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.

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