Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fun Ruston Event For A Great Cause

Looking for your true love? Stop by Secondhand Hound a week from Saturday and you just might find them. Animal Aid and Rescue Foundation will benefit from a fundraiser hosted by the pet supply store on Saturday February 11th from 1 to 4 pm. And you just might find that furry love you've been waiting for. Pets looking for a forever home will be in attendance hoping to find their perfect match too.

Another local business contributing good things to our neighborhood. Stop in and show your support at 5609 N. 51st Street!

Monday, January 30, 2012

One More Day!

You have one more day to get your application and resume delivered to town hall if you want the privilege of serving as councilmember to the good folks of Ruston. The council will appoint a town resident to fill the vacancy created by Dorothy Bailey's resignation. That person will hold that office until the next regular election in 2013. The council has invited anyone interested to submit applications through the end of January, at which time they will interview applicants before making their decision.

There is no word yet if anyone has tossed their hat in the ring. Bryan Ficiala had mounted a last minute write-in campaign against Ms. Bailey. Several council members encouraged out-going councilmember Bradley Huson to consider sticking around two more years. The deadline for applicants is tomorrow at 5 pm. Drop your paperwork off at Town Hall (5117 N. Shirley) if you are interested.

Friday, January 27, 2012

New Chevron Station Opening Soon

New owners AJ and Patty were very gracious when I stopped in today to check out the remodel of the gas station on N. 51st and Pearl. They have opened up the former garage bay to offer an expanded selection of grocery and other items. The station will continue to offer Chevron gas. They hope to be open for business in a month or so and promise to send more details and pictures soon.

Here's hoping the renewed activity on that corner sparks more new storefronts opening across the street!

Help Set A World Record

Ruston Fire Department has an ambitious goal; to put Ruston in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the highest ratio per capita of residents trained in CPR. The first class is tomorrow and there are only 12 slots open. There will be more classes offered later and there is no cost. More details are available on the town web site here. To register email rustonfire.@rustonwa.org

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Vashon Island Ferry May Be Eliminated

Exit 133 is reporting (here) that the state is considering cutting the Vashon Island-Point Defiance ferry due to the budget crisis. Although the move might make life in our neighborhoods quieter, the traffic reduction would negatively impact our retail shops.

Any thoughts or concerns? Would this mean that Pearl loses its state highway designation (and state funding)? Would that mean increased maintenance costs for Ruston? Is a quiet neighborhood more important than busy stores?


Although I never met Mary McDonald, her obituary in yesterday's paper was interesting (thanks for pointing it out, Jim). She was born in Ruston but grew up on Sunrise Beach near Gig Harbor. She often told the story of her dad rowing her mom and herself home and dumping them in the water upon arrival. Her parents homesteaded there in 1901 and she was born in 1906. Since I grew up on that area, I would have loved to hear her stories about the old days of the shoreline at both her homestead and here in Ruston...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ted Shaffer

I have been remiss in not getting this notice up till now. Longtime owner of the corner gas station Ted Shaffer died last month. His daughter Jane and son Bob ran the operation at 51st and Pearl during the last decade or more. Ted was born and raised in Ruston. His mother lived here most of her life as well. He carried more history of this town than we'll ever know and was a mainstay both economically and visually with his business.

Bob wrote the following about his dad. There will be a memorial scheduled at a later date. Cards can be send c/o the Shaffer Family, 13911 97th Ave. NW, Gig Harbor, WA 98329.
Ted Shaffer, owner of Shaffer’s Automotive, passed away 12-16-2011 to be with our Lord Jesus Christ. He died quietly in the hospital after a massive stroke. He is preceded by his wife of 58 years Marilyn and is survived by his children, Jane, John and Bob. Ted and Marilyn had seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Ted grew up in Ruston and volunteered to serve our Country at age 17 in 1942. He participated in the Pacific during WWII in the invasion of Saipan, Palau, Tanya and Okinawa. After the war Ted became a Journeyman Machinist working at the railroad then at the Bremerton Naval Shipyard. Ted will be remembered most as the owner of Shaffer’s Automotive, a business he started in 1955 and operated for 55 years.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Council Meeting: Dec. 19, 2011

I'm still trying to catch up... Here is what I found intersting from the December 19th council meeting:

The meeting began at 7:05 pm with all council members present (Councilmember Kristovich arrived after the study session). After the flag salute, business item 5 was changed to Resolution 1350 instead of Resolution 501 because it needed to be approved tonight (to balance the year-end budget). The agenda was approved as amended. The minutes from September 19th, October 3rd and 17th were approved as presented with no changes.

Staff Reports
Police: Chief Kunkel gave the run down on the calls for November (I could not hear most of it). There were no questions from the council.

Fire: Chief Torbet reported that the new breathing apparatus had been ordered. There was a discussion about what changes were needed to the fire department budget to cover the expense. Councilmember Hardin asked for an update on the fire fighter injured at the academy. Torbet said they are recovering and the academy is not going to charge them for the training. The fire fighter will repeat the course next year.

Sewer: Town engineer Jerry Morrisette provided an update on the sewer replacement project. The contractor is making good progress given the dry December weather. The two houses on Shirley Street that had flooded basements had previously had their storm sewers connected to their sanitary sewers. When the sewer was replaced, those illegal connections were removed. The mayor has directed the engineer to explore ways for the town to pay to connect the storm sewers correctly on these properties (both are elderly owners) while other funding is sought to repay the town. It sounds like there will be money available to the property owners, but it will take some time.

Public Comment
Ron Stanley of 5227 N. Highland complained about the change in water flow onto his property after the sewer work in his area.

1.   Pine Cone Exercise: Barbara Nelson from Pierce County Emergency Management explained this was a statewide exercise scheduled for June 5th to test the emergency management system. Ruston is invited to participate. The deadline to confirm participation was today (December 19th). I didn’t hear a clear response from the council.
2.   Ordinance 1340 – Street Excavation Permit Standards (2nd Reading): The town attorney outlined the new regulations, which exclude small scale landscaping if the excavation is less than 12 inches. There are potential applicants that would fall under this regulation so she urged action now. The measure passed 5-0.
3.  Ordinance 1348 –Master Use Permit (1st Reading): This would apply to entities doing multiple excavation and is modeled after state law. The attorney said she would bring back an ordinance that lays out the fees for all these permits. The council did not have any further comment.
4.  Ordinance 1347 – Right of Way Encroachment Permit (3rd Reading): The town attorney said the permit would be required for any structure within the town right of way and must be renewed annually. It requires that the property owner insure the structure and indemnify the town from liability. Councilmember Hardin did not want it to apply to driveways and walkways. He felt it was onerous to suddenly require yearly permits for longstanding structures like this. The council confirmed that grass and flowers were ok, but not trees. Both Councilmembers Huson and Hedrick felt the definitions were too broad as presented. Huson stated that he does not even have a town license for his dog, the last thing he was going to do was get an annual license for his hedge.
5.  Ordnance 1350 – 2011 Budget Amendment (1st Reading): Mayor Hopkins apologized with the late notice. He is not happy with the accounting consultant and will work to ensure the budget is tracked better in the future. The council confirmed the changes in the budget and that this transfer from reserves of $196,000 meant a total of $266,000 was taken from reserves for the year. The mayor has directed the town maintenance men to be sure they are charging their time to the healthy utility accounts. He confirmed the clerk-treasurer is spending time on the utilities but he expected that to lessen over time. The deficit for the school in 2011 was $40,000. Huson waived the second reading, which was approved 5-0 and the ordinance was approved 5-0.
6.  Discussion – Franchise Negotiations: The attorney said the town is negotiating agreements with Puget Sound Energy, Burlington Northern Railroad and Click network. She expected to present the agreements to the council by the first quarter of 2012. Click is only asking to lay empty conduit in the Point Ruston development and they will have to come back for a new agreement before actually laying cable. Hunt said Click had told her they would never provide service to the rest of Ruston. She did not like the idea of only part of the town being served. Hedrick suggested that BNSF give the town the portion of Rust Park that they own in exchange for this agreement. The mayor suggested they also trim trees on their property that are blocking views. Hardin confirmed this is the franchise from 100 years ago. The duration of the new one will be 10 years.
7.  Discussion – Employee Medical Benefits: The mayor explained that the medical plan the town currently has is no longer available. There is a similar plan for $20 less per month, but he is reluctant to make any changes until the union has signed off.
8.  Ordinance 1344 – 2012 Budget (3rd Reading): The mayor thanked Chief Kunkel for his work on the police budget. He was able to bring it within $1,000 of last year’s budget. This budget has a $220,000 deficit that will have to come from reserves. The ordinance passed 5-0.

Claims and Payroll passed 5-0 after Hunt questioned some police purchases.

Mayor’s Time
Hopkins thanked Huson for his time serving on the council and asked him to consider sticking around two more years. Hopkins described Huson as well prepared for each meeting and always entertaining.

Council Time
Huson thanked the mayor for his praise and the citizens for electing him. He felt the last two years on the council had been very enjoyable.
Hedrick said he didn’t know anyone who had given more of their time and intellect than Councilmember Huson. His leaving will be a big loss for the community.
Hunt echoed the same sentiments and encouraged Huson to get his application turned in and serve 2 more years.
Hardin described Huson as a mentor and thanked him for his service.
Kristovich called Huson a Ruston rock star and promised to learn how to pound on the table harder while he was gone in his honor.

The meeting adjourned at 8:58 pm.

All Main Roads to Ruston Closed

UPDATE @ 2 pm: Chief Kunkel reports that the northbound lane of Pearl Street is open as of about 11 am, the southbound lane is still closed from 49th to 51st.

Pearl Street is completely closed down for at least a couple more hours according to Ruston Police Chief Jeremy Kunkel. The water main beneath the street has broken and is undergoing repairs. No reports of the residential water supply being impacted yet.

In addition, the sewer replacement project has 51st Street closed intermittently for excavation at the alley (one lane open at times). The tunnel remains closed for construction as well. For the time being, the only way to get in or out of town is using side streets or coming in from Baltimore to 49th. Good luck out there!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Storm Damage Claims

Police Chief Kunkel sent out these details for anyone dealing with storm damage:

The Pierce County Emergency Operations Center will begin today collecting damage information from homeowners and business owners affected by this week’s winter storm. Residents and business owners in Pierce County that suffered damage should call the Pierce County Damage Assessment Center at 1-866-798-6363 (toll free) Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Callers should have the following information available:

* Name and address of affected property
* Contact information (cell phone, relatives phone number, “new” mailing address)
* Type of insurance (homeowners)
* A description of damage, even if uninsured
* A personal estimate of uninsured losses
* Estimates of the fair market value of the damaged home or business (it is not necessary at this point for property owners to have a contractor’s estimate)

The findings from this assessment will be used by the Governor to request a possible disaster declaration and federal disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This process could take up to a couple of weeks or more. FEMA disaster assistance, if and when it becomes available, only covers uninsured losses.

Among the immediate steps that individuals and families should take include:

* Call your insurance agent to check on your coverage
* Keep detailed records of all clean-up and repair costs, including photographs
* When the time comes to make repairs, be aware of local permit requirements and do a thorough check of potential contractors

Visit Pierce County’s Blog for up to date emergency information: http://blog.piercecountywa.org/emergency/

Thursday, January 19, 2012

From Snow To Ice

Everything looks different in snow - and ice. Here is a bit of what I found interesting around town today...
The entrance to the school building I use - it was hard to open today!

Along Pearl Street

Pearl and 53rd

Phil Parker memorial tree - if you look close you can see yesterday's snow angel in front.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood. I am reminded again today how grateful I am to live next to a world-class park like Point Defiance. Glad to see everyone safe, warm and enjoying our little town today! If you have photos to share, email them to kpickett22@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ruston School Likely For Sale Again

The Ruston council recently held a study session to discuss the school building costs and options. Most of the council expressed support for selling the building. Following are my notes from the study session, held December 19, 2011.
Study Session: Ruston School Building Discussion – evaluating current financial position and possible uses and/or disposition of the property.

The mayor called the study session to order at 6:12 pm. Councilmember Kristovich was excused. Councilmember Hunt began by explaining she had been in contact with Jeff Jaygosh, who works for CRB Ellis (a real estate company) and lives in Ruston. CBRE is willing to do a marketing plan but would expect to be allowed to then market the building for the standard 6% commission. Hunt thought they might be able to talk them down a bit on the commission. She had not followed up with them in time to get them at tonight’s meeting. The mayor has authorized them to look at the building and they will get something to the town by early 2012.

The mayor then talked about the current situation with the tenants in the building. Asarco did not exercise their final option year with the lease and Point Ruston now has about 45% of the building on a month to month for $1,725 per month ($2.54 per square foot). The mayor had proposed increasing the rent $8 per square foot, which was not approved by the tenant. The mayor estimated $5.74 is the town’s current cost per square foot.

There was some discussion on the leasehold excise tax, which Ruston has to pay but gets reimbursed by the tenants. Jane Hunt’s partner, Al Olson was asked for his opinion on what the market rate for office space was in the Tacoma area (answer was inaudible).

Councilmember Huson wants to insist that Point Ruston pay $3,396 plus their utility costs to remain in the building. Councilmember Hedrick thought the best the town could do was break even on renting the building but it puts the town in a business they have no expertise in. He felt the best thing was to put the building on the market and sell it. Hunt agreed especially since it gets the property back on the tax rolls.

The mayor confirmed that for the short term he would insist that Point Ruston pay $5.74 per square foot or move out. If that happens, the town will board up the building.

Councilmember Hardin stated again that the council needed to get public input before making a final decision. The Joyce family and others may have concerns about losing the community center. Hunt did not think people would be upset. She had presented the situation to her neighbors and asked them which part of the $50,000 deficit they wanted on their utility bill, but no one had expressed interest in keeping the building. Huson did not think there would be any public interest. He felt putting a note in the town newsletter would be enough.

Hedrick asked if anyone from the public wanted to speak. Al Olson was the only one to comment. He said he was interested in this old ugly building, but the town needed to market it for sale.

The mayor wanted to proceed with paving the parking lots before marketing the building. He said he has asked Ken Brown to reestablish the real estate committee to look at all the town’s surplus properties.

The meeting adjourned at about 6:40 pm.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Busy Council Meeting Tuesday

The town council has a big agenda to tackle tomorrow night at their regularly scheduled meeting. Snodgrass and Freeman will present a proposal to do feasibility study on relocating the police department and council chambers so the school building can be sold (details here). The town attorney has issued an analysis of how they can handle the council vacancy (here), although the council had previously invited applications through the end of January for the position. And the ordinance regulating encroachment onto town rights-of-ways will be discussed again (here).

The fun begins at 7 pm at the Joyce Community Center in the school building (5219 N. Shirley Street). I hope to see everyone there, some big decisions could be made on several issues...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ruston Way Won't Open Til Late April

UPDATE January 17 @ 12:50 pm: Loren Cohen confirmed today that Ruston Way will hopefully open prior to the April 21st date set for the opening event. The run that is scheduled will include both a professional run and a fun run for armatures. The race director has trained others for the Olympics and knows the business well.

Point Ruston announced recently that the new Ruston Way will reopen on April 21, 2012.  Local businesses continue to feel the pain of reduced traffic and express disappointment that the promise for an opening in early 2012 could not happen sooner. Progress continues with new curbs laid along the new alignment this week. A party is planned for the road opening on Saturday, April 21st. There will be a 5K race and fun walk to benefit the YWCA and the Tacoma Waterfront Association.

Work has begun again on the Copperline building. Apartments are under construction now and set to open in early fall. Work will then begin on the condos in the building. Condos are priced between $554,950 and 1.5  million.

The sales center on the ferry will reopen on site this summer along with the first part of the waterfront walkway. The rest of the waterwalk should be open over the fall and winter months. There is hope to break ground on the retail core towards the end of 2012. Tours of the site are available and other sales information from Sales Manager Russ Wickett at (360) 280-5064 or russ@pointruston.com. Point Ruston's January 2012 newsletter is available here.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sonny Brossoit: 1941-2012

Our friend and neighbor Sonny Brossoit was found dead in his home last Tuesday. I understand a family member called for a welfare check after not hearing from him. The police had to break down the door and found Sonny's body inside. There are no signs of foul play. A autopsy is underway with results expected by this coming Tuesday.

Sonny was a regular throughout Ruston, riding his bike and stopping for many an interesting chat. He was bluntly honest, had a ready smile and very handsome ponytail. He was one of the reasons why Ruston is so unique. He will be missed.

I post more details as they become available.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Interesting Review

RR Anderson is a well-known local artist and cartoonist who recently toured the Point Ruston site. His review of the KBTC Ruston history documentary and his tour with Loren Cohen can be found here, titled Ruston: From Environmental Holocaust Moonscape to Mixed-Use Utopia.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Council Meeting: Dec. 5, 2011

The meeting began about 7 pm with the usual procedure, all public officials were present.

Public Comment
Mr. Jaydosh supported installing speed bumps in his neighborhood.

1. Resolution 497 – Authorizing the agreement with JWM&A for engineering and permit review: Councilmember Huson asked how these costs fit into the budget. The mayor noted that the costs are capped in the contract, and most of these charges are reimbursed by the permit holder. The measure passed 5-0.

2. Resolution 498 – Authorizing the agreement with PAC for on-call electrical services: Huson asked the same question and received the same answer on the budget. Councilmember Hunt confirmed that this contract replaces Mo Fesharaki’s services. Passed 5-0.

3. Resolution 500 – Approving the permit for BNSF to build a communications facility at 5030 N. Winnifred: The mayor began by explaining this was a closed record hearing with no further public comment allowed. The town planner outlined the proposal and the conditions attached to the planning commission’s approval (keep the tree in the area and put slats in the fence around the small shed on the alley). Hunt confirmed the location of the fence. Councilmember Hardin asked why this was a second application. The planner said, according to the BNSF representative, that Point Ruston had refused to cooperate with their first proposal to locate the communications equipment on the Stack Hill tunnel – he felt in retaliation for the railroad not allowing Point Ruston’s proposal to attach a natural gas line on that same tunnel. Huson was glad they had applied for the permit before completing construction. Passed 5-0.

4. Ordinance 1346 – Amending Ruston’s noise control standards (2nd reading): Councilmember Hedrick stated this was the third noise ordinance he had seen in his time on the council. This one left enforcement to the discretion of the officer. There was concern that the decibel level in Ruston’s current code was not in the state code. The town attorney felt this kept Ruston’s code consistent with the most recent standards and complimented the two ordinances already on the books. It gives the officer more tools for enforcement; such as when the noise is clearly audible at 50 feet after 10 pm at night. The ordinance had gone through SEPA review as required. Passed 5-0.

5. Ordinance 1340 – Standards for street excavation permits (3rd reading): Huson felt the proposal had not addressed his concerns about the impact on people’s use of their front yards. He did not think permits should be required to landscape the parking strip in front of your home. The town attorney thought it started the conversation about people using town property as their own space. Huson responded that since the town requires residents to maintain the parking strip by their home, if the town was going to require a permit for that work he expected payment for his services. Hardin noted that this draft still required permits for digging within 15 feet of the property line. The attorney will clarify that issue in a new draft for the next meeting.

6. Ordinance 1344 – 2012 Budget: The mayor said he had estimated the revenues conservatively and hoped for more construction tax and sales tax as he and Hedrick continued their research into where the Point Ruston work is paid. Police Chief Kunkel presented the police budget, which had been provided to the mayor but not uploaded for the presentation. The mayor wanted the overtime factored into the salaries; Hedrick liked the separate line item. Hunt said that was not how they did things when she managed for JC Penny, they were not allowed any overtime. Hedrick wanted to look at how other communities provide police coverage, such as Woodway who only pays half of what Ruston does. Kunkel noted that Ruston has the second lowest paid officers in the region. He was proposing a 10% pay increase. Huson stated the town simply cannot afford the proposed budget and called on the chief and mayor to reduce it. Kunkel said he was shopping for medical coverage and thought he could provide coverage for officers and their families for about what the town is currently paying. The issue was tabled until the next meeting (the last of the year) when the budget had to be approved by law.

7. Ruston School Discussion: Hunt presented a proposal (below) for appraisals on the building. She wanted the full scale appraisal for $7,500 and an assessment on what current rental rates should be. The lease for the current tenant expires in January. The mayor suggested shuttering the building to save the $40,000 in costs projected for this year as one option. Jaydosh (who spoke during public comment) is in this line of work and suggested having an agent give an estimate for the building if it was sold, torn down, mothballed, rented, etc. Hardin suggested a public hearing to get input before making a decision. Huson wanted a study session to discuss the options first, then get the public involved. A study session was set for 6 pm on December 19th before the next council meeting. Huson noted the school is part of the zoning code Master Plan, all of which should be addressed. The mayor mentioned he had told Onward Investors when he met with them about the Commencement that the building may be for sale.

Mayor’s Time
Hopkins thanked several folks for helping put on the tree lighting event. He thanked Hardin for attending the monthly staff meeting today. He commented about the angry response from some members of the public now that the town does not give away electricity for free (a strict adherence to the payment policies began when the new town clerk took over).

Town engineer Jerry Morissette gave an update on the sewer project including major repairs at 5308 and 5310 N. Shirley along with other deficits they are requiring the contractor to correct.
Council Time
Huson had no comments.
Hedrick said he had confirmed that the sewer contractor and Point Ruston were paying sales tax to Ruston. He expected the town would see that revenue hit in the October numbers.
Hunt had no comment.
Hardin thanked Santa for coming to the tree lighting ceremony and reminded everyone that he will visit again on the 17th.
Kristovich had no comments.

The meeting adjourned at 9:03 pm.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Growing Up In Ruston

DeeAnn Grip contacted me recently and shared this wonderful memory of growing up in our town in the early 70's, when the school was still open. Thanks for sharing, DeeAnn!
We had a very strong PTA with Mrs. Forch, Mrs. Mecklenberg, Mrs. Beardemphl, Mrs. Joyce, and others. So we had a lot of holiday school carnivals, and the teachers didn't have to worry about a thing. Well, at one point my 2 brothers were old enough to be in school with me, plus we had a preschool brother who would come.

One year (Halloween of '74, I think, 5th grade for me) my brothers and I got the bright idea to use our carnival tickets only for the cake walk. Why bring home plastic spiders and wax teeth when you can win a whole, beautifully decorated layer cake or sheet cake? With the 4 of us in each round, nobody else stood a chance!

We either won every cake available, or all but one. I remember Mrs. Mecklenberg in particular was fit to be tied. She tried to get the teachers to tell us we couldn't do the cake walk anymore, but the teachers wouldn't because the rules hadn't been clear. They never said we couldn't use all our tickets at one game. Then she tried to talk us out of it. That didn't work either.

Fortunately, we had a full sized upright freezer. I can still see myself opening that freezer door and seeing nothing but cakes in there. There must have been a dozen of them! We were set for every birthday, Memorial Day, Labor Day, etc., for an entire year. We thought we were brilliant. Of course, they did change the rule the following year to "one win per child per family," but it was glorious while it lasted.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Council Meeting: November 27, 2011

The meeting for November 27, 2011 began at 7:02 pm with town planner Rob White calling the meeting to order. The mayor arrived within a few minutes. Councilmember Hedrik was absent. Resolution 496 was added to the agenda and the agenda approved 4-0. There were no minutes presented. Chief Torbet gave the fire department report for October. Sergeant Lawless gave the police department report. Jerry Morissette provided an update on the sewer project and the council authorized continuing the work as long as the dry weather allows.

Public Comment
Beth Torbet thanked the sewer contractor for supporting her business by coming in Don’s Market for lunch. The business is suffering with the Ruston Way road closure. She mentioned the upcoming tree lighting event.

1. Ordinance 1346 – Amending the Town’s Noise Ordinance (1st reading): The town attorney felt this would clean up the town’s ordinance and make it enforceable. The town planner said the required SEPA review had been completed. Councilmember Hunt wanted the RCW’s listed in ordinances provided with each draft from now on, but the mayor felt that would involve too much attorney time and drive up costs. Councilmember Huson was concerned that this allowed repeat violations. Huson moved to set a public hearing on the issue, which passed 4-0

2. Ordinance 1340 – Adopting Standards for Street Excavation Permits (2nd reading): This was a public hearing that had been advertised in the paper, although Huson wanted to withdraw the issue from discussion since his previous questions had not been addressed yet. The planner outlined again the reasons for this proposal. Huson confirmed the mayor enforces the permit requirements. Hunt was concerned that residents would not know they needed a permit to dig in their front yards if it was within 15 feet of the right of way. Advertising would be needed to inform people. The planner said other jurisdictions enforce this because of concerns that digging close to a sidewalk or other structure could undermine it – although there are already provisions to require owners to repair any damage they might cause. Councilmember Hardin wanted to know if this proposal had been tested in the courts yet. He was concerned about a future mayor using it arbitrarily or inconsistently.

Public comment reflected the same concerns. The issue was tabled until the next meeting when the town attorney could be present to answer more questions.

3. Ordinance 1344 – 2012 Budget and Public Hearing: The mayor reminded everyone that the budget is available on the town web site and noted the $306,000 projected deficit for the coming year. The only public comment was from Beth Torbet, who felt the fire department ran a very lean operation.

The Fire Chief Torbet outlined his budget, noting the increased cost for vaccinations for fire fighters is required by Labor and Industries. Sergeant Lawless answered council questions on the police budget. Huson did not like the proposed pay increases, preferring a 15% paycut instead. He thought since Tacoma is laying off officers there would be plenty of choices if Ruston officers quit. Councilmember Kristovich said she had not studied the budget in detail yet. Hardin expressed appreciation for all the department does, but did not feel the town could increase pay or medical benefits right now. The budget included new medical coverage for officer families (who have not been covered to date). Hunt had not read the budget in detail yet, but was concerned how the new law regarding liquor sales would impact Ruston. Huson stated he wanted to see a 15% reduction in the overall police budget.

The mayor then outlined the overall budget, calling it very bleak. Councilmember Hedrick had sent word that he is checking to ensure that sales tax on the Point Ruston project gets paid to Ruston. The mayor was hopeful that having the Commencement project back up and running would generate some tax not reflected in the current forecast. He felt the utility funds were doing well but the general fund was hurting. He would talk to council members outside the meeting about ways to charge more of the cost for services to the utility funds.

Hunt was concerned about the cost of keeping the school building open. The mayor noted that there was only $26,000 in rent for the year and a $50,000 transfer into that account would be needed to keep it afloat. He is open to all ideas from shuttering the building to selling it. Hunt will explore appraisal options. She wanted to see the building in private ownership so it could be on the tax rolls. Hedrick sent word that he would rather see the building shuttered than continue to operate at a loss.

Huson felt the town needed to decide if it was going to maintain services or outsource them before making decisions on real estate. He reiterated his belief that the town structure needed to change and be managed by a professional, not a part time mayor. Mayor Hopkins would be gone after this term and the town will probably get another idiot instead. There is a highly intelligent council and mayor right now and that won’t happen again. The town needs to change is structure now to protect from the usual types of leaders running the show.

The mayor noted that the town garbage truck is ageing, as is the town maintenance staff. He wants to look again at outsourcing that service, as well as possibly the local court. He said it is difficult to continue to wait for the Point Ruston development while still providing services.

4. Resolution 496 – Property Tax Levy for 2012: The levy included a 1% increase over the base amount as allowed by state law – passed 4-0.

Claims and Payroll
Approved 4-0

Mayor’s Time
Hopkins noted the town attorney’s analysis on how to handle the council vacancy.

Council Time
Huson had no comments.
Hunt had no comments.
Hardin felt it was premature for the council to comment on how they would handle the upcoming vacancy, but that any discussion should be in a public meeting. The mayor said he would receive a formal resignation letter from Dorothy Bailey once the election was certified.
Kristovich had no comments.

The meeting adjourned at 9:05 pm.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Record Number of Visitors Next Door

The News Tribune is reporting (here) that Point Defiance Zoo saw a record number of visitors pass through their gates last year. That means a record number of potential customers for our local businesses traveled down Ruston streets. Given the town's continued budget woes, it would be nice to find more ways to get folks to stop on their way to this world-class venue and visit our unique shops. Any ideas on how to make that happen?

History Book Reviewed

The Tacoma Weekly ran a review of the Ruston history book I authored this week. You can read it by clicking here...  Most of our local shops have copies and I still have a few available for sale (a shameless plug). Contact me if you'd like more details at kpickett22@yahoo.com.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Update On 51st & Pearl

As I turned the corner at 51st & Pearl into town last night, I was struck again with how dark that area is after sunset. What was once a bustling commercial area now sits mostly vacant. It turns out at least some of the darkness is because there is no power to the main building that once housed Ruston Galleries.

I got an update from Melissa at Affinity Investments recently (the owners of the building). The 6 apartments above the retail area have been undergoing extensive remodeling for over a year. The power to the building should be back on any day now. The units were stripped down to the studs and rebuilt with everything new, including plumbing and power.

The current work is scheduled to be completed by the end of February. There will be four studio and two one-bedroom apartments. Melissa said rental rates haven't been established yet, but she should have those numbers available soon.

The retail space downstairs is not being remodeled yet. The owners are waiting for a new tenant to sign on and will redo the lower area to meet the needs of the new occupant. The retail space is being marketed by Brent Taynet of CBRE. His phone number is (253) 922-3900. Let's hope the building is soon filled with light and people once again!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Council Meeting: Nov. 7, 2011

I don't usually make new year resolutions, but I do want to get back to giving updates on the Ruston council meetings. I'll need to start by catching up at bit. Here is a summary of the November 7, 2011 meeting. The sound quality on the town's recording makes it hard to hear some of the comments so the summary may miss some.

The meeting began on time with all 5 council members and mayor present. Item 4 on the agenda was amended to just a budget discussion (rather than first reading of the official ordinance). The only public comment came from Jim Wingard about the lawsuit between Point Defiance Casino and the Town of Ruston.

Regular Agenda:
1. Resolution 495 - Selecting the Town’s Official Newspaper: Tacoma Daily Index was designated as Ruston’s official newspaper for required publications. They were the lowest bidder.

2. Ordinance 1341 – Amending the fees for electrical system service and meter installation fees (2nd reading): Councilmember Hedrick questioned the costs listed and Councilmember Hunt was concerned that the ordinance did not note the $1,000 charge for new meter installation was one time only. Mayor Hopkins confirmed that the $250 charge covers the basic cost for the town, which prompted Councilmember Hardin to ask how $1,000 is justified. The existing ordinance already outlined the costs and no one was sure what the reasons were for setting the charge at $1,000 for new meters. The ordinance passed 5-0.

3. Ordinance 1340 – Adopting Standards and Procedures for Street Excavation Permits (1st reading): Town planner Rob White explained that the current grading permit is not consistent with the rest of the code. In looking to fix that, the town attorney suggested updating everything to be more consistent with other jurisdictions. Hunt questioned the proposed provision that requires a permit to dig within 15 of the town right of way. The mayor noted that the right of way extends deep into many front yards. He mentioned a map of the property lines that is available on the town’s web site (I think he was referring to this page).

4. 2012 Budget Discussion: The mayor said the budget had just been sent to the town clerk. Each department head had submitted their own budget and he planned on having each at the next meeting to justify their proposed increases (police and fire specifically).

The mayor then walked through the specifics. The revenue estimates were very conservative and he hoped for more income than is listed. He warned the town is facing some very difficult decisions, including what to do with the school building. There will be improvements made to the exterior of that building when Onward Investors finishes The Commencement (such as repaving both parking lots), but the building does not have enough paying tenants to come close to covering the utility and maintenance costs. He noted the garbage fund continues to struggle.

He is projecting a $308,000 shortfall in 2012, after expecting a $180,000 deficit in 2011 (which does not appear to be as bad as expected). His budget included salary for a part-time utility clerk that may not be needed. Once the new town clerk gets up to speed, she will assess the need for help.

Councilmember Huson stated that he has always felt that Ruston should not be in the landlord business. He felt the town should get rid of any excess property, including the school building. The mayor assigned researching an appraisal on the school, town hall and the fire department bunk house to Hunt. Hopkins said he wants to explore all options, like changing the police department, selling surplus property or others.

Hardin wanted to confirm with the Department of Revenue that Ruston gets all the sales tax due, especially since there is no separate zip code for the town. Hunt asked about auditing Point Ruston to be sure taxes on their purchases are paid to Ruston. The mayor said since their current work is an LID, it is a public process and he already has the town engineer assigned to research that issue.

Claims and payroll was approved 5-0.

Mayor’s Time:
Hopkins noted that the meeting was running late. He is trying to keep the meetings to one hour as a way to save on consultant costs. He had Jerry Morrisette (town engineer) give an update on the sewer project.

Council Time:
Huson referenced the recent flyer from Point Ruston about the nighttime work, calling it a bunch of bull. The reason given (low tide for the shoreline work) did not make since low tide occurs every 12 hours (meaning there is one during the day). There is no need for 12 full hours of work all night. He was upset that the flyer did not include an apology from Point Ruston for the impact on town residents. He felt the town should do everything in their power to stop the work, including issuing citations.

Hedrick did not have any comments.

Hunt agreed the nighttime noise was too loud and they should not be doing any work on the roundabout or other places except the shoreline at night. The mayor stated that he was also very upset. When the nighttime work first started he even went so far as to having the police try to gain access to the site to stop work. Without buying a decibel meter, the town cannot enforce its noise ordinance. The town attorney was also concerned about Ruston's authority to stop work since this is an EPA Superfund project.

Hunt also got permission to research the cost of installing a hump in Commercial Street to slow traffic.

Hardin did not have any comments.

Kristovich did not have any comments.

The meeting adjourned at 8:35 pm.

Bonnie & Clyde in Ruston

I follow the news or web stories about Ruston, which most often leads to stories about the much larger city of Ruston, Louisiana.One of today's stories about our southern namesake involved infamous gangsters Bonnie and Clyde. One of their hideouts was nearby and the final shoot out was just down the road. Ruston's mortician and another witness were kidnapped when they gave chase after the mortician's car was stolen by one of the gang members. You can read more details about the story here...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Meeting Tonight Canceled

The Ruston town council starts their new year with one less council member and no first meeting. There are not enough council members available for the meeting tonight to reach a quorum, so the meeting is canceled. The next meeting will be Tuesday, January 17th at 7 pm at the Joyce Community Center.