later.

The district is looking to combine with a syringe exchange program in Everett that receives state funds. Vaughan said those funds might be a reason the district wants to absorb that program because the district has been struggling financially. They also have a mobile unit that, “Can get around what we do” in the city, he added.

Vaughan explained the needle exchange is not one-to-one. Drug users actually get a box of many clean needles, along with spoons and tourniquets. He said the district supports it because it is a safe way to use drugs and not overdose as often.

But Vaughan doesn’t like “the message it sends to people” that the public and government support drug users. Also, “Tens of thousands of needles are dumped on a city” and can be left anywhere kids could be.

Meanwhile, the City Council recently went to Washington, D.C., to meet with lawmakers.

Vaughan said a staffer from U.S. Sen. Patty Murray’s office gave them advice about packaging projects together to give them a more-regional look. Vaughan said Wenatchee received millions in federal funds by doing that.

“There’s less competition for projects over $100 million,” he said.

Public Works director Kevin Nielsen said the city is doing just that in trying to get federal money for the Arlington-Marysville Manufacturing Industrial Center.

It is combining the MIC with various road projects that would connect with the center to provide needed transportation routes. Since some involve the railroad tracks that also makes it more of a regional project. “We’re knee deep in grants right now. It’s that time of the season. We’re trying to bring the money home,” he said, adding the city has up to $7 million in grant money.

Regarding the MIC, planning director Dave Koenig said the Puget Sound Regional Council voted 76 percent in favor of a new route to designation, making the Marysville-Arlington one more possible. Both Arlington and Marysville received $50,000 grants for the project. A public meeting on the project will take place at Crown Distributing April 4 at 5 p.m.

Mayor Jon Nehring said it’s on the “fast track. They just don’t hand these things out.”

In other city news:

•Council Member Tom King said First Street construction and new swings at Comeford Park look good. A member of Maryfest, he said the Marysville Strawberry Festival float is almost finished and the first parade is April 8 for the Daffodil Festival, starting in Tacoma.

•Parks director Jim Ballew said the Ebey Waterfront Trail received an award, there are new metal salmon signs on it, and roads will not have to close April 8 for the Everett Half-Marathon because the 150 runners will be using the trail instead. He also said the city received three grants for work on the waterfront park, Mother Nature’s Window and Cedar Field. Marysville Little League is also pitching in to improve the field with turf and lighting.

•The city will buy a paver for about $205,000 for in-house overlays.

•About $770,000, along with a grant of $4.75 million, will be used on the former Wilco and Geddes sites on the waterfront that will help prepare them for future development.

•About $464,350 was approved for replacing ramps to make them American with Disabilities Act compliant. Also a water main replacement and paving will take place on Sunnyside Boulevard this summer.

•Other items mentioned include: two new trucks at the fire station; historic signage and bookings at the Opera House; more applications for concealed weapons permits; and check your mail to make sure nothing looks suspicion. Know what you are getting and from where, Police Chief Rick Smith said.

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