Sunday, May 31, 2009

It's Election Season In Ruston

Monday is the official start of the election season. Ruston will choose three council members (a majority of the 5-member council) and the mayor this fall. Election results could mean another dramatic shift in direction, or endorse the direction of the current majority.

Up for grabs are:

  • Council Position 1, currently held by Dan Albertson. Albertson was appointed to the position in December 2007 to fill the last two years of Bob Pudlo's unexpired term. The person elected to this position will serve 4 years.
  • Council Position 2, currently held by Wayne Stebner. Stebner was elected to this seat 4 years ago. This is the only position that has not been vacated by a resignation. The person elected to the seat will serve 4 years.
  • Council Position 4, currently held by C. Jane Krock Hunt. Hunt was appointed to this seat in February 2008. Any appointment only lasts until the next regular election. In this case, Hunt's appointment was for the first half of the 4-year term. The person elected to this position will serve the remaining two years for Position 4 (until the next regular election cycle in 2011).
  • Mayor, currently held by Bruce Hopkins. Hopkins was appointed last November after the mayor's seat sat vacant for several months. Council Member Bradley Huson acted as Mayor Pro-tem until Hopkins was appointed. The vote this fall will fill the unexpired term until 2011 only.

Candidates must file for election before Friday, June 5th at 4:30 pm at the county elections office. Updates on who files for which position will be posted here as soon as possible. Remember that candidates can change during the week; it's only the names on the dotted line at the end of the day Friday that count.

More information on how to file for office is available on the elections main page. Filing fees for the Ruston council positions are $10 each and $60 for the mayor's position.

Friday, May 29, 2009

New Sewers ~ Hurray!

I never thought I'd be one of those crazy people who got excited about sewers, but with the long, long, LONG struggle Ruston has faced to get this important piece of infrastructure repaired, I find I am just crazy enough to let out a little whoop when Mayor Bruce Hopkins emailed this map today.

I've only posted the meat of the picture in hopes it will show up better. The red lines are the Phase 1 new lines going in as soon as the Town can secure financing. The design is now complete and the project is 'shovel-ready' if a another round of stimulus money comes through. The issue was discussed at the last council meeting; read more here if you want details.

Even if you're not crazy enough to smile at a sewer map, just know Ruston is moving ahead to better days where we can finally flush with confidence. ~ Karen

Trails Day: June 6, 2009

Point Defiance Park is hosting a couple of events on National Trails Day for the third year running. On Saturday, June 6th you can take an early morning nature walk at 8 am and/or help spruce up the trails from 9 am till noon (and earn a cool tee shirt). More details available on Metro Parks web page here...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thought For The Day

This flyer came in today's mail. It's a great idea. Ruston does a smaller scale 'community clean-up' after the Taste of Tacoma. Everyone picks up trash from the many Taste tasters who drop their used wares on the street ~ and then we bring our bags to the garbage dumpsters at Town Hall for cookies baked by our gracious seniors. It's a fun event.

But I wonder if we could do something even bigger - have a day where everyone cuts down those overgrown bushes, or paints a neighbor's porch who needs help, or covers over graffiti in the tunnel, or especially weeds the parking strip along 51st Street (although Heidi Kress got a good start yesterday across from her new shop). We could end with a potluck BBQ at Rust Park.

Everyone is busy during the summer. But it sounds like a nice way to make Ruston even more beautiful and party with neighbors at the same time. If anyone has suggestions or ideas, comment here....


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Benefits Of A Zip Code

Ruston's mayor Bruce Hopkins mentioned at the last council meeting that he wanted to explore getting a separate zip code so that sales taxes could be accurately paid to the town. It turns out there are other good reasons for an independent number as well. The city of Newcastle is looking into the same issue. Read more about it here on KOMO...

In The News

The Stranger, Seattle's alternative newspaper, as published an in-depth article on Point Ruston and the town. You can read it here...

Sail Away

UPDATE: Thursday, May 28, 8:26 am: The Seattle PI has an article about the arrival of Point Ruston's historic ferry. Read it here....

The Point Ruston sales center has set sail for Seattle. They will be moored near the Anthony's restaurant on the Seattle shoreline until June 3rd. Interesting way to get the word out to a new audience! More details on the Point Ruston web page here...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Another Sign of Progress

The new alignment for Ruston Way is laid out with survey stakes. The LID process made it through the legislature and has laid the foundation for a new road and utilities on the Point Ruston site. Bit by bit, things are moving forward on this important project.

Council Meeting Notes: May 18, 2009

The meeting began precisely at 7:03 pm with all council members and Mayor Hopkins present. After the flag salute, there were two changes to the evening's agenda:

  • Council Member Albertson now wants to allow public comment at the beginning of each meeting before discussion of business items. It would remain two minutes per resident and only one time to speak on all business items. Albertson felt that the council deferred to Council Member Huson's limit on public comment because some were being disruptive, but that problem has dissipated now. He stated he has always felt the public should be allowed to speak prior to the council vote. Council Member Hedrick asked if this should be a change to the council rules. Albertson started to answer, but allowed the town attorney to answer when they both started to talk at the same time. The attorney felt a formal rule change was needed, but the agenda could be changed for this meeting. Albertson noted again the public ought to speak before the council vote; "it is a genuine issue and I agree with it."
  • Council Member Hunt said that this meeting had been advertised in the News Tribune as a public hearing as required by the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) loan the town is pursuing. The hearing was added to the agenda before Staff Reports.

Public Hearing on Sewer Funding

The town engineer, Jim Morrissett outlined the sewer project and this first phase of repairs. The design is now complete for this initial work and the town is seeking funding. USDA has 40-year loans with low interest rates, but Ruston has too much cash in the bank and the community income level is too high to qualify. Instead, the federal government will guarantee the loan, but the town must secure its own financing. If they cannot find a traditional bank to make a loan, they can go back to USDA for their 40-year loan program. The town attorney outlined several reasons why issuing bonds is not a good option for a town as small as Ruston. The state Public Works Trust Fund loan program is no longer available.

Council Member Stebner asked about the sewer connection for the credit union and homes on that corner. There are some options being explored with City of Tacoma's main line that runs under Ruston (off Baltimore Street) that may help that unique situation. Hunt wants to identify what it will cost residents to hook into the new line, beyond Ruston's $2,000 connection fee (i.e. new sewer line from their property to the main, the new connection 'hardware', any costs to separate the storm and sanitary sewer if they are still connected at the property).

After some discussion, it was determined the cost to repay a 40-year loan on this first phase of repairs would be about $10 per month per household. Stebner and Albertson were concerned about raising sewer rates, but it was noted that a catastrophic failure was likely without this upgrade, which would be more costly in both dollars and potential environmental damage.

The minutes from the May 4, 2009 meeting were approved with one minor correction.

Fire Report

There were 5 calls in April. The chief is working with the mayor and attorney to upgrade the policy on outdoor burning. He also suggested increased enforcement on fireworks rather than an outright ban.

Police Report

Not available yet.

Public Comment

Sherri Forch wanted to be sure neighbors were informed that they could not park cars on their lawns during the Taste of Tacoma since it causes damage to the curb.

Connie Maglione supported allowing fireworks and wanted clarification on who is allowed to light them.


Ordinance 1278 - Private Alarm Systems: Still under review

Ordinance 1280 - Off-leash Areas: Still under review

Ordinance 1285 - Recovery of Expenses for Emergency Response (First Reading): This would allow recovery of up to $1,000 when there is a criminal conviction for intoxication that requires an emergency response for the response costs only (any damages would be separate). Council Member Huson wanted to know how the cost were calculated. There will be a second reading at the next council meeting.

Ordinance 1286 - Banning Fireworks in Ruston (First Reading): Albertson wanted an ban on all fireworks. He represented a young boy who was burned in a lawsuit and did not think the benefits outweighed the potential costs. Stebner wanted both the police and fire chief at the next meeting to discuss the issue. Hunt had been frightened by areas of dry grass getting hit with fireworks in the past.

The mayor suggested if the town ban fireworks that at least there could be a place where the town can gather to celebrate together, such as the new OCF park. Hedrick pointed out that the current regulation only allows "safe and sane" fireworks. The problems described so far were with fireworks that are already banned under the current code. The issue will be addressed again at the next meeting.

Budget Discussion: The report covers the first quarter of 2009 (Jan-Mar). Stebner thought the auditor had some good suggestions, but the report is not public yet. Hedrick noted the municipal court was one of the biggest costs. He wants to explore contracting this service out. Alberston said the only option was to get rid of the court, then the county would pick it up at whatever rate they wanted to charge - but Ruston would loose local control. Hedrick also wanted to explore having the police chief take a patrol shift to reduce the number of officers required and reduce the number of patrol cars.

Albertson was concerned that the town had spent more from the surplus property fund than planned. He had provided a list of suggested cuts but had not seen any action on them. The mayor noted the suggested cuts are under review by himself and staff. Hunt supported looking at the judicial system for cost savings. She also wanted to know how much property tax came in in April ($79,000 plus $13,000 already in the account - which is close to what was budgeted). Retail sales taxes are up because of construction taxes. Hunt was hoping the new state law that required taxes be paid at the point of delivery would benefit Ruston.

The mayor is looking into having Ruston get its own zip code so that retailers can report their sales tax more accurately. Right now we have the same zip code as north Tacoma and retailers have to know Ruston exists and report under the town's tax number in order for Ruston to collect the tax. Hedrick suggested the state Department of Revenue send out a letter to retailers so they can cooperate.

The mayor felt the extra money used from the surplus fund was because the carry over from 2008 was so bad, and the full year of insurance costs had to be paid at the beginning of the year. He said the burn rate is not as fast as expected, in part because the town has not replaced the police chief yet. He felt the town would have to increase the costs of its services, but was confident that at the current rate, Ruston could survive until the tax base increases from the new development. He noted that Point Ruston closed on $1.5 million in sales in April. If The Commencment condos can close on even 15 of their units, it would be a huge boost.

Claims and Payroll passed with the usual 3 yes votes, Stebner voting no and Albertson abstaining.

Mayor's Time


Council Time

Stebner said a resident was concerned that the new science-focused high school planned for Point Defiance Park may take space from the boat trailer parking - which may mean boat trailers would clog Ruston streets. He wanted someone from Metro Parks at the next meeting to explain the plans for the new school.

Huson and Hedrick had nothing further. Alberston did not want any council member names listed on agenda items so that the issues would not be prejudiced before discussion.

The meeting adjourned about 8:30 pm.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

As another Memorial Day dawns over Ruston the American flags are out, cars on their way to the park are backed up in the sunshine and we enjoy a respite from work and school. But the day off is more than the official start to summer. I researched the history of the holiday last year, but the declaration from that first "Decoration Day" bears repeating:

"...gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime....let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation's gratitude,--the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan." --General John Logan, General Order No. 11, 5 May 1868

As we enjoy our barbeques with family this weekend, another family in Gig Harbor lives out the true meaning of this holiday. Their son was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. Their other three sons are serving us in the same conflict. The News Tribune has more of their story here....

So I join General Logan in thanking the widows, the grieving parents and orphans. Your sacrifice is beyond measure. The gift your loved ones have given America is valuable and honorable. Today we remember and pray you find some small measure of comfort in our gratitude.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Height Increase On Pearl Street?

The Ruston Planning Commission will consider raising the height limit for buildings on Pearl Street to 40 feet at its meeting next Wednesday. The current limit is 35 feet.

The last time this issue was considered, the planning commission recommended a 45 foot height allowance to match what is available on the Tacoma side of Pearl. But the council at the time reduced it to 35 feet, while keeping the allowance for three stories. They also included planning commission recommendations to avoid the "big box" syndrome with variations in building facades, etc.

Developers have consistently said 35 feet does not allow for a high-quality three story building. That same issue was presented when the variance was approved for the The Ruston Building LLC.

Please attend the meeting next Wednesday, May 27th at 7 pm at Town Hall (5117 N. Winnifred) and let your thoughts on the issue be heard. Background material and staff recommendations are available from town planner Rob White on his web site here...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

First Quarter Budget

The council reviewed the budget report for the first quarter of 2009 at the meeting last night. The full 40 page report is available at Ruston Reports. Below is the summary page. Overall, in the first 3 months we've spent 8.5% of what was budgeted for the year.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Council Meeting: May 18, 2009

UPDATE: 10:30 pm: Just a quick couple of notes. I had to miss most of the meeting, but will review the recording soon and get a full report posted. The meeting began with a public hearing on the first phase of the sewer repairs. Several key areas that are on the verge of failing have been engineered and financing options are being explored for this $1.2 million phase.

Council Member Albertson now wants to allow public comment at the beginning of the meeting so people can provide comments before the council votes.

During the budget discussion, the mayor noted the deficit "burn rate" is about half of what was expected. He is confident that the town can hang on until revenue from development catches up with demand. Construction taxes are helping, as did the $1.5 million in sales that Point Ruston closed on last month.

I'll get more details up soon.... Karen

The scheduled agenda is pretty light again tonight for the Ruston Town Council. The issue of permits for private security systems and the dog park is on the docket again, along with discussion of fireworks. And rather than talking about annexation, the council will discuss the "budget". The full packet of information is available on Ruston Reports.

Hope you can join us at 7 pm at 5117 N. Winnifred Street.....

Friday, May 15, 2009

Open For Business

Clever, Ruston's newest shop is up and running. After a successful grand opening last weekend, the unique store is now open Tuesdays 11-2 and Wednesday through Saturday 11-5ish. It's a great collection of "clever" gifts, art supplies and more. Stop by and spend your dollars in town. It's one way you can help Ruston increase their tax revenue!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

In The News

The Volcano had an interesting commentary on the Point Ruston project. You can read more here....

I think most residents in Ruston agree with the author in hoping that people will frolic on this prime piece of property soon. And I agree that "old Tacoma" has value, just like "old Ruston". May we find ways to hold onto both. That's my commentary for the day...


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ruston-Point Defiance Music Fest Faces Challenge

Ruston has enjoyed a great music festival each fall for the last several years ~ thanks to the volunteer efforts of our local Ruston-Point Defiance Business District. Last year featured 4 stages and many local artists. As with any event, it takes cash to make the show. One of the cornerstone sponsorships has been a $5,000 grant from Pierce County each year, sponsored by Council Member Tim Farrell (for which the district has been very, very grateful).

But with budget cuts across the board, no grants are available this year. Other major sponsors have been local developers, who may be feeling the current economic challenges as well. The district very much wants to keep the momentum building for our Ruston-Point Defiance Music Fest. What ideas might you have to help carry through this year? What about past events should be retained, what should be dropped? Any ideas on other sponsors?

You can comment here with your suggestions or email district president James Bennett at Thanks for your help!

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Few Days Off

I've been incognito for a few days, exploring Sedona Arizona for the first time. I'll be back to posting the latest happenings around town soon. Thanks for your patience! ~ Karen

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Clever Opens Friday

One of Ruston's brightest and best artists is opening her own shop. Heidi Grace Kress grew her own brand of scrapbooking material into a successful business ~ the Heidi Grace line. She's now sold that line and settling down at home with her two young children and husband. She is opening a "charming and playful" boutique right here in Ruston.

The shop will be called Clever and feature Heidi's talent in hand-crafted gifts, apparel, art and more of Heidi's stationary and craft material. Clever is on 51st Street just above Don's Ruston Market at Winnifred Street. Store hours will be from 11 till 5ish Wednesday through Saturday and 11 till 2 pm on Tuesdays (closed Sunday & Monday).

Grand Opening is this Friday and Saturday, May 8th and 9th. Come by, meet Heidi and her friends, enjoy her talent and mingle with your neighbors. Its going to be a fun day in town and a great addition to Ruston's growing business base.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Brief Report: Council Meeting, May 4, 2009

I wasn't able to make the meeting and haven't listened to the recording yet, but I hear that the dog park and the alarm regulation issues were tabled again. The council did pass the ordinance requiring all dogs (even in the park) to be on a leash until they can sort out the liability issues. And more folks wanted anti-annexation signs after the meeting.

I'll get more details in a week or so after I get a chance to listen to the recording. As always, please attend the meetings for yourself to get the full flavor of our small town politics.

Tacoma Bloggers Discuss Annexation

There is some discussion about our annexation issue on Erik Emery Hanberg's Tacoma blog. Follow the discussion here....

Monday, May 4, 2009

Keep Ruston - Ruston

This is my opinion on the issue of annexation. I’ve invited Council Members Stebner and Albertson to share their views on why they support annexation. I welcome other points of view. Please send your name and opinion to

We all know the foundation for the "Keep Ruston ~ Ruston" viewpoint. It costs less to live here. We maintain local control. We know our elected officials. We know our neighbors. We have all the benefits of a big city just a few blocks away, but have the privilege of holding onto the best of small-town America within our 5 square blocks.

It’s the rest of the building that is harder to describe. How do you describe the color of connection when a family member dies and casseroles show up on your doorstep along with much-needed hugs? How do you describe the strength of the beam that wraps itself around you when the person rushing to help in an emergency is your friend who calms with the sound their familiar voice calling your name? How can you put words to the solid warmth of the walls that hold your children safe, watching them as they skip down the street generation after generation?

There is something to a name. It’s like being part of a family; for good or for bad. The ties are deeper. The connections are stronger. You are known and you know the details of your siblings. Even though that gets uncomfortable at times, it creates safety and comfort. We have the best of rural life in a very urban setting.

We would loose too much of the good if we give up our town. As Mayor Hopkins said at the last meeting, it’s not the same just blending in one of the neighborhoods in Tacoma. And once its gone we can NEVER get it back again.

The only reason for annexation given by Council Members Stebner and Albertson is that Ruston is spending more than we took in this year. Everyone is facing deficits right now. Tacoma, Pierce County, the state, the federal government. It makes for a convenient excuse, but remember that Stebner was meeting secretly with Tacoma officials about annexation over 3 years ago. This is not a new idea for them.

Ruston has faced other budget shortfalls. The economic downturn of the 1980’s hit us harder than most. Ruston dipped into its reserves in the 1990's for a couple of years before the decision was made to sell the lots below the school building. We held on through those tough times; delaying some costs, cutting others, seeking out and getting grants, helping each other out as best we could. We can hold on again. The town has never had $3 million in reserves before. Of course we should be cautious about spending it. But we should exhaust every possible means to survive before we use our valuable time, energy and resources to “explore” annexation.

I’d like to know how much attorney/staff time and the council’s limited energy has been spent “researching” this option. Why aren’t we spending that time and energy looking for ways to survive? What about trying to increase our business base? No one has accounted for the huge impact of construction taxes, in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for Point Ruston alone. What other income sources are we not accounting for? There are vacant properties the Town can still sell (not counting the park). Not only does that give the reserves a boost, but it creates taxable property. There are many, many more ideas other there. Our focus should be on finding positive solutions.

Tacoma has already said they would make Ruston residents pay directly for any infrastructure improvements needed to bring our systems up to their standards. Ruston would likely pay Tacoma’s EMS levy for a three times longer response in an emergency. Their fire department is fine, they are just further away and busy most of the time. There are no efficiencies to be gained with Tacoma. The larger system is not willing to defray any costs for us. IF we have to pay these costs, we should pay them to ourselves and keep our town.

The first and foremost duty of an elected official is to serve and sustain the community that elected them, not destroy it. This council has been given a precious gift. Citizens have begged them to treat it with the care and respect it deserves. I frankly don’t expect Council Members Stebner or Albertson to change their direction. It is up to Council Members Huson, Hedrick and Hunt to take a strong, vocal stand ~ to be a positive force for saving this town.

We need them to stop wasting money, time and energy pursing the longstanding agenda of a minority. These three need to be leaders that give us hope in our future, who think outside the box for creative ways to hold on. All the negative talk and publicity is discouraging and sends us in the wrong direction as a town. We need to hear this council majority give voice to the many who want to save Ruston, equal voice to their council peers each and every time annexation is discussed. Our four minutes a month is not adequate.

That voice has not been strong enough as yet. You may have noticed the signs showing up around town. We want to let the world know there are many, many who want to Keep Ruston ~ Ruston. So far about 70 signs are out there. There are a few more available at Don’s Market. Join us in this effort to encourage our leaders to focus on positive ways to sustain and build our town, not destroy it.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Something new

New color, new beginnings ~ something new is underway in Ruston. Stay tuned for details on this cute, whimsical new boutique opening on 51st Street next weekend....

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Council Meeting: May 4, 2009

The council meeting this Monday is scheduled to be short and sweet. There is no discussion of annexation on the agenda, although it is likely to come up under Council Time. On tap is the off-leash dog park again, controlling dogs in public areas and regulating alarm systems. The background material is available on Ruston Reports.

The meeting starts at 7 pm at Town Hall (5117 N. Winnifred). Please come by and let your thoughts be known. Everyone gets two minutes to speak at the end of the meeting ~ and you can corner your favorite council person before or after the meeting to speak your mind.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Council Meeting: April 20, 2009

It's taken me awhile to get the tape reviewed from the last council meeting. The background information given at the meeting is available on Ruston Reports. Here is what I found interesting. Please attend the next meeting for yourself on Monday night at 7 pm.

Things began on time with all elected officials present.

Staff Reports
Fire: Chief Torbet thought it might be time to ban fireworks in Ruston because non-residents come into town and shoot them from the street. Any change has to be done a year in advance, so nothing will happen this year. This 4th of July, Ruston residents can get fireworks permits. The permit must be obtained at town hall 30 days in advance to shoot Safe and Sane fireworks from your private property.

Police: Chief Kunkel thanked everyone for a successful Easter Egg Hunt. On Sunday, May 3rd the Tacoma City Marathon will make its way through Ruston. The tunnel will be closed and runners will come up 51st to Shirley, then down to 54th to the park. He reported that LESA will cut $1400 from our 2009 costs. Oral boards were held this month for reserve officers. One applicant passed and is undergoing a background check.

Ordinance 1280 – Designating permitted off leash areas: The council had received a letter from the town maintenance department. Council Member Albertson wanted to hold off on a decision until they could talk in person to the maintenance guys. Council Member Stebner was surprised they are not at meeting tonight to talk to the council. Albertson reported that Steve Taylor (maintenance supervisor) has concerns with current plans. Council Member Hedrick was concerned that the town has a known liability with the current situation. Albertson thought that charging a fee for access to the park may remove a statutory immunity granted by the state for recreational use. The town town attorney thought charging for dog area only removed immunity in that area. Albertson wanted to ask the town’s insurance company what they think. Stebner now wanted to require that dogs use two gates that automatically open to get to the off leash area.

Hedrick wanted the policy posted at the park. The town attorney said he has come to these meetings thinking this ordinance will be passed each time. If the council wants to continue to deliberate the issue, they should remove the allowance for off-leash dogs while they sort this out. After 40 minutes of discussion, the council decided to have everyone working on the issue do their research and get their findings to the rest of council by next Tuesday. If any council member has concerns or other issues they are to notify everyone immediately so it can be researched and a final decision made at the next council meeting. Hunt made a motion to require leashes for dogs at the park immediately, which passed 3-2. (Hedrick, Huson voted no).

Ordinance 1283 - setting new sewer rates: passed 5-0

Resolution 442 - Recycling contract: for one year with Tacoma Recycle passed 5-0

Annexation discussion: Albertson wanted to know the timeline on discussions with Tacoma for annexation. Mayor Hopkins said Tacoma wanted to hear what Ruston citizens wanted before moving forward. Hedrick recalled Tacoma was willing to look at providing services. He thought Tacoma Mayor Baarsma said Ruston did not need to negotiate for annexation with Tacoma first, but could move forward via state law if we wanted. Albertson wants Baarsma and the Tacoma City Manager to come to a meeting in Ruston to answer people’s questions. Albertson said Stebner had an idea to rent tent for a meeting at the dog park. The Chinese Christian Church also might be available if someone makes a donation to the church.

Mayor Hopkins noted this is a difficult situation, knowing who drives this issue. Hedrick said that Baarsama made it clear that Tacoma was not going to drive it. If someone wants to pursue annexation, they have to get it on the ballot to vote to disincorporate. Albertson did not think Ruston would have to disincorporate. The town attorney reminded the council that he has sent out a memorandum on the methods to annex. He would advise not taking this route since it would leave residents as a island of unincorporated county. He found 3 different methods to annex in state statute. 2 required a popular vote in area being annexed, the other involves a right to object which would then place the issue on the ballot. There are lots of hoops to jump through on all 3. He pointed out the town is discussing contracting options also.

Albertson said his research found that annexation could be done with an affirmative vote of both councils. But all the officials claim to want to hear from the people first. He still wants to set up time for Tacoma to come explain to Ruston what the benefits are to Ruston and to Tacoma for becoming part of the city, maybe even talk about the negatives. Stebner wanted to see if the church would host and contact Tacoma to set up the meeting right away. The attorney wanted to wait until Tacoma had responded to next round of questions Ruston is drafting right now. Hopkins will get a list of questions and services for Tacoma to consider out for council review by next week.

Council Member Hunt noted two things are going on – Albertson and Stebner want annexation (no protests or correction from either to that statement). At the same time there are people in the community who don’t want to annex, but some of those are willing to look at contracting with Tacoma for services. Hopkins did not think it was good to mix the two issues. He felt the town should get answers on contracting issues before annexation discussions. Albertson and Stebner wanted all options explored now.

Abandoning consolidation of the Town Clerk and Treasurer: Albertson wanted to discuss separating the functions of the town Clerk-Treasurer into two positions. He stressed the idea was based on the preliminary audit that showed concerns about Ruston current structure, not on any particular person. The audit findings are not public yet. The new treasurer would be an elected and essentially unpaid position like current council members. The town attorney stated the council could change the structure by a majority vote, but that would create problems since the town is in collective bargaining negotiations with its employees. Albertson wants to talk to the town’s labor attorney to find a solution. Discussions were curtailed since the audit findings are not released yet.

Resolution 443 - Authorizing payment of private lawsuit: This settlement would give $3,500 to Jim Wingard for his lawsuit about public disclosure violations. Albertson was absolutely appalled at the settlement. He did not like that Mr. Wingard had protested having the council’s actions lead to so many lawsuits, yet one of the suits were from him. He was also concerned that same attorney that represents Wingard had represent others who sued the town, which raised ethical questions for him. Albertson would be voting against the settlement. Hedrick agreed with Albertson on this issue. The public records requests were not clear and he felt they were an abuse of the system. He thought the settlement was nominal, but town has a case on this one. He would support the settlement because kept the issue out of court. The settlement passed 3-2 (Albertson and Stebner voting no).

Claims and payroll: passed 3-1-1 (Albertson no, Stebner abstained)

Public Comment
Jim Wingard: He has watched the dogs in park and had some close calls with aggressive dogs. He wanted the council to be cautious if they allow dogs off leash. He felt annexation would only mean be one big LID for Ruston residents. He wish hadn’t filed the lawsuit, but he had withdrawn all but one of his information requests.

Sherri Forch: She was not happy with Mr. Wingard. She found it frustrating that the public could not comment on issues as council discussed them. She is on record as somewhat opposed to annexation, but did not think the town had ever faced this situation before. She wanted to know if the utility clerk was getting paid $60,000 per year. She lived in town after the smelter closed down. Ruston survived then by tightening the belt; no architects, attorneys or consultants. Paying these kinds of wages, the town can’t survive. The mayor pointed out that the utility clerk's salary (including all benefits) is only $48,000 per year.

Beth Torbet: She thought the council is spending too much time and cost on a dog park. She was not interested in a sales pitch from Tacoma on annexation. She could research the issue on her own. Using the council’s words, she was “absolutely appalled” at the council’s incessant push for annexation under the guise of education. She wanted to know where the efforts were for other options; the council is only talking about Tacoma. Ruston’s services are who we are. We expect our services to be for us, not sold out to Tacoma.

Mayor’s time
He and his wife dined at one of their favorite restaurants recently and found out they will be opening a new restaurant at Point Ruston. He also ran into some former neighbors who used to live in Ruston. They mentioned how they missed Ruston, even though they now only live 2 blocks outside town. Those two exchanges had really sent the message home for him that you can have a Proctor District, a North End District, but it was not the same. This town binds its people together. Those observations had him evaluating what our strengths are, why Ruston should be Ruston.

The court clerk has given her notice. He is working with the town clerk to fill out the application for the new sewer loan. Everyone is optimistic about securing the $1.25 million loan. Ruston is responsible for $250,000 of that, which is $50,000 below what the town budgeted for the year.

Council Time
Stebner wanted to know when the auditors report would be finalized. He will want a study session with them. He had some questions on the sewer design. He did not like that council member names were still being put on the agenda with any items they put on for discussion. He wanted all agenda items to list someone’s name, even if it was the mayor for the administrative issues. The rest of the council did not agree.

Huson thanked everyone for their help with the Easter event. He also thanked the mayor for all he was doing behind the scenes to make Ruston a place we want to live.

Hedrick also thanked everyone for the Easter Egg Hunt. He wanted to know if the auditor did an exit interview. The clerk confirmed they did. She had sent out an email to the council but no one responded. He felt there was a problem with the school lease and that the town was collecting leasehold tax.

Albertson did not have anything.

Hunt confirmed that the alarm permits were not proposed as a way to make money, but to organize the way the town handled the issue.

The meeting adjourned about 8:45 pm.

Death Investigation Update

Ruston Police Chief Kunkel reports today that nothing new has surfaced on the death investigation for Sarah Contreras. Every lead is being followed up on. An autopsy was performed today, but results are not available yet. It does not appear that Sarah died by violent means, but authorities have not determined if her death was natural or not. The chief promises to let us know as soon as more details become available.

Tacoma Fire Under Repair?

It happens to the paid guys too; even Tacoma services are not perfect (note fire fighter checking under the vehicle).