Thursday, December 31, 2009

In The News

Point Defiance Casino is in the news again, although not for anything related to the town of Ruston. You can check out the News Tribune story here... Unemployment and workers comp taxes are going up, taking a toll on many small businesses. Steve Fabre's two businesses are examples of the impact the new rates will have on the bottom line during these tough economic times.

Add in the new utility taxes here in Ruston starting February, tough times keep getting harder for everyone...

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Grand Prize: Commencement Condo

In an unique fund raiser, the Tacoma Broadway Center for the Performing Arts will hold a raffle with some spectacular prizes. The grand prize is the chance to live in Ruston ~ in one of the condo's in The Commencement building (valued at $1 million). First prize is a new car. Tickets are $99 each. The Business Examiner has more details here...

It's a different way to market the project in challenging times. Wonder who the new neighbor will be? The raffle drawing is set for June 2010.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Council Meeting Notes: Dec. 7, 2009

This is out of sequence - I was out of town for the first meeting in December and just now found time to listen to the recording. Be sure to attend the meetings yourself and witness first hand as the meeting unfolds! ~ Karen

The meeting began at 7:02 pm with Council Member Hedrick absent (he arrived later in the meeting). After the flag salute, there was a moment of silence for the 4 fallen Lakewood officers. Lyle Hardin was then sworn in as Ruston’s newest council member (replacing Dan Albertson). After moving the street light discussion to the first item under business, the agenda and minutes from the last meeting were approved.

Public Comment
Kevin Moser liked the new demonstration street light at Stack Hill. He thought it was better for neighbors with views.

Beth Torbet reminded everyone about the toy and food drive the fire department is sponsoring. She suggested a tree lighting ceremony the following Saturday, December 5th at 5 pm, which met with approval.


1. Street Lights: Mo Fesharaki was present to outline the cost for the street light project with the new fixture design. The project was put out to bid in 4 parts (Pearl, Highland, Winnifred and Shirley Streets). The mayor recommended putting off Pearl Street project so the area can be coordinated with Tacoma and the state since that street is part of a state highway.

Mo noted that the lights are the worst along Winnifred, followed by Pearl Street. There were different contractors who came in as the low bidders on some streets, with the costs coming in at: Winnifred = $101,628.19, Shirley = $80,997.33, Highland = $71,742.33 and Pearl = $90,340.34. The new lights will cost $992 per pole and $898 per light fixture. Winnifred needs 24 poles at a cost of $45,360 (not including shipping). Highland will need one more pole than originally planned since the new lights do not cover as wide an area, now needing 12.

Huson suggested getting all the light fixtures at once to save shipping. Hunt wanted to know if it would be cheaper to use the same contractor for all the work but was told the bids were done separately so they could get the best price for each piece of the project. Stebner wanted to know where the extra money was going to come from. Mayor Hopkins told him the new hotel/motel tax could be used for street lighting. Stebner felt using the surplus property fund for this was acceptable, but the rest of the council preferred to use the electrical reserve fund. The mayor also noted there was also money if the capital investment fund. He wanted direction from the council on how they wanted to proceed. Hunt suggested getting Highland, Winnifred and Shirley done now, but keep the discussion going with the other agencies for Pearl Street.

The mayor noted concern he had heard from some citizens about raising taxes while “crying broke”, yet there is all this new spending. He wanted to educate citizens about how the funds can be spent; new taxes are for the general fund while the reserve funds can only be used for specific utilities like sewer or street lighting. Stebner pointed out that the lighting along Winnifred is dangerous and needs to be replaced now. The motion to allow the mayor to enter in contract negotiations for the three streets was approved 5-0 (Hedrick arrived during the discussion).

2. Resolution 457: to extend the contract with the municipal judge was moved to the next meeting.

3. 2010 Budget: The mayor said LESA services had been added back into the budget, leaving a $125,000 deficit for the year. On a side note, he informed the council that they will be getting their information packets electronically from now on, saving paper and police time (they deliver the packets). Stebner confirmed that the paper copies would still be available to the public at the meetings.

The mayor has learned that the Harbor Improvement Fund can be used for storm/sanitary sewer work. Since this fund no longer receives any state funding, he has moved the full $350,000 into the sewer reserve. It will be used for loans for residents who cannot afford the required upgrade on their side sewer connections to the new lines. The USDA loan cannot be used for this purpose, so the town must find its own funding.

Hopkins reported that his exit interview with outgoing Council Member Albertson focused on improving the space at Town Hall. Since the school will not be used for Town Hall, he wants to put money aside to make improvements to the appearance and functionality of the current location. Stebner was concerned that by remodeling the building would have to be brought up to current codes.

Hardin wanted to confirm there was no more money needed from the Harbor Improvement Fund for the shoreline planning the planning commission is just starting. The mayor said funding for that effort had already been pulled out – and the town had a grant for some of the work as well.

Stebner felt that the new sewer lines were only half the battle. Someone will have to inspect to ensure that storm water is not getting into the sanitary sewer lines.

The mayor outlined a list of things he wants council assistance on:

Hardin: improving the town web site. He has dedicated $24,000 per year for maintenance and updates. He hopes to build a site that gives easy access to town processes like building permits, council meeting recordings and more. He wants everything at Town Hall to be electronic.

Hedrick: improving the professional appearance of the police and fire departments. The mayor felt we have extremely good first responders and wants to add to that with better uniforms, flags with Ruston on them or other improvements. He also wanted to look at ways to improve security at the police office. Hedrick agreed but felt it would be awhile until a dollar amount for the changes could be determined.

Claims and Payroll was approved 5-0

Mayor’s Time

Hopkins outlined more help he is hoping for from the council:
Hunt: liaison with the business district. He also wanted a monthly update from the business district at a council meeting.

Hedrick: continued help with lawsuits and security updates for the police and fire departments.

Huson: working with the planning department to determine impact fees, and to help develop an investment policy for the town.

Hardin: Along with the town web site, upgrading the town computer systems.

Council Time
Stebner, nothing

Huson felt the town owns too much property for a municipality of this size, given the maintenance costs. He felt the town should get rid of either the school or the town hall. The council should decide which location best suits the town’s needs and get rid of the other site. He felt building another tall building next to The Commencement condos would not hurt now that the school building and area had been compromised.

Hedrick wanted to go over the procedures the police use. He noted the recent police murders had occurred while the officers were doing administrative work and wanted to ensure our officers were as safe as possible while doing similar work.

The recording cut off a few minutes early, so that was all I got of the meeting.


If you heard the slew of rescue sirens this morning, it was because a woman fell down a hill near Owens Beach. The News Tribune has more details here...

Final Days For Zoo Lights 2009

If you want to make your holiday week complete with a visit to Zoo Lights, your opportunities are limited. The event only runs through this weekend. More information is available at Stop on by and support a worthy cause.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Clerk Position May Be Eliminated

As noted in the last town newsletter, town leaders are leaning towards eliminating the clerk-treasurer position recently vacated by Karen Carlisle. The new accounting services through BIAS will cover budgeting and accounting, most of the building permit duties are now automated through the new building consultant and many of the duties for utility clerk will be automated with BIAS.

In addition, the council is considering a new "imaging" system that will put most of the town's documents on-line, saving time and effort on public information requests. The mayor noted after the last meeting there will be some upfront costs for these new services, but they will be more convenient for users and will be less costly in the long run. The talk is to promote the utility clerk to a new position that covers the remaining administrative work.

A final decision has not been made yet, but the 2010 budget is based on this new direction. The official budget that the council approved at their meeting last week is below. More details were discussed at the last study session (which I did not attend) and more action is expected at upcoming council meetings. Be sure to attend yourself and get a first-hand view of all the action.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

It's official, Ruston Way and the tunnel are open just in time for Christmas. Don's Market noted a steady stream of customers today and regular traffic along 51st Street, despite the approaching holiday. A true sign of progress just in time for the new year.
I hope everyone in this town that I love will enjoy a blessed holiday tomorrow with family and friends near. We are privileged to make our home here in this small town, to have survived a challenging transition from a company town to an upper-class neighborhood and to have the strong connections to each other that make Ruston special.
Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Council Meeting Notes: Dec. 21. 2009

I just picked up the recording from the last meeting (Dec. 7th), so the notes from that meeting will be out of sequence. But I hope to get them up soon. For the meeting tonight, I arrived just before 7 pm. The study session discussion about the new accounting software was still going on, but it wrapped up quickly.

The meeting started just after 7 pm with all present. Staff reports was added to the agenda before agenda approval.

Staff Reports:
Fire: Chief Torbet reported 6 calls in November. The call volume is up a bit this year. The turn out for Santa on Saturday was great, and the tree lighting was well received.
Police: Chief Kunkel thanked the Ruston community for their support after the loss of 5 officers last month. He thanked the Ruston officers that volunteered their time in the aftermath of the Lakewood killings. Officer Miller has been hired for the full time position. He outlined a wide variety of calls last month. The new vests for the department have arrived. A federal grant will reimburse half the cost.

Public Comment
Jim Wingard gave his best wishes to the new council and encouraged them to give up the pursuits of some of the out-going members such as annexation, disbanding the fire department and lawsuits.
Kevin Moser discussed his proposal on new street lights that he had presented to the council. (Details were not available - but it sounds like he wants different lights purchased for the new light project, and the lights on Stack Hill replaced.)
Bill Blankenship offered his support of Moser's proposal.

1. Resolution 457 - Extension of agreement with Judge Sandra Allen: Council Member Hardin noted the date on the resolution needed to be updated. Council Member Hedrick asked if it was standard to have a 4 year contract. Ms. Allen attended the meeting and said everyone is on a 4 year system under state law. The motion passed 5-0.

2. 2010 Budget: Council Member Hunt applauded the mayor for his hard work preparing the budget this year and for bringing in professional help with new BIAS accounting firm. Hedrick also complimented the mayor. He noted the police department is working on a reduced budget this year. He is very pleased that they only have to borrow $139,000 from the surplus property fund this year to balance the budget. The mayor noted that about $500,000 was borrowed last year. The budget passed 5-0.

Claims and Payroll
The acting clerk was not able to get the claims and payroll completed before the meeting. Employee pay is not effected. Council Member Huson will stop by the office tomorrow to look over the claims. The motion to move all these claims and payroll to the next meeting was approved 5-0.

Mayor's Time
Mayor Hopkins felt that Moser made a strong argument on the street lights. If the town is going to replace these lights, they should do it now. There is some savings if they are purchased now. He is sending a letter to Point Ruston letting them know they have to get town approval before installing lights on the rest of the development. The town planner will make sure the new requirements are clear at the beginning of the planning process.

Hopkins thanked the BIAS representative for his help as the town has dealt with the loss of the clerk. He is excited with the new efficiencies the new system will provide. He also thanked Council Member Stebner for his service on the council.

Council Time
Stebner had nothing.

Huson thanked the mayor for finding a possible solution for the clerk-treasurer problem. He said the council would promise to try not to do anything that would get the town sued if everyone in the audience promised not to sue them. He also thanked Stebner, noting "there are certain things about Wayne I am going to miss."

Hedrick said he is working with the police department on the plans for security upgrades to their office. He will be meeting with the fire chief soon. He also thanked Stebner. He had trouble believing anyone could serve 4 full years on this council.

Hunt wanted to be sure the zoning code was changed to reflect the new lighting requirements. She has been trying to get all the utility companies informed of the new taxes the town has imposed, but has had trouble getting through with her phone calls. She had some letters for the mayor to send at the meeting tonight. She also thanked Stebner for his time, even attending almost every meeting during his 4 years on the council.

Hardin thanked the community for allowing him to serve them on the council. Anything else he would have to say would be insincere since he has only been on the council for two weeks.

The meeting adjourned about 7:35 pm (corrected from 8:35 pm).

Council Meeting Tonight

It doesn't look like there is much on the agenda for the Christmas week meeting tonight. There will be a study session at 6 pm to hear a presentation from the software vendor for the new billing system. The only two business items for the regular meeting are to re-appoint the judge and next year's budget. The full packet (all 4 pages) is available on Ruston Reports here... If you have time, come join the fun!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Eve Opening

It will be another day before the tunnel is opened (last word was Dec. 23rd - now Dec. 24th). This message from Point Ruston came in on Friday. With the closure during the recent sub-freezing weather, Steve and Steve were not performing their usual icicle removal duties. This may be the last time we see this sight.


The construction crews working on Ruston Way are now estimating December 24 as the opening date for the Ruston Tunnel. As you might expect, the utility lines in this area were buried long ago and there have been unexpected construction issues to be dealt with. We appreciate your patience, and will let you know if there are further schedule changes.....

Thought you might be interested in seeing the icicles in the tunnel during the last cold snap.


J.J. McCament for Point Ruston

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Santa, Kids and Fun

There were lots of excited children at town hall today to tell Santa their Christmas wishes. Many rushed out of their houses to wave as he was escorted around town with lights and sirens by the fire department. It was a great turn out, even the shy ones seemed to have a good time. It was so much fun, Chief Torbet and some of the local pets had to join in! Bring on the big day!!!!

Santa Visits Ruston

Santa arrives at Town Hall today at 1 pm (5117 N. Winnifred). Bring your little ones and a camera for a visit. The big guy will ride through town on the fire engine with lights and sirens on his way in, so you'll know when its time.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Tunnel Opening Delayed

The tunnel will remain closed a few more days. The latest date for re-opening had been scheduled for today, but JJ McCament of Point Ruston reports that "The as-built plans on file for the old utility lines were so inaccurate that it was a process of continual rediscovery in order to remove and replace the lines."

The tunnel should be open on December 23rd, just in time for Christmas.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Catching Up

Just a couple of things I wanted to catch up on. Chief Kunkel graciously shared this placard that was used in the memorial procession for the fallen Lakewood officers:

Sherri Forch was kind enough to send along this photo of Lyle Hardin as he was sworn in as Ruston's newest council member at the meeting on December 7th.

And Ginger Kryger held her annual fund raiser for Emergency Food Network (EFN) on December 5th. Ginger is a pottery artist extraordinaire. She and several friends made soup bowl through out the year. Ginger hosts an open house each year at her studio in Ruston where they sell bowls full of homemade soup. The proceeds go to EFN and local arts programs. I was out of town and didn't get the notice in time to attend, but wanted to share Ginger and friend's good work. Last I heard all the bowls were sold, but feel free to call Ginger and see if she had more stock on hand. It makes a great Christmas gift!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Thin Blue Line (Opinion)

UPDATE: Wednesday, December 16th: There was a very touching Christmas letter from one of the Lakewood police officers in The News Tribune today about how we are all working to heal from this tragedy. You can read it here....

It’s been a week since the very powerful and moving memorial service for our 4 fallen heroes in Lakewood. Our Ruston police and fire departments participated in the event ~ and were touched like many of us. Police Chief Kunkel shared the photos below from the procession and service. We are part of a greater community and this senseless act of violence has impacted us all.

These 4 neighbors were targeted solely because of their badge (and one in Seattle). They were gunned down because of hatred for the uniform they wore. It was a very real attack on civilized society. As we begin to try somehow to heal from this loss, I don’t know that we can return to where we were before, nor should we necessarily.

For one, I hope we will never lose this newfound sense of appreciation for those who serve as peacetime officers of the law. Too much of their time is spent correcting bad behavior, forcing someone to follow the law or dealing with angry people who don’t want anyone telling them what to do. Although it’s uncomfortable for most of them, I hope we never stop telling them how much we appreciate their sacrifice and service.

I also think, for many there will be a lingering loss of peace, of the sense of security that comes from believing that something this horrible cannot happen, especially so close to home. At some level, war has been declared on that “thin blue line” that protects us. There will forever be a scar; a wariness in our police that holds to that truth.

I know we must heal from this. But I hope we don’t heal too fast. I don’t think we can (or should we) just put this behind us. Let’s hug our family especially close this Christmas in honor of these families that have been ripped apart. As we begin the New Year knowing life will never be the same for our law enforcement community, I hope you’ll join me to pray protection, comfort and peace over our thin blue line, both here in Ruston and across the nation.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Town Hall Filling Up

I was just at Town Hall, and the place is filling up with toys. Take note of the guy in the mayor's seat :). The toys will be donated to Toys For Tots, and non-perishable food is being collected as well. Stop by and add yours to the collection!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tree Lighting

The lighting of the Ruston Christmas tree last night was a big success. About 50 folks from local families, fire fighters, police and local politicians gathered around the tree to count down to the moment the tree came to life. Don's Market passed out hot cocoa (sorry Beth, I'm not a good photographer), Fire Chief Torbet led the group in a Christmas hymn and many brought toys and food for the needy. Despite the cold, many stayed around over an hour visiting and wishing all a wonderful holiday season.

Remember Santa arrives on the fire engine next Saturday at 1 pm ~ and leave non-perishable food and unwrapped toys on the porch next Thursday and the fire department will pick them up before their usual training. Just be sure they are clearly labeled. Or bring them by Town Hall yourself.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

* December 2009 Holiday Events *

The Town of Ruston will be holding our annual Christmas Tree lighting ceremony this Saturday at 5 PM (51st and Winnifred). We had a great time last year, so don’t miss out on this year’s festivities! You can also bring along any new unwrapped toys or non‐perishable food donation.

December 17
The Ruston Fire Department is teaming up with the FISH food banks and Toys For Tots for this year’s charitable outreach. We’re making it easier to donate this year, by picking up any non‐perishable food items and new unwrapped toys right from your doorstep. Just place the clearly marked items on your doorstep on December 17th and the firefighters will pick this up. You can also bring your donations to Town Hall.

December 19
We’ve just received a telegram from the North Pole that Santa will be making an appearance at Town Hall on Saturday December 19th from 1 to 3 PM. Please be sure to bring the whole family down for treats and a “wish list” meeting with Santa.

Council Meeting Quick Notes: Dec. 7, 2009

Just a couple of highlights from the meeting Monday:
  • New street light purchases were approved for Highland, Winnifred and Shirley Streets. Pearl Street will be delayed so the design can be coordinated with the business district, the state (Pearl is a state highway) and Tacoma (so both sides of the street can be updated together hopefully).
  • Updates from the business district were added as a regular part of the agenda.
  • There was discussion about the town web site updates, imaging for all town documents, school lease obstacles, town hall capitol improvements, protecting the police with surveillance equipment on the parking lot & station, supporting a professional appearance for police and fire, Harbor Improvement funds transfer to Sewer fund, among other things.
  • The food & toy drive continues and a tree lighting ceremony will be held this Saturday, December 12th at 5 pm at 51st and Winnifred.
  • Former police chief Sharon Reese was in town and came to the meeting to say hello.

I'll have more details next week after I review the recording of the meeting. Be sure and join us for the tree lighting on Saturday evening at 5 pm (and bring some toys and food).

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ruston In Oil

This note came across my Facebook page today... The Washington State History Museum announced an oil painting by Orlin Coughlan (a local artist) of the Ruston area (click here to read). This 3-foot-wide 1960's painting will be on display during the Folk Art exhibit starting in February 2010.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Ruston's Shoreline Plan

Ruston's planning commission is going to look at the town's Shoreline Plan. Their first step is an informational meeting with a representative from the State Department of Ecology. Stop by on Wednesday night to hear the detail about how these regulations work and the process the planning commission will be using. More details are available on the town planners web page here...

Hardin Sworn In Tonight

Lyle Hardin, Ruston's newest council member, will be sworn in at tonight's council meeting. He replaces Dan Albertson. Because Dan was appointed to his position and Lyle was elected by the voters, Lyle assumed the seat as soon as the election was certified on November 24th.

I'm not sure what else is on the agenda for tonight. Come to the meeting yourself and see!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ruston 21

Our sister city in Ruston, Louisiana is just about done with their long-term community planning. The advisory board will present their goals in the coming weeks. You can read more about their progress here.... It is very interesting to see the parallel issues and potential solutions.

Friday, December 4, 2009

They Listened?

The Park District took to heart what the community said about the improvements to the steep hill east of the bowl. Here is their announcement:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Bittersweet Goodbye: Opinion

Yesterday, a few of us gathered to say goodbye to Karen Carlisle. Karen has served as Ruston's Clerk-Treasurer for the last 9 years. She has worked under 7 different administrations in that time. She has seen some political firestorms and been the focus of a few of those storms herself.

I have always appreciated Karen's honesty, commitment and love for Ruston. There is no question that she gave her heart 100% to this community. She knows the budget inside and out. She knows what makes the town administration function more than the rest of the staff combined. She carries more details about this town in her head than any of us can imagine. And all that knowledge is now lost.

She has a heart of gold, but doesn't mind dishing back what is dished out to her. In other words, she didn't always play the political niceity-nice game. But even when she may have been brisk, she was always professional. There were times when she and I did not agree on issues; times when I irritated her or vise versa. But we have always been able to maintain a civil relationship.

On community celebrations, she went well beyond the call of duty. She almost single-handledly organized a town parade a few years ago. She worked tirelessly on the bridge dedication and "memories in brick" memorial. There is no question that she loved us deeply.

I don't think any of us appreciate fully all that Karen has given us over the years. She was an easy target when someone disliked the mayor she worked for. Any complaints about the town usually ended up at her feet. The political pressures on her would have driven most of us over the edge. But through each new mayor, each new round of complaints or change in political wind, she maintained her professionalism and her integrity. And above all, her love for this community never wavered.

To the naysayers, be careful what you wish for. We have lost a gem that will be hard to replace. Karen Murphy Carlisle leaves with her head held high. She leaves a community that is better because of her efforts. Many, many of us will miss her ~ and hope she finds rest and peace in her new endeavors. She's certainly earned it.