Thursday, February 25, 2010

Council Meeting: Feb. 1, 2010

Mayor Hopkins called the meeting to order at 7:02 pm. After the usual flag salute, the agenda was changed to move Item 6 to be considered after the executive session. Council Member Huson and Hunt wanted some major changes in how the minutes were worded so the clerk was told to rewrite them.

General Public Comment
Dan Wombacher has not seen any response from the mayor on his subdivision request yet. The mayor said he had emailed it twice. The town attorney did not like having a resident ask such a question during public comment. The mayor said he would print out his response and bring it to Mr. Wombacher's house.

Sherri Forch did not like the wording about the dog licence fees in the last town newsletter.

1. Update on sewer project by Jerry Morrissette: The engineers have developed a rating system for the lines which gives priority to different sections. Pearl Street is one priority area and Tacoma is planning on upgrading the main trunk line soon. The project can be put out to bid by priority groups. The map of the system will be at town hall for review. Morrissette noted that Ruston's sewer system is in very, very bad shape. They are still looking to get construction started this summer.

Soil testing will be done on the soils for metals below the asphalt before the bids are sent out. A program to accomplish this has been developed, estimated to cost about $7,700. No problems are expected given similar testing in the area. Council Member Hedrick moved to allow the mayor to move forward with this plan. Council Member Hardin wanted to be sure the lab is ok. Since EPA was comfortable with the lab, Morrissette suggested moving ahead. The motion passed 5-0.

The smoke testing program will find areas where I&I (inflow and infiltrating) might be a problem on private property. These are areas where storm water can get into the sanitary sewer system. Past studies show about half the I&I come from private property, which will be a concern when it's time to negotiate the new contract with Tacoma for use of their treatment plant. Everyone will be notified when the testing will occur so they won't be alarmed by the smoke. The council will hold a study session on Feb. 15th from 6 until 7 pm to look at town code to allow the town to remove downspouts or correct other problems if they are found on private property (and charge the homeowner).

Point Ruston is providing a new sewer trunk system through their site. This will allow the removal of the current lift station that serves the credit union and other buildings in the area. The work is being done by the City of Tacoma. There are new connections needed from the new main line to the property line for this area now. The council decided to make connections to vacant lots as well as the current systems while the street is torn up at about $2,000 each. A resolution will be prepared to authorize this action at the next meeting.

2. Point Ruston Update (copy of the presentation here): Mike Cohen said the Shoreline Permit appeal in Ruston has been resolved, but a seperate appeal continues on the Tacoma side. The findings by the shoreline review board found that this development will improve views over the previous buildings and that the development will provide public access to the shoreline where there was none before.

The LID project is proceeding with up to $15 million for new infrastructure. The first few weeks were challenging since most of the utilities were not located where the maps indicated they would be.

6 homes have been completed on Stack Hill, adding about $4.8 million to Ruston's tax rolls. A labor harmony agreement has been reached with all the AFL-CIO union groups in Pierce county. The current protests are by the Carpenters Union, who has dropped out of the AFL-CIO and is trying to develop a competing trade organization for building trades.

Point Ruston had a very successful run with the floating sales center in Seattle in 2009 and they are planning another trip in 2010. The priorities for this year are to continue to market Stack Hill with the expectation that 4 to 6 more homes will be built in 2010. The permit process is underway for Building 7 on the lower site.

The LID work should be done this year, with some ideas being floated to celebrate the permanent closure of the tunnel. The new road will include a connection to Baltimore Street, which is expected to carry about 20% of the flow off Ruston Way. Tacoma has agreed any excess LID funds can be used to build the public waterfront walkway.

It has been a challenging year for financing new projects like this one, but the credit market is loosing up now. Cohen is hoping to be able to start back to work soon. They are looking for an organic grocer as an anchor tenant in the proposed building at 51st and Ruston Way, and they are looking at a cinema on the second floor. They now have an agreement with Metro Parks to develop Peninsula Park and hope to work cooperatively on the parks in the rest of the development. Department of Natural Resources is going out to bid soon to remove the old docks.

Hunt wanted to know when the Silver Cloud would starting building. Cohen said their agreement with the hotel was that they would build when the retail core was at least 50% developed. They just renewed their agreement with the Silver Cloud. The tunnel closure has been moved from March until May through July, which was a concern for Don's Market.

3. Resolution 461, Authorizing the mayor to enter into an agreement with BIAS for financial accounting, etc: The service will cost $2,010 per month for a period of one year. A new budget will be provided once the bank provides on-line access. Passed 5-0

4. Resolution 462, ratifying and adopting a public works construction contract with Marles Corp, dba as Amaya Construction, Inc: This is for the new street lighting work. Passed 5-0

5. Resolution 463, ratifying and adopting a public works construction contact with Cannon Construction, Inc: Also for the street light project. Passed 5-0

7. Ordinance 1305, provide the recovery of permit and other development fees when they are past due (second reading). No discussion, passed 5-0

The meeting adjoined into executive session for 45 minutes to discuss litigation issues.

The meeting reconvened at 9:10 pm.

6. Resolution 460, adopting an agreement with Point Ruston LLC regarding litigation initiated by Point Ruston against Huitt-Zollars: No discussion, passed 4-1 with Hedrick voting no.

Claims and Payroll
Passed 5-0

Mayor's Time
The previous Saturday there was a serious altercation at the Unicorn Tavern that put one of Ruston's police officers in danger. The Ruston officer was surrounded by unhappy patrons inside the tavern when he made an arrest and had to be helped by two off-duty officers who happened to be there. More altercations occurred after the combatants were taken outside. There were 8 police units on scene with 4 arrests over a 3 hour period. The council will be asked to take action with a chronic nuisance ordinance modeled after a similar Tacoma ordinance. The noise ordinance on the books now is not enough. This new ordinance has been tested and is enforceable.

Council Time
Huson met with Columbia Bank on other issues and confirmed they are willing to have the town bank with them again. The long term investment policy is still being developed and a presentation will be made soon on investment alternatives.

Hardin joked that he was concerned that one of the council members allowed himself to be photographed in Olympia.

The meeting adjourned at about 9:30 pm.

Too Close To Home

The News Tribune is reporting about a sexual assault in the bathroom at the Point Defiance Boathouse. Police are looking for the suspect. Read more here...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Council Meeting Notes: Jan. 19, 2010

The meeting called to order at 7:07 pm with all members present. After some changes to the agenda (adding staff reports and an executive session), the agenda was approved. The meeting minutes from December were approved.

General Public Comment
There were no comments from anyone, which produced a chuckle from everyone.

Staff Reports
Police: Cheif Kunkel noted it was an honor to represent Ruston along with Fire Chief Torbet at the memorial service for Pierce County Deputy Mundell recently. In addition to reporting on the various calls and reports filed, he notified the council of a minor accident that of the officers had due to ice on the road. The town is moving to a new system called Etickets. The town has a grant to install the needed equipment. The new system involves scanning the drivers license, vehicle registration and the ticket is automatically emailed to the court after printing out the ticket for the officer.

Fire: Chief Torbet said that he and Chief Kunkel had attended the memorial service for the deputy in Moses Lake as well. The public outpouring at these services has been overwhelming and he hoped this was the last such service for a long time. He noted the average response time was about 2.5 minutes per call in 2009, which is almost a full minute faster than the response time in 2008. He felt this was due to having the residency program now with on-site fire fighters.

The Commencement now has the Knox Box system in place and the chief encouraged the town to use the same system for the school building. Council Member Hedrick asked if there was national standard for response times. Cheif Torbet told him the standard is to arrive on scene in 8 minutes or less on 80% of the called. Tacoma Fire achieves that standard about 70% of the time. He reminded the council that other departments have one minute of dress time that is deduced in their response time, while Ruston does not. In other words, Ruston's time in one minute faster than times reported by other agencies.

Council Member Hardin complimented both chiefs on their uniforms. The mayor expressed the town's thanks to Fire Fighter Jeff Wheir for his time working on the town web page.

1. Ordinance 1304: Repealing Chapter 1.12 RMC (Second Reading): Hedrick wanted to be reminded why this ordinance was needed. The town attorney noted this code duplicates the town personnel policy in ordinances when it should only be done via resolution. Ordinances are law, resolutions are more general policy statements. The personal policy has already been updated via resolution after careful review by legal counsel with personnel experience. Passed 5-0.

2. Ordinance 1305: Amending RMC 19.01.110 and RMC 1.14.050 to provide separate fee & permit review (First Reading): The town attorney explained that currently developers pay a fee based on a specific schedule, but there is no enforcement in the current code. Council Member Hunt asked if this is a problem. The mayor said there is currently outstanding fees of about $70,000. Hardin wanted to know if this was a common way to deal with this problem. The attorney said it was similar in other jurisdiction. Hardin asked if there would be a timeline before penalties are imposed. The attorney said anytime after the due date the town has the option to take action. Hedrick confirmed that court costs are not allowed to be included in recoverable costs. The town planner confirmed that plan review is suspended when fees are past due.

Claims and Payroll
Passed 5-0

Mayor's Time
Mayor Hopkins reported that the town engineer says we have a lot of work ahead of us before construction season starts on the sewer replacement project. BIAS is taking over the town accounting functions. There has been a few glitches in getting on-line banking set up, which took over three weeks to resolve and will now cost $50 per month. Mayor supports moving ahead on the document imaging proposal presented in the study session tonight. He expects the town will gain tremendous efficiencies with this project. He suggested implementing the on-line service immediately so new work can go on-line now and get the archives done when we can.

Council Time
Huson noted that Point Ruston asked to update the council at the next meeting. He suggested using the local Columbia Bank for town banking.

Hedrick reported that the state's Asarco bankruptcy settlement of $188.5 million may be used to balance the general fund as part of the current budget shortfall. He encouraged folks to contact their legislators.

Hunt said the utility tax saga continues. There is a national service that tracks all utility taxes that vendors use to track what taxes they need to pay. Once Ruston provides its tax rates to this service they should get included on all local utility bills. Hunt noted that some folks had called her wanting to know why the new taxes were not on their bill in January because they wanted to pay more to support the town (they does not start until February).

Hardin reported on his work with the mayor on updating the town electronic equipment such as copier, scanner and such continues. He invited anyone with ideas or suggestions to email him.

Kristovich has noting to add, especially since the mayor had not assigned her any duties yet.

The meeting adjourned into executive session not to exceed 30 minutes to discuss personnel issues.

The meeting reconvened at 8:25 pm and was promptly adjoined.

Clever Has Closed

It's official, the cute little shop called Clever has closed its doors. Artist extraordinaire Heidi Kress is busy with new adventures and there will be a new business in this space soon. I'll try to get more details on Heidi's adventures and the new shop in the next few days.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Study Session Notes: Jan. 19, 2010

As I noted earlier, I am traveling for work every week for the time being and have to miss the council meetings. I am trying to catch up via recordings as I have time between work and killing my laptop last week. Here are the notes from the study session on Jan. 19th - where US Archiving presented their proposal to digitize all the town's documents. Thanks for your patience! ~ Karen

All elected officials were present, with Council Member Hedrick arriving late. Mayor Hopkins noted that no one from the public was at the meeting (at least when it began). The town is looking for solutions to the many public information requests and ways to streamline document storage. US Archiving was recommended by AWC. They have studied the town for several weeks and made this proposal to meet current and future needs.

This proposed system would allow access to meeting minutes, meeting recordings, planning documents and more. Two options were presented to digitize all town documents and an on-line option to access the documents (rather than have them stored on a computer at town hall).

US Archives has software that will automatically redact sensitive information like social security numbers from the documents they scan. They can set up the system so only authorized people can see certain documents, and will track who sees what document when. There is an email/fax function to send the document rather than just print it. There are some savings potential by having volunteers prepare the documents for scanning by removing staples, etc. As the documents are scanned, duplicate copies are eliminated. The system has search capabilities for any word in the document.

With the on-line storage option, both the public and staff can access documents from home - saving time and consultant costs. The document retrieval system can be linked to the town web page for the public to view some documents.

US Archives estimates 35,000 images for Ruston right now (85 boxes plus planning documents, maps, etc.). The general cost is about $250 per box, which includes document prep and indexing. The initial training is estimated to cost $15,000. There is some savings if the town prepays and commits to multiple years. Council Member Hardin mentioned a preliminary cost estimate of $66,000 for the whole system.

Town planner Rob White then provided input on his work with US Archives over recent weeks as they experimented with this system in Ruston. He was very supportive, noting that is saves a great deal of his time (which is charged at an hourly rate) and makes the storage, retrieval and sharing of documents much easier. Rob demonstrated how the system works for the council.

Council Member Kristovich wanted to know what would happen if the town decided they didn't like US Archiving in a year and wanted to use someone else. Since everything is backed up at town hall, the town is free to use whatever service they want at the end of each contract period. The council and mayor will have access to a trial account to experiment with until they make their decision.

The study session adjourned at about 7 pm.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

In The News

The Commencement's donation of a $1.1 million dollar condo for the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts raffle made the news again last month. You can read The News Tribune article here....

Rumors Can't Be Trusted: Opinion

I love living in a small town. But it has its drawbacks. Take for instance the gossip that floats from one back porch to another, the story building with each telling. One such rumor of late is that The Commencement condo building is in trouble. The project manager strongly denies the claim. Paul Wageman stated, "The Commencement has not failed and is not in receivership. We are continuing on, with our plan to finish the building and sell out the remaining units over the next four and half years."

Although the active sounds of construction may have quieted for the time being, it does not mean the project has gone under. From a financial standpoint, this town needs this project to succeed. From a community standpoint, we need to be cautious repeating unverified rumors. Just my two cents worth on the issue...


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Catch Up

I'm trying to catch up a bit while on assignment out of town. So far, I've got the material from the last couple of council meetings posted on Ruston Reports: Jan. 19, 2010 meeting materials, Feb. 1, 2010 meeting materials, details on the street light bid and the slides from the Point Ruston update.

I hope to get through the recordings of the last two meetings and get notes out by early next week. Thanks for your patience!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010