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.

No comments: