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Bellevue Lays Off Community Development Director; Seeks Tenant for Joe's Crab Shack Space

In the new budget presented to Bellevue city council by City Administrator Frank Warnock during a virtual meeting on Wednesday evening, he announced that longtime city employee Jody Robinson's position was being eliminated.

Robinson, who joined the city in 2006, currently serves as community development and historic preservation director.

Warnock, citing the economic impact of COVID-19 on the city's finances, said that he had to take drastic measures in preparing the budget, including eliminating Robinson's job. "It is not something we necessarily wanted to do," Warnock told council. "That was some savings that could be applied to the budget."

The city will seek to contract out some of the services that Robinson fulfilled previously.

"Jody has made a huge contribution to the betterment of Bellevue," Warnock said in response to an email from RCN seeking clarification. "She is very passionate about historic preservation, the city’s accoutrements, the environment and trees. Jody worked hard to build up the special events in the city, especially Art in the Park.

 "The issue was the budget, the closure of Joe’s Crab Shack and the potential for a significant decrease in revenue due to coronavirus. All of the services will continue, but through contracts and part time professionals."

Joe's Crab Shack, the national chain that operated a location along Bellevue's riverfront, announced its permanent closure last month after two decades. The city owns the property and serves as the landlord to Joe's as well as Buckhead Mountain Grill, another national chain that recently reopened.

Both restaurants had stopped paying their rent in March. Warnock said that Buckhead plans to catch up on the back rent, but the loss of Joe's represents about $150,000 in annual revenue for the city, he said.

Now the search is on for a replacement operation.

"Buckhead's is back up and running and we're optimistic they'll catch up and pay their rent. We've been working with them in that regard," Warnock said. "We haven't received our March through June rent for Joe's Crab Shack.

"Somehow, someway, we're going to have to make up that loss of revenue there."

The city has collected the keys from Joe's Crab Shack and changed the locks, and posted no-trespassing signs. "We have been meeting with potential restaurant (operators) with a fair amount of interest," Warnock said. "It's a fantastic location. There is a discussion going on about what we need to do with it."

"It's said that they're gone, but when one door closes, it opens up opportunity for the future."

Meanwhile, the city building is open to the public again after shutting down due to the coronavirus pandemic. There are social-distancing measures in place for visitors.

Major capital improvement projects are postponed or scaled back, Warnock said, noting that Lincoln Road improvements, originally expected to cost around $2.6 million will now be around $600,000, a cost that is to be shared with Sanitation District 1.

The city expects a 12 percent increase in health care costs, and also plans to upgrade some computers at the city building.

Warnock said that improvements to South Foote Avenue were unexpected, but it started "sliding in the woods" and could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair.

The city was expecting to celebrate its sesquicentennial this year, but will likely hold events next year instead.

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Photo: Jody Robinson (via City of Bellevue)

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