Buckley retains former admin Schmidt as consultant, but not without debate

Council member Marvin Sundstrom had some choice words to say about the former city administrator.

Editor’s note: An article about the Buckley City Council’s Sept. 27 meeting was cut off in print. (It also erroneously referred to the meeting as taking place on Sept. 30.) That article has been reprinted below, lightly edited for space, and is followed by a recap of the most recent Oct. 11th meeting.

Buckley officials bid adieu — for a second time — to outgoing city administrator David Schmidt during the city council’s Sept. 27 meeting.

It was Schmidt’s last day as interim administrator, as his successor Courtney Brunell has recently been hired on.

“Coming out of a very happy retirement, (Schmidt) didn’t need to come back here and help us out of a jam,” Mayor Beau Burkett said. “I can’t imagine the process of the last 10, 12 months going any sooner than it has. … Dave really, truly helped us out of a jam in my opinion, and has done an excellent job as always, as he did for the first 19 years.”

Fire Chief Eric Skogen presented Schmidt with a special coin from the fire department.

Council member Marvin Sundstrom — a perennial critic of Schmidt — said he wouldn’t be among those “unhappy that the city administrator is leaving.”

“What I ask is that you take a look at what’s been accomplished over the years, what hasn’t been accomplished, and say, ‘Did we do our job?’ That’s all I’ve got to say,” Sundstrom said.

Council member Brandon Green said that he was sad to see Schmidt go: “I’ve learned a lot from you. … I’m happy to see you guys found a great replacement, but you’ll definitely be missed.”

And Schmidt, typically not one to lock horns during council meetings, hit back at Sundstrom with a blunt riposte of his own in his final moments before the city council.

“I’ve been listening to garbage come out of his mouth for 20 years, so it doesn’t mean anything to me,” Schmidt said. “Thank you to everybody else. Tonight’s my last night, (so) I can say that publicly.”

Oct. 11 City Council meeting

Buckley council members approved an agreement with just-retired former city administrator Dave Schmidt during their Oct. 11 council meeting to retain Schmidt through January 2023 as an on-call consultant for department managers and the new city administrator Courtney Brunell.

Schmidt’s rate will be $2,370 per month for up to 20 hours per month of consultation, with an hourly rate of $118 for any hours past that amount. Brunell said Schmidt’s knowledge would be valuable, as Schmidt had some irons in the fire prior to his departure that would be aided by his consultation.

But the meeting became lively when Sundstrom attempted to deliver a brief history of Schmidt’s decisions that Sundstrom took issue with.

Sundstrom began sharing some of his concerns with Schmidt’s performance, but fellow council member Lyn Rose thrice made a point of order during his oration, pointing out that the council did not have documentation or a record of Sundstrom’s concerns in front of them to review.

“I would like to have you cease and desist this,” Rose said, “because it’s unfounded, and no one here knows anything about your references to it, and I won’t have it. It’s attacking an individual and I think it’s now personal, and as a council, we’re going to work together … towards our new administrator.”

As the rest of the council discussed voting to “call for the vote” – in other words, to finish discussion and have the council vote – Sundstrom interjected.

“You don’t want to hear the truth, that’s fine with me,” Sundstrom said; he then attempted to make a motion, but could not do so because the “call for the vote” had already been made and was already on the floor.

The rest of the council then voted to skip directly to the vote, with only Sundstrom dissenting. The vote on the contract was identical: All council members voted for it except Sundstrom, who voted no.

The council moved on to other business afterwards, but debriefed and processed the argument at the end of the council meeting.

“Disagreeing with people, or not seeing eye to eye with one another, is one thing,” council member Amanda Burbank said. “But being respectful to all individuals whether they’re present or not is … not only something I teach to my fifth graders, but I expect from all the adults working together. … I would really appreciate it if (we) as a council, and anybody else who is speaking, are respectful of each other.”


On Sept. 27, the council also…

• Unanimously approved an agreement with Phoebe Mulligan LICSW, a licensed therapist, to provide mental health support services for the Buckley Police Department, such as critical incident stress debriefs and / or individual meetings and support sessions.

• Unanimously voted to authorize the Mayor to sign off on an agreement with Puget Sound Energy regarding the city’s wetland mitigation areas. In 2018. the city agreed to work with PSE to use a chunk of Buckley’s wetland mitigation area to perform mitigation work for PSE’s new substation site. PSE is now done planning for the word and is ready to get started, but needed this agreement on Tuesday to begin. The agreement sells the development rights of a roughly 24,000-square foot site to PSE for 10 years, after which PSE would then relinquish the property back to the city.

• Unanimously voted to authorize the Mayor to sign off on an easement agreement with PSE for powerline improvements in the city, which need to be done for PSE to construct an upcoming new substation in Buckley.

• Unanimously voted to allow the city to launch its Small Business Relief and Recovery Program, through which local businesses will be able to request grant money from American Rescue Plan Act funds to help cover economic costs incurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Heard from city officials that the city is about to begin laying asphalt for the multi-use sport court near the Youth Activities Center. (Outgoing city administrator Dave Schmidt lauded Parks & Recreation director Erin Snodgrass for recently nabbing another $10,000 grant for the project.)

On Oct. 11, the council also…

• Unanimously approved a contract with Kulchin Foundation Drilling Co. for a project to repair the critical road the city uses to access the South Prairie Creek water transmission main.

• Unanimously gave their final acceptance to the $108,000 Haunted House reroof project, which just finished recently.

• Approved an architecture and engineering services proposal from Gray & Osborne for the design of a project that will expand City Hall and modernize the building. The $164,000 proposal includes conceptual drawings, schedules and a detailed cost estimate. Along with the expansion, the project would also add new siding, roofing and windows to the existing building.

Timewise, the project is on schedule to complete the design process in spring next year and finish construction near the end of 2023. All but council member Sundstrom voted to approve the proposal.

“I really appreciated the study session, (and I) appreciated the thoroughness of what was presented,” Sundstrom said. “But it is difficult to accept this level of spending for a minimal remodel.”

Sundstrom called the proposal short-sighted and proposed the city instead look at the intersection of Jefferson Ave and River Road, just south of the Youth Center, as a site for a new building that can serve city needs for long into the future.

Council member Burbank pointed out that the project is renovating the existing building too, not just adding new space.

“We’re preserving a historical building on Main Street, and keeping that as one of the things that makes Buckley what it is. My point is, it doesn’t make sense to take the same footprint, and put it somewhere else, when we have a building … The whole point of this is that we’re keeping it and making it better, up to code. We’re getting more than just square feet.”