Executive Dow Constantine recapped the county’s efforts to date to help businesses hurt by a string of recent fires in the urban area’s commercial core. He also outlined next steps the county will take to improve public safety.
King County Local Services hosted the virtual community meeting this week after a push from several White Center businesses for the county to take more action to improve safety.
In addition to representatives from the Executive’s Office, Local Services Director John Taylor and other county staffers, representatives from the North Highline Fire District, the Seattle Fire Department, and the Seattle Police Department with the King County Sheriff’s Office shared with more than 50 people in attendance the steps their agencies are taking to address the issue.
Since July 5, White Center—an urban unincorporated area of King County—has experienced five fires in its main business area.
“In my time representing White Center in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, and on the County Council and as Executive, I cannot remember an instance where we had such a singular series of events—these succeeding fires that have put such a strain, such a challenge on this small geographic area, particularly impacting small businesses,” Executive Constantine said. “It’s really in many ways unprecedented, even in a year and a half of unprecedented events.”
Executive Constantine described how Local Services, working directly with his office, was doing everything within the county’s authority to help businesses. That includes channeling nearly $108,000 in small business grant money directly to fire-affected businesses.
The county also coordinates biweekly meetings with agencies that serve the area, and staff members have been on site during every fire response, including building inspectors from the Permitting Division. Members of the King County Conservation Corps have also been assigned to the commercial core to pick up litter.
Executive Constantine also outlined several steps King County will take in response to direct requests from businesses. They include:
- Hire a new Technical Assistance Coordinator and expand existing technical assistance contracts to help fire-affected businesses.
- Request expanded overtime in the mid-biennial budget currently under consideration by the County Council for the King County Sheriff’s Office to serve the area. Constantine acknowledged that the recent charter amendment means the department will transition under his authority on Jan. 1, 2022, but said he wants to move immediately to increase the presence of police officers and their ability to respond to White Center and other parts of unincorporated King County.
- Seek a Small Business Disaster Declaration for fire-affected businesses in the area, which would make them eligible for low-interest loans of up to $2 million.
- Provide enhanced code enforcement in the White Center commercial district to make sure that businesses with outstanding life safety issues come into compliance.
“We have been, and will continue to work with everyone in the community,” Executive Constantine said. “The county has a role to play, but I want to take a minute to acknowledge the incredible way the community has joined together to support the affected businesses through crowd-funding efforts and fundraisers. We stand ready to support the community, and we will continue to work with you to bring the resources to bear to recover not just from the fires, but the other challenges we face.”
- White Center Safety Meeting (video on Facebook)