MARYSVILLE – Snohomish County Councilman Nate Nehring couldn’t believe what he saw when he visited a heroin injection site in Vancouver, B.C.
He saw hundreds of people with needles in their arms in the surrounding neighborhood, which included families with children.
“It was heart-breaking to see,” he told a Marysville-Tulalip Chamber of Commerce crowd Friday at a State of the County address.
That only solidified his stance that he didn’t want to see that happen in SnoCo, even as nearby King County is moving in that direction.
SnoCo has banned such sites.
Nehring said he has compassion for addicts.
“It’s not compassionate allowing them to continue suffering” and keep using at heroin sites, he said.
More compassionate, he said, is helping them get off drugs, which is happening in SnoCo with its embedded social worker program with Arlington and Marysville. Not only can they get rehab, but also help with housing and even jobs.
“We’re using a lot of resources, and the expectation from taxpayers is to see success,” he said, which is happening in SnoCo, but not KingCo.
Nehring was asked by audience members to not forget homeless who are elderly, domestic violence victims or have mental health issues. He was also asked to look into the variety of housing available to homeless in Seattle.
Nehring talked about a number of other issues.
He said he knows traffic is a major concern of many in North SnoCo. He knows it’s frustrating because fixes cost a lot of money and take a long time. But he said help is on the way thanks to $200 million from the state leading to new I-5 interchanges at Highway 529 and 156th Street. The latter won’t happen until 2025 but it will relieve some of the burden on 172nd Street as businesses come in to the Cascade Industrial Center, providing 25,000 family wage jobs.
Traffic is a concern when trying to recruit business to North SnoCo. That is why Nehring is thankful for the new commercial air service at Paine Field. People no longer have to battle traffic to SeaTac. Dealing with population growth will only get worse in the next few decades, as SnoCo is projected to grow by 250,000 people, surpassing Pierce and only behind King as the largest county in the state with over 1 million people, he said.
Nehring also talked about the Regional Apprentice Pathway starting at Marysville-Pilchuck High School. The trade industry is in desperate need of workers, so RAP will help bridge the gap to give students preferred entry into trade apprenticeship programs. The state is contributing $1.5 million over two years, and Gov. Jay Inslee is pushing it as a model for others statewide.
As for the county budget, Nehring said the executive will have it out in September for discussion by the county council. Of the $1 billion, $750,000 is designated for sheriff, road, parks and other departments. Only $250,000 is in the general fund.
Nehring said the county has not raised taxes the past two years. Only 14 cents of every $1 paid in taxes goes to the county. The county council also hopes to put more money into its rainy day fund. Last year it added $2.5 million, the most ever.
Taxes continue to rise due to the state and especially Sound Transit, he said. Places like Lake Stevens and Lynnwood have seen tax increases of 35 percent in one year.
“We want to relieve that burden” at the county level, Nehring said.