Friday, February 27, 2009

Point Ruston In The News

One of the lead stories in the Seattle Times today was about fines imposed against one of Point Ruston's contractors. You can read the full article here...

Police Chief Update

Mayor Hopkins reports that oral board exams for police chief position are scheduled for March 26th with the civil service commission. All the qualified applicants have been invited to submit written essays and provide detailed resumes.

We should see a new chief appointed by early April.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Point Ruston LID

The Tacoma Daily Index is reporting that the Tacoma City Council will be hearing about the LID proposal for Point Ruston at their noon study session today (click here). They note it will be broadcast live on TV Tacoma...

UPDATE: Thursday, February 26th: The City of Tacoma study session for the Point Ruston development is available here, then click on the February 24th meeting. Very interesting summary and details...

Monday, February 23, 2009

If Not Annexation, Then What?

A comment was made on a recent post challenging those of us who oppose annexation to offer some alternatives. So I thought I'd outline some of the behind the scenes ideas that have been offered for several years now. All the following go beyond the obvious steps of cutting services and raising taxes. They offer legitimate steps that many other communities have successfully employed to build a diversified economic system.
  1. Ruston's former economic development committee was disbanded by the new political majority in 2007. It is well past time to put our political differences aside and form a new committee that can advise the council and mayor, offering suggestions and ideas on how to improve Ruston's economic base. The research and consensus that can be achieved by these volunteers will help lay out a roadmap when we can't afford professional consultants. The former committee presented several alternatives for how to structure such a committee that are available immediately.
  2. The Main Street model for economic development should be explored for Ruston. This approach that focuses on mixed use centers and strong business cores has worked well in Tacoma. There are steps Ruston can take to encourage commercial development in the best locations via tax reductions or zoning.
  3. Economic gardening is an alternative focus to traditional economic development that offers support to "grow" local businesses with tools like market or customer research, networking for venture cash with start up businesses, seminars on business management or writing business plans and other means to support existing businesses. An economic committee could undertake some of these tasks ~ if nothing else to let our retail and in-home businesses know they are noticed and welcomed.
  4. We need to come together to develop a strategic plan. It will take time and effort, but building consensus around the things we value most and a shared vision for our future will sustain and improve our quality of life. Steps as simple as a mission statement and specific goals will help us set priorities and become more efficient with our limited resources. Financial planning should be a part of this exercise; projecting revenue sources, amounts and dates as part of those goals. A joint venture lead by the economic committee and planning commission to gather public input, organize the information and specify changes needed to the various planning documents is one possible approach.
  5. One radical idea is eliminate the B&O tax. With new retail on the horizon in the Point Ruston development, this would give added incentive to fill in that space quickly. Many local communities have dropped this regressive tax and seen business growth as a result. The details warrant exploration. It is possible that increases in sales or property tax could make up for the $6,000 or Ruston got in B&O taxes in 2008, especially if it means we are more attractive to new businesses compared to neighboring Tacoma.
  6. I sent forwarded this email to a few council members recently: "As you might know, I subscribe to a list-serve for an economic development approach called "economic gardening" - where the ED emphasis is on growing existing businesses rather than recruiting outside ones.
    I've always hoped Ruston could incorporate some of these principles even in our small town. One idea I've had bouncing around for a long time would be to encourage a business incubator to locate here (like this email suggests) - it would give us something to fill in an empty space and the potential for more businesses (hopefully some of the successful start ups stay in Ruston).
    Another recent idea is to encourage artists to locate here - not much tax base at first but if we can create the synergy of housing many artists and becoming a destination for art lovers, we build a positive "brand" and hopefully build a stronger tax base... Karen
    Are business incubators a safe haven?

    With companies like Microsoft laying off thousands, the technology
    sector is again looking treacherous. But could this be a good time
    for highly-skilled workers to found their own businesses?

    Nick Sturge, director of the Business Acceleration Centre in Bristol,
    UK, thinks so. His office attracted a bit of press attention with a
    recent release noting that starting a business with the resources of a
    business incubator is less risky than “staying where you are and
    waiting for the axe to fall.”

    Full article here:
These are just some ideas off the top of my head. But the best plans are made when lots of people get together and brainstorm. I am convinced that our collective vision and energy would yield positive steps we can take to build a sustainable future. I hope the council majority will invest their energy on bringing us together to focus on ways to survive. We've made it through some very, very lean years before, we can do it again. The grass in not greener on the other side of Pearl Street...


Friday, February 20, 2009

How Curious Are You?

Point Ruston sent out this press release yesterday. If you've been wondering what the inside of the fabulous new homes on Stack Hill look like, Sunday is your chance to snoop!

February 18, 2008

Grand Opening of Stack Hill's Second Model Home
Sunday, February 22, noon to 3 p.m.

Stack Hill at Point Ruston is celebrating the grand opening of its newest model home this Sunday, February 22. The grand opening event will be held at 5229 North 49th Street in Ruston, from noon to 3 p.m. and will feature tours, refreshments and door prizes.

Stack Hill's first model home opened in September of 2008 and has drawn an average of 30 visitors per day during open house weekends. This is the second model home to open and will become MC Construction's permanent sales office for Stack Hill. Plans call for 36 single-family custom homes at Stack Hill. To date, 19 home sites have been reserved.

All 36 homes will be both Built Green and Energy Star certified through the Master Builders Association of Pierce County and third party verification, respectively. "It's hard to imagine a neighborhood better suited to the active Northwest lifestyle," says Mike Cohen, who co-owns MC Construction with his wife, Julie McBride. "Buyers will be drawn to Stack Hill for its magnificent views and prime location - just steps away from recreation, parks and the waterfront, with urban attractions nearby."

The 3,002 square foot model features 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a library, entertainment suite, with several deck and patio areas offering stunning views of Commencement Bay. To preview this model via an online photo gallery, please visit click here. For more information about Stack Hill and the grand opening event, please visit

About Point Ruston, LLCPoint Ruston's developer is Point Ruston, LLC, a real estate partnership based in Ruston, Wash., led by managing partner Mike Cohen. Cohen is president of MC Construction, the company providing planning, management and construction expertise to the development. With offices in Olympia, Ruston and Tacoma, Wash., MC Construction has a 25-year track record as an award-winning builder of custom homes, condominiums, apartments and commercial buildings in the South Puget Sound region, including Hawthorne Hill and Apex Apartments and Penthouses, both in Tacoma. For more information, visit or

Thursday, February 19, 2009


J. Heineman 3\94

Well, a river don't run through it
we ain't got no shoppin' mall
The EPA's condemned us
and we don't care at all

If you ever visit the Great North West
an your travellin' by the train
You probably saw our little town
RUSTON is it's name

When you go through Ruston tunnel
beside Commencement Bay
Our town look just the same at night
as it does
when it is day

What you see from your
AmTrack window is
the 'under-side' of town

It's the only place in the USA
that you can find around
that take just fifteen second
to see the 'under-side' of town

We used to have a smoke stack
that marked ol Ruston Town
But the EPA came along
an blew that sucker down

About the only thing
we got left
is the 'underside' of town

We don't mind you a-visitin'
you're as welcome as you can be
As long as 'the underside of town'
is what you want to see.

We don't charge for lookin'
but it's a fact we cannot hide
It's the only place in the USA
you can see a town
from it's "underside"

Well, a river don't run through it
we ain't got no shoppin' mall
The EPA's condemned us
an we don't care at all.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Point Ruston Update

Loren Cohen provided a bit more information about the progress of their project. The photos on the link he gives offer a view not available from the road. It's worth checking it out...

At we have a page set up that tracks the Construction Progress in pictures, beginning with the start of construction on Copperline in May and continuing on through December (it should be updated soon with pictures from Jan and Feb). While we’ve been working on the planning and permitting aspects of the development since 2006 when we bought the property, I believe that this webpage is a visual reminder of the progress we’ve made to date.

One reason why people are probably having trouble noticing much progress on the waterfront is related to the fact that the Point Ruston development is almost wholly un-viewable from off-site, mainly due to the berm along Ruston Way and the fact that there is no access through the site yet (one of the reason we are excited for the realignment of Ruston Way). Another reason probably has to do with the sheer size of the property – with almost 100 acres even our 400+ foot long building under construction looks small in the context of the entire site!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Council Meeting: Feb. 17, 2008

The council held a study session tonight to discuss the dog park, but only Council Members Stebner and Albertson were present. Council Members Huson, Hedrick and Hunt had all notified the mayor that they would be absent. Without a council majority to call the meeting to order, the agenda items were delayed to the first meeting in March.

Council Meeting: February 17, 2008

The council meeting tonight will include a discussion lead by Council Member Stebner on options for annexation. Be sure to attend and give your input on the issue. Everyone gets two minutes at the end of the meeting (after Stebner and the council have their discussion, unless the council is willing to waive their rules and allow the public to participate while they deliberate).
  • Roll Call
  • Flag Salute
  • Agenda Approval
  • Minutes: February 2nd Study Session
  • Minutes: February 2nd Regular Meeting
  • Staff Reports
  • Business: Ordinance 1278, Regulation of Private Alarm Systems, First Reading
  • Business: Ordnance 1279, Fire Inspections, Second Reading
  • Business: Ordinance 1280, Dogs in Public Areas, First Reading
  • Business: Discussion of Annexation Option (Stebner)
  • Claims and Payroll
  • General Public Comment
  • Mayor's Time
  • Council Time
  • Meeting Adjourned

Friday, February 13, 2009


Thanks to those who alerted me about the blank pages shown here this afternoon. I have no idea what happened, other than saving my settings again seems to have cleared up the problem....

Technology is great when it works! I'm sure it was an user error, but I appreciate everyone's patience!


Rumors Laid To Rest

UPDATE: 9:38 pm
This response came in from Paul Wagemann of The Commencement this afternoon about their project:

Hi Karen,

We are on track to complete our project. We have many interested buyers and we are still looking for more. From your home
and office you can see our beautiful project is almost finished from the outside. Last week we started painting and installing tile and cabinets. Our hard hats tour last Sunday had many positive comments and several interested buyers.

An anonymous comment came in this week claiming Ruston's major development projects are in trouble. It appears to be based on the observations of someone who lives near The Commencement building who feels there is a reduced level of activity on both projects. I've asked representatives from both projects to respond to the rumor. I haven't heard back from The Commencement yet, but Loren Cohen from Point Ruston had this to say about their project:

Thanks for alerting us to this comment. As a matter of fact, a permit was recently issued for the foundation of our next building, with excavation and foundation work happening as I write this. This is the 22-unit west tower of the Copperline Condominium. It is anticipated that this will be the first building ready to occupy on the waterfront, with completion slated for this year. Work continues on the 3 level, 300 space parking structure. Further, tremendous efforts are spent daily on the seemingly never ending permit process, with emphasis now on the Ruston Way realignment and upgrade that includes the Baltimore reconnection. And our shoreline permits are also navigating through the process, with steady efforts on our marketing/advertising ongoing as well.

In short, we remain committed and confident this "Best location in the Puget Sound" will weather the economic storms and be a tremendous success for the community and our development team.

Thanks, and please let me know if you have any other questions.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Did Ruston Miss The Boat?

A couple of people have commented this week that Ruston missed the boat by not getting any infrastructure projects on the list for federal stimulus money as reported the New Tribune on Sunday. At recent council meetings, Council Member Hedrick seems to know the most about the stimulus program, so I asked him and the mayor to confirm if Ruston ignored a call to submit a "wish list" and why the Town is moving in the direction they are. Here are their thoughts:
From Mayor Hopkins:

Ruston never received any project calls and if we had we were unprepared to respond. I know Jim can respond to the Economic Recovery Plan better than I can but we are preparing our projects so they are ready as soon as possible should any money become available. I know you were at the last council meeting when our town engineer clearly stated that we need fully engineered projects with associated costs if we were going to be "Shovel Ready". We anticipate having our two projects "Shovel Ready" for possibly the next round of funds.

The Wall Street Journal lists where the first wave of the funds are projected to go and here is the Infrastructure breakdown:
$32 billion Transportation projects
$31 billion Construction and repair of federal buildings and other public infrastructure
$19 billion Water projects
$10 billion Rail and mass transit projects

While the two year package is over $800 billion - $275 billion of that is tax relief and leaves $550 billion over two years. My point is the number seems massive until you start breaking it down and the odds of Ruston receiving any of it will be difficult. We are doing everything in our power to position Ruston so we are ready for any part of that money once it trickles down.

Both council and I have spent a tremendous amount of time exploring every avenue possible to help our town financially.

From Council Member Hedrick:

I am not aware of any call directly to Ruston, however Governor Gregoire's office made a blanket call of municipalities and local governments to compile lists of infrastructure projects and submit them to her office by the beginning of January. Further, the Association of Washington Cities was coordinating an effort to have cities respond to the Governor's office. What that process has produced are lists of projects, shovel ready or not, of every damn dumb thing some mayor, or city councilmember, or county legislator or transit board member or port commissioner ever wanted to build. Historic barns, footbridges, dog fountains etc. This is in addition to local projects such as mixed-use developments, city parks, museums, performing art centers, monuments, etc.. These lists all sit neatly in a filing cabinet in Dick Thompson's office in Olympia with little to no chance of ever being funded by the economic stimulus package. (Dick Thompson is the advisor to Gov. Gregoire on the federal stimulus package).

As Bruce states above, and Mr. Morrisette explained in what I thought was a vey thorough and frank discussion about local infrastructure finance, the federal economic stimulus package is constructed in a rigid fashion and distributed by existing categories. Federal stimulus funding for sewer projects will be deposited directly into programs such as the public works trust fund where there is a list of prioritized projects that have been engineered and awaiting public funding, even before the notion of a federal stimulus package was conceived. Also, many of these projects I suspect may not even meet the definition of "shovel ready" (120 days) as prescribed by the Obama administration; but that's where the Feds are sending the money. There will be little to no role for state legislatures or local governments to appropriate any of the federal economic stimulus money. Further, the amount of federal funds that will be made available for local water/sewer infrastructure to each of the states is much lower than previously expected.

Not wanting to be divisive, but I think it's worth noting, that during the amount of time Ruston has no engineering services under contract prior to having Mr. Morrisette and his firm on board, Ruston may have lost its opportunity to be positioned in this infrastructure stimulus frenzy had we been able to give the sewer project assignment we commissioned at the last Council meeting to an engineer months ago. When our previous engineering firms services were terminated, Ruston had no firm arrangement for an immediate replacement. It's also fair to say there was not enough confidence among the Council in our engineer at the time to be given the sewer assignment. Regardless, Ruston may have submitted a list of infrastructure projects to Olympia and it would sit neatly in a filing cabinet. Ruston is not ready or even shovel ready with our sewer project and we are certainly not alone with other municipalities across the state.

I am with my Mayor, who I think is trying to get Ruston positioned to get state funding support from the public works trust fund and has explored other options. The federal economic stimulus package, which is more of a state government bail out package, is not a realistic option for Ruston at this particular point in history.

Over my morning coffee -

Council Member Hedrick also shared this analysis of the federal stimulus package he did for a client recently:

Federal Economic Stimulus:
Long time Olympia stalwart Dick Thompson (former state OFM, DSHS, CTED director and Governor’s Chief of Staff) has been charged by Governor Gregoire to coordinate the state’s effort with the federal economic stimulus package. In discussions with Mr. Thompson it is becoming very clear there will be accountability in how Congress and the Obama administration will distribute federal stimulus funds to the states. The stimulus version recently passed by the U.S. House and the recently marked up version in the U.S. Senate has very tight restrictions on federal funds distributed in existing programs across the board. For example, Washington State will receive funds for K-12 education by program categories that are formula-driven such as Title I, Special Education, and school construction. Mr. Thompson observes that funding for Special Education children’s programs is certainly laudable, but it’s another matter to argue that it’s economic stimulus or creates jobs. Other unexpected issues in the federal stimulus package is that there is heavy restrictions on supplanting state funds with the federal stimulus funds. Meaning, states will not have the ability to use the federal stimulus funds to pay off the state programs for which they are intended and use state funds in those programs to backfill other state spending. Further, the transportation share for Washington and other states is much smaller than expectations. The entire federal package for Washington will only be about $550 million and of that half will be directly disbursed to local or regional transportation organizations.
The federal stimulus package acts much more like a government bail-out package rather than targeted economic stimulus. There is very little opportunity to target resources and serve strategic objectives. Back in Olympia, Legislative budget writers including Reps. Kelli Linville (D-Bellingham) new chair of the powerful House Ways & Means Committee acknowledge this week that the legislature will have very little if any role in determining how federal stimulus funds will be spent. Rep. Hans Dunshee (D-Snohomish) and chair of the House Capital Budget Committee observed, “Congress will get their stimulus program through without any pork barrel spending in it and the expectation will be no less for us here in Olympia.” The concept of accountability is not lost on state lawmakers as they closely monitor the other Washington and the way they have been directive with federal funds. It is clear the Obama administration, after watching the public outcry upon the Bush administration’s handling of the federal bail-out of the banking and auto industries, wants to be able to answer the question; where has the money gone? It has also become the perfect political cover for President Obama’s new tax cut proposal for the middle-class (those under $250,000 annual salary) without having to show how to pay for it.

The goal for Congress is to get the federal stimulus package to the President’s desk to sign into law by the President’s Day break in mid-February. Distribution of funds could then begin by the start of March, just in time for the state’s updated revenue and caseload forecasts.

In The News

The Tacoma Weekly has an article outlining Council Member Albertson's speech at the last council meeting where Albertson cited all the reasons he thinks Ruston should consider annexing to Tacoma.

I am far from neutral on this issue. Keeping Ruston alive and well is the main reason I manage this blog. There are many, many important facts that Albertson does not address and this one-sided article does not even cover the arguments presented at the meeting in favor of keeping our town intact. We have much more at stake than just loosing a neighborhood name. Even those outside Ruston recognize the value of maintaining our small town in the midst of modern suburbia. (see discussion here and Heineman's story here as a start)


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Police Chief Update

Mayor Bruce Hopkins confirmed that the Town received 13 applications for police chief, some of those he called "very well qualified". The applicants are being screened through Friday. Notices will be sent out by Tuesday to all 13 as the process moves to the next step. The mayor said he hopes to make an appointment within 30 days.

Ruston Icon Closing

It's a sign of the times in some ways, and a healthy way to move on in other ways. Tina Wilmoth has made the tough choice to close the Now and Then Shop, the antique store that has been in her family since 1978. Her mother-in-law opened an antique shop that year, after Doris (Ruston Galleries) convinced her they would be good neighbors. Paul Wilmoth re-opened the store in 1990 after his mother's death.

Paul, Tina and Helen Ley (Paul's sister) ran the business as a team for years. Tina and Helen handled the store, while Paul did the shopping. Tina said he only liked shopping for antiques - he was a typical male and still didn't enjoy "other" shopping. Both Paul and Helen have passed away in the last couple of years, and Tina has tried to make a go of things as long as she could. But the economy and reality have hit home finally.

Tina has been offered (and accepted) a full time job at a marine parts store. She said she needed a solid reason to let go and this job offer helped logic triumph over emotion. After struggling for a couple of years and loosing money for several months, it's time to move on.

Everything is on sale at 50% off, and new items from the storeroom are brought out often. She's even taking bids on her showcases. The store is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays until the end of February. Then only open on Saturday's until the inventory is sold.

Tina lives above the shop and plans on staying in town. She's served as secretary for the business district for at least a year. She might even re-join the business district (non-voting membership is open to residents who want to help) after things settle down.

To Tina (and Paul and Helen) ~ you done good. You've been a part of Ruston and given us so much more than a nice store. You've contributed time, energy, taxes and value to this community and help build the fabric of who we are. We'll miss the shop, but your contribution lives on. Best of luck in your new endeavors, Tina. Thank you, thank you, thank you...


Monday, February 9, 2009

Ruston Grocery

John said it as well as anyone - why Ruston is unique and special (and its much more than having a corner store)...

Ruston Grocery

An Endangered Species

J. Heineman 5/90

I visited a Mom & Pop Grocery store yesterday, the only one left in this part of Tacoma. The community is a quiet little place . . . . it’s like being back to the time when I was a boy and would walk down out big hill to the little grocery, and after much deliberation over the row of cookie bins, each with their glass door, I would select one favorite cookie, take it to the counter where Mr. Jameston would take my pennies and with a smile, place it in a little paper sack, and I’d leave, pushing the screen door with it’s small cowbell, which clanked upon it’s close.

I had forgotten about the bell, until yesterday. For it was that sound that brought back over 40 years of time for me as I entered the little store . . . . for it too had a cow bell. It even had a small counter and soda fountain, just like the one of my boyhood.

I met Beth there, I know her name because I introduced myself . . . . because that’s “the way” in a place like this . . . . you’re back to where everyone knows you, they even knew about me, and it was my first visit.

I wasn’t really surprised, for it’s a small community, and everyone gathers there to share what’s going-on in their lives. So, - being new in town, they knew about me. It was refreshing in a way, for after living so long in Lon Angeles, where one becomes known only as a drivers license number, an address, and just another car in the massive freeway traffic commute, you soon lose your identity . . . you become a statistic.

That isolation is sought by some, but being jus a “somebody else” without a name can lead to problems, both personal one’s and well as community ones. The entire structure of a community becomes altered, and it is fertile ground for growing the weeds like – “why-should-I-care”. These societal weeds push themselves up through the miles of concrete and pollinate themselves along the freeways, and find safe-haven for their growth among the fences and locked communities, where they grow like wild hollyhocks along the fence lines.

Maybe its my age that requires the move of body and household back to a time and community where I can experience the environment of being a person again.

Maybe its just the times in which we live, for we all have begun to recognize the limits of our environment – that we must save the whales, preserve the wilderness, clean our air, and begin to save those historical structures that house our past . . . times when a youngster knew the woods where just around the corner where a boy could find the joy of exploration, and experience the wonder of sunlight shafting its way through the Oaks, Fir and Maple. A simpler time, where neighbors were not just those in the immediate apartment next door, or the house that shared your fence. Where the entire community were your neighbors, and they cared.

How do you preserve such a community, what do we do to help save that precious resource ? Is it not as worthy a task as the preservation of our wildlife ? I think so. I think it is as important as saving the natural beauty found in our State and National Parks.

You see, I’ve found that community again, for when I closed the screen door on that little grocery – it was the cow-bells’ clank that told me so.

Preserve a Mom & Pop Grocery as a Historical Monument ?

Can you think of any better way to begin our journey back from our ‘head-long-rush’ into the chaotic world we’ve created . . . and now find no longer livable ? One of the main reasons we find it unlivable is that we’ve left out the most basic elements necessary for community . . . . . ourselves and each other.

Sure why not – it would be a positive step in our journey back from being just another “somebody else”.

As for me, I’m going back tomorrow and say Hello to Beth, for you see, I’m a neighbor again. I might even take a cardboard sign to stick in the screen door –





Friday, February 6, 2009

6 Less Raccoons

Even though we are not part of Tacoma, most of us consider Point Defiance Park part of our backyard. So the news today that raccoons are being shot at the park is upsetting. We are familiar with the masked bandits, who roam the streets in the dark, making a mess of our garbage whenever they can.

If anyone has information, the numbers to call are listed in The News Tribune article here...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Ice Cream, Soda Fountians and Neighbors

Another mention of the fun to be had at Don's Ruston Market ~ this time at Only Ice-Cream. Check out the article and then head over for a hot fudge sundae!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Voice From The Past

For many years, we in Ruston were privileged to have John and Rena Heineman as neighbors. Rena was known for her beautiful garden and John for his poetry. John called himself "the Poet Lariat of Ruston ~ Definition: lariat, a stretch of rope with a cowboy at one end and a lot of Bull on the other". Rena served on the town council during those difficult years after the smelter shut down and Ruston lost most of its tax base.

Many years ago, John gave me a copy of some of his writings about Ruston. John is gone now, but his family graciously agreed to allow me to share some of his work here. I'll post more pieces over the next few weeks.

John, like many of the day, did not support the EPA-mandated replacement of Ruston yards in the late 1980's. The following was a poem with a title page labeled "Exhibit V - 'Tribal Tributes' - Burial Ground Narrative".

an . . . ALONG CAME THE E.P.A.
J. Heineman

I remember the day my brother came by
and handed me the Urn
He said,
He'd kept Grampa's ashes long enough
and now it was my turn.

Ol' Granddad was a Logger'
an died on a loggin' ride
It all happened on a hair-pin curve
comin' down the mountain side.

He always loved to sit out-back
as long as the day would last
So since he loved it in my yard
I spread him in my grass

an that's OK . . . 'cuse

My Sisters buried in the bank
Now Grandad's in the lawn
My ol dog Spot
is buried on the lot
but he ain't been dead too long.

Well, the Mill shut down
and the folk in Town
Had to Search for work
both near an far away

But Ruston's home
and we love our own
and most folks planned to stay
An things seemed to be goin' fine
until . . . .

They said,
"Your soils' con-tam-in-ated
It's a wonder
your grass and trees are green
and each of you ain't dead!"

"But we're feelin' fine," we told them,
"our gardens grow and bloom"
And at that big Town meeting
most all of Ruston was in the room.

"No", They insisted,
"Your town's contaminated
it's a terrible toxic sight"
"You need us to help you", said the E.P.A.
"And we will make it right!"

So they told us because our dirt was bad
everywhere around
They were going to dig up everybody's yard
and ship em' out of town!

So I stood up, an I shouted from the back,
"You're not comin' in my yard
You ain't got power enough for that!"

About that time,
they hit the plunger
an blew up Ruston stack!

So here I am
fightin' with the Government
and with the EPA
They just ain't gonna' haul ol' Grandad off
not if I have my way.

Well I listened to the folk who know
the first settlers around the Sound
They told me how to stop the Government
from pushin' my yard around.

Yes, I learned a thing or two
from the natives of Puget Sound
So I'm declairn' my Ruston yard . . .


Because . . .

My Sisters buried in the bank
Now Grandad's in the lawn
My ol dog Spot
is buried on the lot
but he ain't been dead too long.

Just call me a Native Son
of the good ol' Puget Sound
for I'll not put-up with the EPA
truckin' my relatives
out of town!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Council Meeting: Feb. 2, 2009

Here is what I found interesting at the council meetings last night. Even though the new/old location is a bit crowded, it's worth attending! ~ Karen

The study session presumably began at 6 pm, but I was not able to make it until about 6:30 pm. When I arrived, Council Member Albertson was pointing out that many in Ruston are below the poverty line and others are loosing their jobs. The numbers provided by Council Member Hunt (below) would push Ruston’s rates above Tacoma’s in some areas. He did not feel it was appropriate to raise rates on the utilities with reserve funds. The exception would be the sewer rates since that system needs such major repair.

Council Member Stebner felt it was a moral issue – Ruston should not charge a tax on utilities it does not directly operate such as water and natural gas.

Council Member Hedrick wondered if Ruston could provide need-based grants for low income residents. The town attorney will research the issue. Stebner pointed out that if the council were to run the town like a businesses, they would be cutting prices right now, not raising rates. Hunt noted that if we want to remain an independent town, we have to be willing to pay what it costs for these services.

Mayor Hopkins admitted it was bad timing, but some of these tough decisions should have been made a long time ago. Stebner felt that Ruston could not provide a safe level of service based solely on its reserves and current rates. The mayor agreed, but that they had to move forward and do what they could with what money they had. Not doing anything would be wrong and in violation of state requirements and the fiduciary duties of their elected offices.

The council agreed to address the issue again at a study session at 6 pm on March 16th. The town attorney will have answers to questions raised at the meeting and Hunt will add a column to the spreadsheet she created listing Tacoma’s utility rates. She also wants the council to consider other fees such as for having an alarm system (and for too many false alarms), or charging for fire inspections.

Hunt suggested that folks to check their cell phone bills. Some people have discovered a tax going to Tacoma, but have been told by their service provider that Ruston was too small for them to change where they sent this tax. Albertson noted that was grounds for a class action lawsuit. Britton seemed to agree and said he would have to get the phone number of these people.

The study session adjourned at about 6:45 pm.

The regular meeting was called to order at 7 pm by Mayor Hopkins. After the flag salute and agenda approval, Don Evans from UULC gave a presentation about how their agency operates. It is a cost-sharing organization that among other things provides education and dispatch for the “call before you dig” system. Ruston joined the organization in 2003. When calls for utility locates are placed, UULC notifies whomever the town designates (in this case a private vendor since town staff is not available 24/7 for emergency locates). Besides the obvious safety goal, the system protects the town’s infrastructure from damage.

To ensure safety, UULC has a policy to locate utilities with a 50% buffer around what is requested. For Ruston, that may mean locates outside town boundaries. After some discussion, it was determined that Town Hall could receive the notice during business hours and then dispatch the contractor after confirming the need was within Ruston. After-hour emergency notices would go directly to Ruston’s contractor.

The minutes of the January 20, 2008 meeting were approved with some minor corrections.

Mo Fesharaki discussed his proposal to provide engineering and design for upgrading and replacing deteriorating lighting in some sections of town. Most of these had been installed in the 1960’s and are rusting and the cable failing. He offered two options (in the council packet here). Sidewalk repair would be needed with the project, along with some design changes from the existing system. For instance, along Winnifred pedestrian friendly lighting would be preferred along the sidewalks on either side rather than large street lights in the median.

Stebner wanted to know if grants were available. Fesharaki was not familiar with specifics, but the town would be better off having this step completed. The mayor noted the Department of Energy has grants for improving the lighting’s efficiency. Some of the work is along Pearl Street (a state highway) may mean state monies are available. The mayor wants to work towards uniformity throughout town, matching the style used on the Stack Hill development.

The council decided to pursue Option 2 as outlined in the proposal for about $8,500. The money will be paid from the electric utility reserve fund. Fesharaki mentioned that Tacoma Power has confirmed they will no longer offer their labor and parts at cost to Ruston.

Jerome Morrissett outlined the proposal from his company to prepare a bid package for upgrading Ruston’s sewer system (in the council packet here). They presented 2 options for consideration: 1) replace the entire town (all section that have not been upgraded recently) for $4,125,000 or 2) replace the priority sections outlined in the Comprehensive Plan for $1,035,800. They would provide the engineering to get a package ready to bid, estimated to be $420,000 (not to exceed $500,000) for Option 1 and $103,600 (not to exceed $124,300) for Option 2.

Morrissett noted that Ruston’s sewers were installed in 1919 and 1921. Tacoma uses some of Ruston’s line. They have contacted Tacoma about sharing the cost to upgrade those lines. The types of soil underlying Ruston could pose a problem (clay hardpan about 15 feet down). The town will have decide how much it wants to address “I and I” from private properties (inflow: water incorrectly directed into the sanitary sewer - infiltration: seepage into the lines from underground sources). Some jurisdictions are willing to replace the lateral lines to private homes to reduce I and I.

One of Morrissett’s associates gave a brief overview of the different technologies available (such as minimal trenching systems with pipe bursting).

There was discussion of funding sources, which are limited. Hedrick noted the federal stimulus package is focused on roads and would not have money for sewers. Low-interest loans, LID’s or bonding may be other ways to fund the project. Research for the bid package may reveal some areas that are a higher priority and can be addressed sooner if needed.

Huson supported Option 2 as proposed. It would replace the highest priority pieces and give a better assessment of the remaining system. Stebner wanted to fix the entire system and charge users for the cost. Hedrick wanted to know the time needed for each option (Option 1, 2 construction seasons - Option 2, 1 season). With the time needed to engineer the bid, it would be 2010 before work could begin.

Hunt moved to pursue Option 2, with a role call vote it was approved 5-0. Funding for this phase will come from the sewer reserve, which has about $782,000 currently.

The council approved working with Municipal Energy Consultants. Ruston will get half of any excise fuel taxes they recover.

The first reading of Ordinance 1279 noted that the fire department has been doing the inspection and mapping of commercial structures already. This formalizes the process, which helps with insurance ratings.

A real estate agent confirmed a rental rate of $5 per square foot was reasonable for space at the school. The council approved the Point Ruston lease for additional space with a 5-0 vote.

Albertson outlined his concerns over the budget deficit. He sees two options; balance the budget or explore options for when we run out of money (he estimates that will happen in 2014). He wants the council to open dialogue with Tacoma for annexation. He believes the council can vote to annex, or allow the citizens to vote. Another option is to disincorporate and become part of Pierce County. He felt the town should explore the options to annex to Tacoma.

Huson said he supports dialogue, but when he, Hunt and former Mayor Everding met with Tacoma last July annexation was discussed. Tacoma officials indicated they are not interested in taking over Ruston. Hunt agreed the deficit was a challenge and the council should put together a 3 and 5 year plan to balance the budget rather than pursue annexation.

Stebner made a motion to have 2 council members begin talking with Tacoma about annexation. There was no second, so the motion died. He felt services could better if we were in Tacoma. He would only support annexation if citizens were allowed to vote on it first.

Hedrick pointed out that the federal and state budgets were also greatly out of balance right now. He thought it was absurd to be pursuing some hypothetical collection of options with Tacoma. Albertson noted that Mayor Hopkins had told him previously that he did not support annexation.

The town attorney noted that he had previously researched some of this issue, but he will refresh his research based on Albertson’s comments.

Claims and Payroll were approved as presented (without payment to the utility locate contractor for services outside Ruston).

Public Comment:

Jim Wingard was concerned with the lawsuits the town is facing. Sherrie Forch was glad to see an ambulance now stationed in Ruston. I expressed concern that Ruston’s elected officials should not be pursing annexation only 2 months into a budget challenge. Terry Knapp was frustrated that the public was not allowed to ask questions during the sewer presentation. Ken Brown thanked the council for their progress on the sewer and lighting projects and noted Don Torbet should be thanked for getting the ambulance stationed in town.

Mayors Time:

Council Time:
Stebner was pleased with the progress tonight on sewers and lighting, thankful for the ambulance stationed in town and wants the council to explore the options for being annexed by Tacoma.

Huson arranged for a study session at 6 pm on March 2nd for an update on Point Ruston’s progress. He and Hunt had met with them today. There is new information on the grading schedule, Ruston Way realignment, shoreline permits, LID progress, property values and phasing of the project. A handout will be provided in the next council packet so the information can be reviewed prior to the study session.

Hedrick wanted to meet with the mayor to discuss the fire ratings findings and police services for Point Ruston.

Albertson again supported talking with Tacoma about annexation options.

Hunt handed out a spreadsheet showing the Point Ruston building values and schedule for completion (below).

The meeting adjourned about 9:35 pm.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Summary: Feb. 2, 2009

A quick note with the more interesting points (in my opinion) from tonight's meeting, which lasted until 9:45 pm. I'll get the full writeup posted tomorrow. ~ Karen
  • The council agreed to have the engineering work for some of the street lighting and sewer improvements proceed.
  • Albertson and Stebner want the council to begin discussions with Tacoma on annexation because of the town's budget deficient.
  • Lease of some additional space in the school building to Point Ruston for $5 a square foot was approved.
  • Study sessions were set for March 2nd (update on Point Ruston) and March 16th (potential tax/utility rate increases)

Council Agenda: February 2, 2009

The evening begins at 6 pm with a one-hour study session where the council is slated to talk about where they will raise utility and tax rates. The regular meeting at 7 pm will issues such as hiring street lighting and sewer upgrade consultants and formalizing the current practice of having the fire department perform commercial fire inspections.

There is no material or other details on the last two agenda items: the Point Ruston lease (presumably for the additional space at the school) and a discussion on the budget requested by Council Member Albertson. Hope you can attend (@ Town Hall, 5117 N. Winnifred). The full packet of information is available on Ruston Reports.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

What Really Matters

The News Tribune has an article that outlines the potential closure of a program that is dear to my heart (click here). The last post about Point Defiance Elementary's PTA show us one way to support our kids, the Read 2 Me program is another.

The program works by asking community members to come to school once a week for 45 minutes to read with a struggling youngster. These children sometimes have challenges much bigger than reading. The short time of positive attention from an adult was far more valuable than the reading skills they invariably develop.

Although I haven't been able to participate for a few years, but when I did, that 45 minutes was the highlight of my week. It grounded me in the middle of my work week, reminding me of what is truly important. Building a relationship with a child over the course of the year was at least as valuable to me as it was to them. And getting those hugs, smiles and giggles made it worthwhile.

Watching each boy or girl grow in confidence, skill and hope ~ far beyond simply the reading ~ was one of the most important things I've done in my life. I don't have much to give, but I'm going to send in a few dollars. If you want to help, contact or 253-272-7861