Olympia’s city government will operate the Downtown Ambassador program itself and do away with the Downtown Welcome Center, the city council decided Tuesday night.
The change will cost the city more money — about $100,000.
Both the Olympia Downtown Association and the nonprofit Sidewalk had submitted proposals to operate the Downtown Ambassadors, the Downtown Welcome Center and the Clean Team after the city decided earlier this year to end its contract with the Capitol Recovery Center, which had been hired in 2012 to operate the fledgling program.
Ultimately, the city was looking for an agency that will provide more administrative oversight, City Manager Steve Hall said.
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The change was first proposed during budget talks, and finalized during Tuesday night’s Olympia City Council meeting. Councilwoman Jessica Bateman made a motion to bring the program in-house, despite Mayor Cheryl Selby’s urging that they discuss the matter further.
Bateman said that having the city operate the Downtown Ambassadors would guarantee consistent service to the downtown community.
“I think the city can do it well,” Bateman said.
The city will do away with the Downtown Welcome Center, at least for now. Councilman Jim Cooper said that in the future, the city will discuss welcome center opportunities with Olympia stakeholders. But the current facility on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Franklin Street isn’t working, he said.
“Personally, right now, I think it’s time to pull the plug,” Cooper said.
A selection committee determined that neither Sidewalk nor the Olympia Downtown Association’s proposal was right for the program. The group asked the two applicants to combine their ideas.
The proposal was submitted Monday, but never considered by the Olympia City Council. Todd Cutts, executive director of the Olympia Downtown Association, addressed the council Tuesday and urged them to consider the proposal. He explained that his organization would operate the Welcome Center, while Sidewalk would focus on the Downtown Ambassador program.
His request fell on deaf ears.
Selby said Tuesday that she felt blindsided by the idea of bringing the program in-house, arguing that the council had a duty to fairly consider the proposals. She also urged the council to consider other city policies — such as the Downtown Strategy — before making a decision.
“I just don’t think it’s fair to the process,” Selby said. “It’s sloppy.
“I feel like this needs to be part of a bigger scope and strategy for what we’re doing downtown.”
She also balked at the price tag.
The Capitol Recovery Center had been operating the program for about $350,000 per year. Sidewalk’s proposal would have cost $367,000 per year, and the Olympia Downtown Association’s would have cost as much as $357,000 per year.
A city-run Downtown Ambassador program will cost $466,830 per year without a Welcome Center. The cost breakdown is as follows:
- Two ambassador program aides: $21 per hour, 40 hours a week, plus benefits, each costing the city $60,368 per year.
- One clean team lead: $25 per hour, 40 hours a week, costing the city $73,381 per year.
- Three clean team employees: $19 per hour, 35 hours per week, each costing the city $47,698 per year.
- One clean team employee: $19 per hour, 30 hours per week, costing the city $40,884 per year.
- One clean team employee: $19 per hour, 25 hours per week, costing the city $34,070 per year.
- Truck expenses: $3,665
- Supplies: $30,000
- Training and vaccinations: $14,000
- Job training support: $7,000