Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Celebration Saturday

The little folks will be out on Saturday night in Ruston. Town Hall will be open with coffee for the adults, with the fire and police departments handing out candy to the trick or treaters outside. The fire engine is usually out for the kids to explore. Be sure to stop in and say hello ~ or come by to help out. Festivities run from 5 to 8 pm. And remember to watch out for all those sugar-buzzed kids running the streets if you're driving through town!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Point Ruston LID

The Tacoma City Council has approved the increase for the Point Ruston LID. You'll recall that the developers needed more money for additional infrastructure improvements, many of them in Ruston (update on the LID here...).

More details on Tacoma's decision are available at the Tacoma Daily Index here.... The Business Examiner also has a note on their blog here...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Last Minute Candidates

UPDATE: Thursday, October 29th, 6:49 pm:

I confirmed with Pierce County today that Bill Walker has filed at the elections office as a write in candidate for mayor. In order for write in votes to count, candidates must be registered before election day. Dan Albertson has not filed as of this afternoon, but he has until close of business Monday to register.


I’m late getting this posted (been in flat, friendly, beautiful Texas on business). Some have encouraged me not to respond to this issue. I understand the concern about giving credence to marginal campaigns and candidates who didn’t take the time during the normal filing period to run for office. But it’s also important to me that I address things happening in Ruston.

The following email was sent out by Virginia Carpio (former editor of the Ruston Connection newsletter) soliciting votes for the write in campaign of her domestic partner Bill Walker. Walker and Carpio were most recently noted as some of the petitioners suing the Town of Ruston over Point Ruston’s shoreline permit. What follows is my opinion. I welcome your opinion too. Email me at so I can post your thoughts. ~ Karen
--- On Fri, 10/16/09, virginia carpio <>
From: virginia carpio <>
Date: Friday, October 16, 2009, 9:21 PM


Absentee ballots were mailed today and, if that’s the method you use to vote, you should receive your ballot tomorrow or by Monday, at the latest. Three of the four open positions only have one candidate running, unopposed.

I’m contacting you to ask you to consider writing in WILLIAM ‘BILL’ WALKER FOR MAYOR, and DAN ALBERTSON FOR COUNCIL POSITION #1 (against Lyle Hardin). Why? I don’t think it’s healthy for us residents to have leaders advancing their agendas unquestioned, because there was no competition during the campaign. Here are some conditions in Ruston many of us, including write-in candidates Bill Walker and Dan Albertson, want addressed and changed for the better.

Why do we pay a small fortune to take our dump materials to the landfill?

Why do we have no choice but to use the one and only company that the Town contracts with when it comes to cable T.V.?

Why don’t we have free public library service? As job seekers, computer users, researchers, and readers, we pay taxes into Ruston’s coffers and we need and deserve these library services as much as any of our neighbors in Tacoma and most of Pierce County.

Why does the Town impose double utility deposits on a house and collect up to $400 per house if it happens to be rented instead of occupied by the owner? Is this fair?

Why hasn’t there been regular monitoring of the safety of our streets near the boundaries of the Point Ruston/Asarco site? Dan Albertson recently presented the findings of an independent laboratory in Seattle to the Mayor and Town, Council. The lab took soil samples on Bennett Street, 51st Street, and on Ruston Way near the tunnel. The amounts of arsenic in those samples were elevated - all exceeded the State Department of Ecology acceptable limit - and Dan is trying to get regulators and our Town government to address this issue.

If these issues and others are important to you, then please vote, and make your voice be heard. Thanks for considering writing in and BILL WALKER, FOR MAYOR and DAN ALBERTSON, FOR COUNCIL POSITION #1.

Sincerely, Virginia

Now for the rest of the story….

Garbage: Ruston residents pay the same rates at the Tacoma municipal landfill as any other resident in Pierce County. We do not pay taxes to Tacoma, therefore we do not get the same rate as a Tacoma taxpayer. There are landfills operated by the county where we would be charged the same rate as Tacoma residents. If paying the same rate at Tacoma is important, I’d suggest going to one of the county landfill locations.

Cable: At this time, only one cable company is available to Ruston. It’s not some collusion between town officials and the cable company to keep out competition. The City of Tacoma has not made its Click network available to most areas outside their boundaries (including Ruston). Cable companies operate as utilities and are required to contract with local municipalities in many cases. In the recent past at least – these were many of the reasons for the limited choices we have for cable service. I don’t think this is a priority issue that our elected officials should be spending their limited time and energy to address.

Library: There is no such thing as “free” library service. Tacoma has an excellent system, but again Ruston residents don’t pay for that system. Tacoma taxpayers do. It makes sense that residents within their taxing jurisdiction should have access to the system they are paying for.

If we really want to access Tacoma’s libraries, the Town could explore incorporating into the tax boundaries for that service (same goes for Metro Parks). But not all of us want to pay higher taxes. Bear in mind Albertson and Walker are the same folks who oppose any tax increase on our utilities. If Albertson and friends don’t want our utility rates equal Tacoma’s, why would they push for higher taxes for access to libraries? Under the current system, we can pay to use Tacoma’s libraries if we want rather than have everyone taxed for the service.

Utility Deposits: As owners of several rental properties in town, I can understand why this is an issue for Bill Walker and Virginia Carpio. Ruston requires a utility deposit from the property owner for each property, and one from the tenant. It’s the cost of business when using your property for income. You’ll recall Ruston recently had to write off $11, 294.00 in unpaid utility bills. The town is acting as wise stewards of our money by holding both the tenant and property owner responsible for these expenses.

Environmental: There has been a multi-million dollar clean up done on Ruston right-of-ways and yards. With this recent report, there is no mention of what the sample results were from the specific locations listed. It is likely the higher number came from the area outside the Point Ruston fence on the Tacoma side of the tunnel – an area that has not been remediated yet (but will be).

The clean-up program allows soils to remain in place that are above the state’s limit. There are many, many areas all over Washington that exceed this limit. Those soils left behind are addressed with an educational program that encourages folks to wash their hands after working in the dirt, not chew gum while gardening, etc. There was some resistance in the past from town leaders about having an constant blitz to area residents about “bad dirt”. The goal has been finding a reasonable message that let’s folks know what is going on without creating fear or stigmatizing the town again.

EPA has been very involved in oversight of both the residential clean-up and of Point Ruston. The federal government has contractors watching almost constantly. The state also sends people out to watch. To say the issue has not been addressed is simply false. These same samples are being used by Jobs For Justice and others (including Walker and Carpio) in their attempt to control and/or hurt the Point Ruston project. It’s important to see the big picture and understand the consequences of reacting out of fear before all the information is presented and understood.

In my opinion, these are not the most pressing issues we face. Our budget deficit, aging infrastructure, declining tax base, struggling businesses, challenges for our major development projects – these are the issues where we should focus our limited resources first. We have a wonderful community with close connections. We are healing from some contentious divisions – finally talking across political boundaries and learning to trust each other. The leaders we elect next week are critical to continue that healing or return us to the battleground attacks and misunderstandings. Please research the candidates carefully and vote for the leaders that demonstrate the consensus-building skills Ruston needs to keep moving us forward.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Point Defiance Park Improvements

The park district released this notice about the recent improvements being done at Point Defiance Park. They are leveraging private dollars for remediation to enhance other improvements to the bowl area....

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sign of Progress

The long-awaited Ruston Way tunnel and road closure is coming soon. The closure is for utility work on the Point Ruston development. There had been concern that this work would have to wait until spring, but the stars aligned and the work can proceed now.

Signs are posted notifying us that the road will be closed November 9th through 25th. A press release with more details will be out soon...

Friday, October 23, 2009

More Campaigning

Another piece of campaign literature arrived today, this time for Lyle Hardin who is running unopposed for council position 1.....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Campaign Season

This letter arrived recently from Jane Krock Hunt, who is running for Ruston council position 4. Bryan Ficiala is running against her.

I hope to get everyone's information out as they release it, but Jane is the first to send out anything. I have posed a series of questions to each of the official candidates as well. I will post their responses as they arrive.

Remember to vote on November 3rd!!!
~ Karen

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Street Closure

For those of you wondering why N. 53rd Street was closed today, a fuel tank sprang a leak. It's getting cleaned up. No one hurt, just lots of sympathy for a neighbor with a mess to deal with. (short news story here...)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Environmental Issues in Ruston

I had posted this information last night, but an anonymous commenter noted that the names were still showing under the blind copy. As a courtesy, I had attempted to black those names out. That problem has been corrected now.

If you have concerns or comments on this issue, you can contact the EPA directly by calling project manager Kevin Rochlin at (206) 553-2106 or (800) 424-4EPA.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Council Meeting Notes: Oct. 19, 2009

Here is what I found of interest at the meeting tonight. I encourage everyone to attend for yourself and see how Ruston goverment works. ~ Karen

With the mayor excused from the meeting, Clerk-Treasurer Carlisle called the meeting to order at 7 pm. Council Member Hedrick was appointed as mayor pro-tem. The agenda had been amended before the meeting and was amended again by removing business item 3 until the mayor could be present. Item 3 was a resolution to appoint Sgt. Kunkel as police chief. The amended agenda and information is available on Ruston Reports here..... The motion to remove the police chief discussion was approved 3-2 with Stebner and Albertson voting no, and the final agenda was approved 5-0. The minutes were approved without comment 5-0.

Staff Reports
Police: Sgt. Kunkel was out on a call, so he gave his report later in the meeting.

Fire: Chief Torbet clarified that the department had 2 fire related and 7 medical aid calls in August and 2 fire and 4 medical aid calls in September. The police and fire department will be hosting an open house on Halloween night from 5 to 8 pm – giving candy to the kids and coffee to the grown ups. Volunteers are welcome. The fire department will be getting their swine flu shots this week and the chief urged everyone to take this threat seriously.

Public Comment
Terry Knapp did not think that the police chief appointment should have been postponed.

Dan Wombacher expressed concern about the town planner’s requirement that he subdivide his property in order to build as he is proposing.

Jim Wingard thought that the police chief appointment should not have been delayed. He thought that Albertson was only speaking for Jobs for Justice on the environmental issue and not acting the best interest of the town.

As a resident only, I expressed concern about Albertson’s portrayal of the environmental issues at the last meeting.

Beth Torbet noted that soil remediation is on-going, with the park only being done this year. The properties are obviously prioritized. She noted EPA was not at the meeting tonight as expected and was concerned they had not been invited to speak until after the campaign season was over.

Staff Report
Police: With darkness arriving earlier each day, Sgt. Kunkel encouraged everyone to slow down and turn on their lights whenever the wipers come on to increase visibility. They are doing interviews tomorrow for the open fulltime position. The grant for body armor has been approved and the new vests ordered.

1. Ordinance No. 1297 – 2009 Budget Amendment (Second Reading): This budget amendment addressed funding for the street light project and was approved 5-0.

2. Environmental Issues (Albertson): EPA will attend the next council meeting on November 2nd. The mayor had suggested a study session at 6 pm with Citizens For A Healthy Bay invited as well. The town clerk will put a notice of the special study session in the next town newsletter.

4. Ordinance No. 1298 – Adoption of the 2006 International Fire Code (First Reading): The town attorney had thought this had been adopted at a previous meeting but could not find a record that it had been passed, so it being brought back again. He did not think the town had authority to force a fire inspection.

5. Ordinance No. 1299 – Creating a new Chapter 5.10 in the Ruston Municipal Code Relating to Utility Tax Rates (First Reading): The town attorney explained that this ordinance will place a Ruston tax to the full rate allowed by state law on all electrical, natural gas, steam energy and telephone services (including cell phones). Hunt explained that these taxes will go into the general fund to pay for general public services like police and fire, whereas money charged for the utility (like electricity) could only be used for that utility. She noted that if we lived in Tacoma we would be paying at least as much in these taxes right now.

Hedrick wanted to see a fiscal note on the financial impact to the town budget, which he will prepare for the second reading. Stebner was opposed to any tax increase when the town has not attempted to make any budget cuts. Hedrick was concerned about raising taxes without enhancing services as part of that package. Albertson wanted the fiscal note to include clarification about where in the town budget the new taxes would be applied. Hedrick confirmed with the town attorney that public comment would be allowed at the next meeting during deliberations on this issue (separate from public comment).

Claims and payroll were approved 3-1-1 with Stebner voting no and Albertson abstaining.

Council Time
Stebner had received a citizen complaint that the microphones for the mayor and town attorney were not working on the town’s recording of the meeting. He expressed his support for Kunkel to be the new police chief.

Huson had received two calls from residents complaining about the exterior lighting on the Commencement building. Hedrick noted that the mayor was going to talk to their management about dark sky maintenance (pointing lighting downward only).

Hedrick noted he also supports Kunkel as police chief but wanted to wait until the mayor could be at the meeting to discuss the issue.

Albertson said the council should have voted on the resolution appointing Kunkel as police chief tonight. He objected to some of Hunt’s earlier comments. He also expressed strong opposition to comments given by “someone who operates blogs in town”.

Hunt apologized for some of her comments about Sgt. Kunkel and expressed support for him as police chief. She had been motivated by a concern for full disclosure and making these important decisions openly.

Council Meeting Agenda: Oct. 19, 2009

It looks like the meeting tonight will be a repeat of the last meeting ~ only two items on the agenda (budget amendment and 'environmental issues' again for Council Member Albertson). The full packet for tonight's meeting is available on Ruston Reports here. I hope you can attend at 7 pm tonight at 5117 N. Winnifred.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Council Meeting Notes: Oct. 5, 2009

The meeting was called to order by Mayor Hopkins at 7:01 pm. All council members were present. After the agenda was approved, the minutes were approved with minor clarifications.

Public Comment
Jim Wingard was concerned that the council is spending lots of money without question on many issues but won’t allow a raise for town employees.

Kevin Moser did not like the street lighting in his area on the new Stack Hill development. He read a letter he had sent to the Ruston council. He wanted the lights changed so the light is directed down and does not want the same lights used in other parts of town. The new lighting has already been put out to bid, so it may be too late to make any changes. When his two minutes ran out the council gave him permission to finish his comments. Hunt agreed with the problem. Mayor said he is talking to Point Ruston about solutions. Albertson complained about same problem with The Commencement condo's outside lighting.

JJ McCament noted that Point Ruston supports dark sky maintenance. A previous town engineer approved the current lighting. They would be concerned about security if streetlights were turned off in the area where homes are not built yet, but they firmly support shielding lights.

There was a lengthy discussion about transferring money to cover electrical engineering costs that had been approved. It was unclear what the requirements were, so the council held public hearing to be safe. Mosier commented that he thought it was ok to move the funds. Edie Tallman said she didn’t care. Mayor then closed public comment. The second reading will be at the next meeting.

Albertson outlined his concern about arsenic in Ruston. He gave a rundown on what high levels of exposure could cause. He said he was recently provided with tests done by a Seattle lab from outside the Point Ruston gate, which were above the EPA remediation levels. He wants someone from the town to monitor situation to ensure the town will not get re-contaminated. He suggested that the regulators to attend a council meeting and answer questions. The Mayor asked if Albertson had talked to EPA. He had not, only to Citizens for a Healthy Bay (a local environmental group). CHB said they would give presentation to the council. After more discussion, Albertson said he would contact EPA and ask them to attend a council meeting.

The mayor outlined changes with deposits for the electrical meters, where deposits will only be held for one year in the future. The town recently wrote off $11, 294.00 in uncollectible utility charges. He will work to ensure we don’t get upside down on accounts so much again. Many of these were very old accounts that had gone to collections but could not be recovered. Hunt wants to be sure the property owner is required to pay the bill if their tenant skips out. Stebner wants to ensure meters are pulled (and the electricity cut) but was told it is against the law to cut off someone’s power during the winter months. The council will hold study session to discuss the issue in detail.

Claims and Payroll
Hunt wanted to ensure that any cost for the school building is coded separately so that tenants get charged for all costs. Claims and payroll was approved 3-1-1 with Albertson voting no and Stebner abstaining.

Mayor's time
Hopkins had nothing.

Stebner expressed support for an email from the mayor where he had suggested using the surplus property fund to pay for some of the sewer costs. He does not want the residents to have to pay too much. The Mayor clarified that his proposal was to pay for half of the project from town reserve funds and repay ourselves at 3% interest rather than give the interest to the bank. The bank has requested that the town invest their reserve funds with them. The Mayor also noted that the town needs to set an investment policy.

Huson had nothing.

Hedrick had nothing.

Albertson liked the idea of paying cash up front if possible for the sewers, but he is still worried about running out of money before development starts generating tax income. He wants to check on the Point Ruston timeline to see if their completion schedule has slipped. The Mayor inserted that he has discussed next year’s budget with staff and wants to base the budget on what the town's revenues only (not reserves). He said services will have to be cut and it will be painful to balance the budget next year. Albertson complained that The Commencement is not completed yet. The Mayor explained they are still finishing up some items and the town will require a bond for things not done before the occupancy permit is issued.

Hunt agreed. She wants a current timetable from Point Ruston and when revenue will be generated. She wants a 5 and 10 year plan for town. She does not want occupancy allowed in The Commencement until all their obligations are met. She hoped the new community center could host classes for gardening with local experts.

The meeting adjourned at about 8:10 pm.

Monday, October 12, 2009

For Those Who Want Details

You might recall that the Town recently issued a determination of non-significance for the proposed development at the end of Orchard for 4 new single family homes

If you are interested, the addendum for the SEPA review is available on Ruston Reports here, along with the comment letter from the state Ecology department. There is also a lengthy grinder pump report, construction stormwater pollution prevention plan and some maps that I will add if anyone is interested...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Speed Trap?

I found this blog entry on my Google news alert this morning (here), a motorcyclist warning others to be careful coming though Ruston. I don't mind the reputation as a "speed trap" - if the fear of a ticket keeps a few speeders out of town or moving slower when they approach Ruston all the better.

That's my soapbox for the morning. What do you think?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Council Meeting Agenda: Oct. 5, 2009

It looks to be another short council meeting Monday if the agenda is any indication. The only item on the agenda with any details is a budget amendment for the engineering services (probably related to the sewer project). Mayor Hopkins is scheduled to talk about meter deposits and Council Member Albertson has placed an item on the agenda titled "Environmental Issues in the Town of Ruston". The full packet is available on Ruston Reports here...

Please attend if you can and give our elected leaders your input ~ 7 pm at 5117 N. Winnifred.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Point Ruston LID Update

I've gotten several comments on the Point Ruston LID, some asking questions and some reflecting misunderstanding of both the structure of the LID and what the impacts might be from the recent proposed cost increase. Point Ruston is asking for an increase from $11 million to a cost not to exceed $15 million. So after checking with Ruston's mayor and attorney, I spoke at length with Loren Cohen, legal affairs manager for Point Ruston.

Bruce Hopkins, Ruston mayor, pointed out that Ruston is not liable for any of the LID risk. Tacoma will own 100% of the LID and their rate payers are backing it. Ruston was too small to be able to get bonds for a project this size. He noted the LID estimates were done before all the engineering was completed.

Loren said the main reason for the higher cost is an increase in scope, mostly for public utility improvements in Ruston. Tacoma's Economic Development council subcommittee has unanimously recommended a yes vote to the full council. No date has been set for Tacoma's council to vote. Ruston's council will not vote on this issue since Ruston is not connected to the LID. But the town does oversee all utility developments within its borders to ensure they meet all requirements.

Loren pointed out that the project is paying for town-wide improvements. For instance, at least 70% of the stormwater flow through Point Ruston will be from outside their development, yet they are building a system that manages that flow and meets regulations for the entire town.

He noted that LID's are a common financing mechanism for public improvements or projects with public benefit. This LID is secured by the property and bonds. Tacoma has been issuing LID's since 1895 and never had one fail yet. Cohen does not believe this project will be any different.