Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Multiplex Theater at Point Ruston

The News Tribune announced today that Point Ruston has secured a commitment from Cinemark Holdings, Inc. for a mulitplex theater in the center of the new development. No commercial construction is expected for at least two years. The retail area was originally planned for the area within Ruston's borders, but its unclear where the theater will be located. You can read the full story here...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Little About Ruston's New Councilmember

I invited our newest councilmember to share some background so we could get to know him better. Bruce Judd was appointed at the last council meeting and will serve for two years until the next regular election. When I spoke to him after the meeting, he mentioned he had been an attorney but had a stroke, which impacts his ability to speak. Here are more details he shared in an email: 

I am finished University of Washington Law School  in 1979.  I had a stroke in August, 2005.  I had aphasia.  My aphasia are global aphasia and pure word deafness (I can hear but not understand some words).  My aphasia are:  1. inability to comprehend language;  2. inability to speak spontaneously;  3. inability to form words;  4.  inability to name objects;  5 .  poor enunciation;  6.   excessive creation and use of personal neologisms;  7.   persistent repetition of phrases;  8.  agrammatism (inability to speak in a grammatically correct fashion);  8.  incomplete sentences;  9.  inability to write; 10.   limited verbal output;  and 11.   difficulty in naming.  My aphasia are not like memory impairments, attention disorders or perceptual problems. 

Welcome to our newest town leader!

Friday, February 24, 2012

We're Gonna Celebrate!

A celebration is in the making to commemorate the new Ruston Way - the first tangible completion of new development on the former industrial property. The party happens on April 21st. The ribbon cutting kicks things off at 9:30 and the first race starts at 10 am. There will be both a fun run and an elite race for the pros.

Legal manager for Point Ruston Loren Cohen had this to say about plans for the ceremony; "Rep. Norm Dicks, Tacoma Mayor Strickland and Council Member Ryan Mello are planning to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony, plus a few other local dignitaries are invited who should really make this event special. I’m hoping that the Ruston council and Mayor will all turn out as well... and coupled with the police and fire dept. vehicles, and hopefully a Pierce Transit bus, this could be a really cool commemoration of the new Ruston Way!"

Ruston Councilmember Jim Hedrick has agreed to speak for the town. Hopefully many will wander down from the hillside and join in the celebration. We are finally on our way!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How Much $ Is Enough?

Councilmember Lyle Hardin posed an interesting question after the council meeting last night... What dollar amount is enough to sell the Ruston School building? I don't think that's the best focus as town leaders consider their options for the aging building, but Hardin insisted it is a vital piece of the puzzle and he wants to know what residents think.

The council heard another presentation last night from Al Olson about his team's findings that the best option is to tear the building down and sell the property. Olson said their team had an offer on the table, although the mayor said he has not seen anything. Mayor Hopkins assured everyone there will be no rush to sale.

So what are your thoughts as our leaders explore the issue? Is there enough money to justify tearing down this piece of our history? What priorities should the council consider? Is there a use you think would work for the building or should the property be put to an entirely different use?

Feel free to comment here and I'll pass them along to our elected leaders. Or contact them directly (emails listed to the left on this page).

Monday, February 20, 2012

Council Agenda For Tomorrow

The council is considering several issues at the meeting tomorrow night (February 21st) from extending the moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries (to include gardens) and several other changes in town codes to discussion about the pending appointment to fill the council vacancy and a discussion with Al Olson regarding the school building.

Remember the public is not allowed to participate in the discussion during the meeting. We have two minutes to address the council on all agenda items and any other concerns we may have during public comment. Hope to see everyone there tomorrow at 7 pm in the community center!

Friday, February 17, 2012

More Dreamers Wanted

Come dream about the future of the Point Defiance Aquarium on Tuesday or Wednesday next week. Details below...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Council Meeting Notes: Feb. 6, 2012

The meeting started at 7:04 pm with all elected officials present. The agenda was approved as presented and the minutes from the previous five meetings were approved 4-0. Minutes now include the full police and fire reports (here).

Staff reports are usually at the second meeting of the month, but the mayor had town engineer Jerry Morrisette give an update on the sewer project. Morrisette said overall the project is going reasonably well with only minor change orders so far on the north side of town, which is the more difficult section. No winter shut down has been needed yet. The crew is headed up Pearl Street next, then down 52nd. Morrisette updated some problem areas (pictures below) and Councilmember Hardin asked about more he had heard about. Councilmember Hedrick questioned the letter from UDSA requiring a release. Morrisette assured him it was standard language. Councilmember Hunt asked that the town web site be kept up to date on where they are working. Mayor Hopkins said he had asked the town’s oversight folks to ensure the contractor do a better job of not tracking material onto the street.

Public Comment
Kevin Moser stated he was against the sale of the school building.

Ken Brown presented a letter signed by his neighbors asking that the dirt alley behind their homes be paved.

Diane from Click Network introduced herself and stated she was available if any questions came up about the franchise agreement listed on the agenda. Hedrick asked if it was customary for a developer to approach their utility and request conduit placement within a municipal boundary without notifying the municipality. He was also frustrated that the rest of town would not be offered Click service. Diane said the utility’s policy makers decided in 1997 that only areas covered by their electrical service would be allowed to access the Click network. Staff has the system designed and would like to service the town. Hardin asked if the utility routinely installed conduit before getting the franchise agreement in place. Hopkins noted seeing Click conduit in the Stack Hill development for several years that was never part of an agreement.

I offered comment on several issues and expressed my disappointment at the town’s decision to withhold information about the council applicants.

1.      1.  Ordinance 1347 – Right of Way Encroachment Permit (4th Reading): Hardin clarified this new language does not require an annual renewal and fences, retaining walls and plants do not require a permit (but new driveways and walkways will). The town attorney said that many other municipalities have similar regulations and are complaint based (it takes a complaint to trigger the requirement). Hunt pointed out that the new version did not have the language that was previously approved. After amendment to correct the language, the ordinance passed 4-0.
2.       2. Ordinance 1342 – Title 19 Amendment to Appeal Procedures (2nd Reading-Public Hearing): There was no public comment given. This brings Ruston code in line with state law and passed 4-0.
3.       3. Ordinance 1349 – Repeal Ruston Municipal Code 1.14 Fees (2nd Reading): This action removes any specific fees from the code so they can be updated without the need to change the code. Under the current system, it costs money to codify the code each time the fees are changed. The update can now occur via resolution when needed instead of an ordinance. Passed 4-0.
4.       4. Resolution 499 – Master Fees: The first set of fees was presented. There was concern that the costs for the encroachment permit would be too onerous for businesses. The town wants to encourage bistro tables or other enhancements for local shops, but not incur any costs or liability. The language was changed to only charge the actual costs rather than a flat fee. Councilmember Kristovich asked if businesses really have to pay all these fees for a one-time repair (permit cost, consultant charges) plus the business license and now encroachment fees if they put a sandwich board out front? After confirmation all the fees apply, the measure was approved as amended 4-0.
5.       5. Ordinance 1351 – Click Franchise Agreement (2nd Reading): Hedrick stated he would vote no because he was upset about how the developer approached Click without notifying the town. Hunt clarified this is not like the Comcast franchise agreement where monthly fees are collected (this only covers the instillation of empty conduit). She will vote yes so the town can recoup their attorney fees. Hardin wanted to know what would happen if the council did not approve the agreement. The town attorney pointed out this indemnifies the town and requires permits before any actual cable is ever installed. Hardin said he would vote for this, but warned the Click representative to never do this to the town again. The agreement passed 3-1 with Hedrick voting no.
6.       6. Ordinance 1345 – Zoning Violation Procedures (1st Reading): Hedrick questioned having the town planner do the enforcement rather than the mayor. Hunt was concerned that there may not always be a planner on staff at the time enforcement is needed. The language was changed to allow the mayor to appoint a designee.
7.      7.  Executive Session – RCW 42.30.110(1)(c): The council met in executive session for about 15 minutes to discuss “personnel matters”.

Claims and Payroll: Approved 4-0

Mayor’s Time
Hopkins outlined the council’s decision reached during executive session on how they were going to handle the council appointment. Only one application had been received by the deadline from Bruce Judd. A second application was received the next morning from Michael Schonecker. The council will read Mr. Judd’s answers at the next meeting to a set of questions the council compiles. The council will then decide if they will appoint Mr. Judd or open the position for applications again. The town has until the end of March to appoint someone.

The mayor announced that the town had reached an agreement with Point Ruston to continue their lease of portions of the school building for two more years. The new lease includes a gradual increase over a year to the amount the town needs to cover their costs. It does not make the building pencil out but it brings it closer. He said the town would not make any hasty decisions on the building and will look to reduce utility costs as much as possible.

He felt the recent ice storm brought the point home for one of his top priorities – to underground utilities throughout town. He has asked the town engineer to lay out a plan to phase it in. He wants to underground power to Rust Park and provide light to the gazebo there. He is looking at ways to remove the street light near the bridge that is not needed since the area is so well-lit.

He has appointed Patty Turner to the civil service commission. He has also tasked Hunt to review the utility rates to make sure the town is collecting what they need to cover their costs.

Council Time
Hedrick confirmed the one year timeframe for Point Ruston to upgrade their lease rate. He believes the fallen tree at Winnifred and Commercial still poses a public danger even though the branches have been removed from the sidewalk. He offered a thank you to the Ruston Fire Department. He was stuck in Olympia during the recent snowstorm when his pregnant wife experienced severe cramps. The department arrived quickly and even shoveled out the driveway so the ambulance could pull up to the door. Thankfully the problem was only the flu. Finally, he noted that he is only elected official that will hold his seat for the next 4 years. Everyone else will face election next year.

Hunt noted that the sewer rates in Tacoma just went up. She confirmed she will review all the utility rates. She said a neighbor on Commercial Street is still asking for speed bumps to be installed immediately because cars travel too fast on that road.

Hardin suggested installing a roundabout near the entrance of the park rather than the bumps. He offered his congratulations to the mayor for securing a new lease with Point Ruston. He apologized to the public for not being clearer in their advertisement about the process they will use to fill the council vacancy.

Kristovich felt speed bumps for Commercial Street were more affordable and could be installed quickly.

The meeting adjourned at about 9:20 pm.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pt. Defiance Planning Meetings Today

The News Tribune has a great article outlining what's new and on the horizon for Point Defiance Park (here). Metro Parks is holding planning meetings today at 1 and 5:30 pm at the Tacoma Nature Center to outline future dreams for the park.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ruston Council Are Employees?

Town officials offered the following response to my request for the application materials submitted for the current council vacancy. Because the council is paid $30 per month the town can claim this is an employment process, withhold all information and hold their discussion in executive session (as was done at the last meeting).

I contacted one of the applicants, Michael Schonecker, and he gave permission to post his resume (below). Mr. Schonecker submitted his application late and will not be considered unless the council decides not to appoint the only other applicant, Bruce Judd.

I was only able to locate one Judd family in Ruston. I have sent a letter to them asking that, if Mr. Judd is the Bruce announced at the last meeting, to please submit his application material for public review here. I'll post anything I receive from Mr. Judd.

The council announced at their last meeting that they will read Mr. Judd's written responses to a list of questions they will prepare for him. The reading will occur during the meeting on February 21st. The council has a total of 3 months to fill the vacancy.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


I don't normally focus on community issues outside Ruston on this blog, but on occasion events are so important (like when four Lakewood officers were gunned down), I am compelled to mention them here.  Today held one of those events as the short lives of Braden and Charlie Powell were celebrated.

I didn't know these boys, but I sat behind one of their young friends at the service today. He was flanked on both sides by his mom and dad. His little head fit just inside the crook of his dad's protective arm, a solider in uniform holding watch over his son.  I saw this child grieve over his loss and his mom weep as she watched her child's tears.The father just held his arm over his son's shoulders, occasionally reaching over to touch his wife's arm in comfort.

My granddaughter's choir sang Amazing Grace to open the service - their young voices offering an echo of Charlie and Braden's song they now sing in the heavens. As moving as that moment was, I was most moved by the contrast this soldier-dad painted in the seat in front of me.

Here sat a warrior protecting his family, offering comfort to his son. He embodied everything a father should be. What sharp contrast to the man who murdered his offspring last Sunday. I know the Powell family is grieving too. They were at the service,  ushered in and out of the balcony separately. It was a strange service in that regard, two families in such strife, grieving in such different ways.

But of all I witnessed today, the strongest image was of a warrior-father who restored my faith... that most men are good, that most dads love their kids, that there is far more good in this world than evil. Rest in peace and sing loud Charlie and Braden. We'll keep listening for the echo of your voices in the children around us. And know that fathers around the world will stand watch over their children in your honor tonight...

Friday, February 10, 2012

Help Plan The Future

Metro Parks is inviting the public to hear the latest plans for Point Defiance Park; which include connecting the "missing link" between the park and Ruston Way, converting the Lodge to a visitors center and more. Sessions will be held at the Tacoma Nature Center next Wednesday, February 15th at 1 and 5:30 pm. If you miss the action this week, join Point Defiance Community Conversations the third Thursday of every month beginning February 16th at 5:30 at Metro Parks headquarters. Details available Metro Park's web page here.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Council Meeting Notes Preview

I don't have my notes prepared yet, but a couple of issues were discussed that I felt were important:
  • School: It was announced that Point Ruston has approved the conditions proposed by the town to extend their lease in the building for two more years. The monthly amount will be gradually increased to match what the town feels they need to break-even. The agreement is for two years, but the town can cancel it at the one year mark. The mayor indicted that means the potential sale of the school will not happen for at least a year.
  • Council Vacancy: After an executive session to discuss personnel matters, the mayor announced that only one person had applied for the vacancy on time, Bruce Judd. A second application was received the next day from Michael Schoenecker. The council will have Mr. Judd answer questions in writing, which will be read at the next meeting. They will then decide if he will be appointed. If they choose not to appoint him, new applications will be invited - at which time Mr. Schoenecker can reapply. On a side note, the town will not release any information about the applicants other than the verbal announcement of their names at the meeting last night.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Help Save Lives

The Ruston Fire Department continues in their quest to set a new world record (details  here). If you want to participate, call Sara Causey at (206) 604-7869. Even if we don't set any records, each person trained in these techniques can save lives - well worth the time and effort. The "hands-only" CPR is free.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Council Meeting Agenda: Feb. 6, 2012

UPDATE: Monday, Feb. 6: I understand the issue of the council vacancy and process will be discussed at tonight's meeting. The council has a full 90 days to fill the position according to the town attorney (here). Perhaps we will at least hear who the applicants are tonight...

The agenda has no sign of any discussion regarding the council vacancy or interviewing the candidates at the meeting Monday as was contemplated at the last council meeting. But attend anyway and give your input on proposed encroachment permit and other issues listed here. The meeting starts at 7 pm at 5219 N. Shirley Street.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ruston Denies Records Request

Citing RCW 42.56.250, Ruston officials have denied a public records request from the Ruston Home blog for the names and application materials received for the current council vacancy. The town council invited residents to submit resumes and apply for the open seat by January 31, 2012. The vacancy was created when Dorothy Bailey could not serve after being elected last fall.

The RCW referenced outlines exemptions from public disclosure for certain public employee records. The mayor stated that if the applications ever become public, they will be provided. At the last council meeting, the council said they would interview applicants at the first regular meeting in February.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Latest From Ladies Workout Express

We are doing a marketing campaign to bring in new members over the next 3 months. This is vital for our doors to stay open. We are having an event on Feb. 3rd that would be a great opportunity for you to bring a friend to see the club.

February is “American Heart Month” We are kicking it off with an event Friday evening, Feb. 3rd. from 6pm – 8pm We have a guest instructor coming to do an hour class using our resources. I’m encouraging you to come and bring a friend with you. This will be an Open House event! We will also have information about Heart Health, recipes and how easily you can improve your own heart.

Feb. 3rd is also “Wear Red Day”. Be sure to wear something red on that day.

Heart Disease is the #1 cause of death with women according to the American Heart Association. Let’s all get moving today to stay healthy. Let's us know if you will be attending. Thanks for reading!

I look forward to hearing from you! Be sure to move today! Question? Do you know how they make extra virgin olive oil?


Please feel free to share this information with anyone that may be interested!

Council Meeting Notes: Jan. 17, 2012

Here is what I found interesting at the last council meeting ~ Karen

The meeting began at 7:08 pm (meeting materials available here). Mayor Hopkins announced that Councilmember Hunt was excused from the meeting. Councilmembers Hedrick, Hardin and Kristovich were present. The agenda was approved as presented. There were no minutes from previous meetings ready to approve yet.

Staff Reports
Fire Chief Torbet said the department had a record number of 82 calls in 2011. He invited everyone to the free CPR class on January 28th. The department wants to set a Gunnies Book of World Records for the highest per capita ratio of residents with CPR training. There are two new fire fighters, both of whom are EMT’s. The toy and food drive went very well in December with over 485 pounds of food and 200 toys donated. There was more discussion on paying for the new equipment. Hedrick confirmed there will be a budget amendment coming soon to cover the changes in the budget.

Police Chief Kunkel noted the discussion about contracting with Metro Parks to patrol Point Defiance Park is on-going. Officer Vic Cellis was given the 2011 Officer of the Year award. One part-time officer is resigning. There was no civil service commission meeting last month. New equipment for the department is on the way. Hedrick confirmed that the department is ready for the predicted snow storm tomorrow.

Public Comment
JJ McCamment spoke for Point Ruston. They first heard about the town's proposed increase to their rent in the school on December 20th. The requirement for an immediate 87% rent increase is untenable. They cannot absorb that increase so quickly and with the amount of construction underway, they don’t have time to immediately vacate without impacting their work. They have proposed a gradual increase in rent over the course of 2012 to bring them to the new rate the town wants. If Ruston is going to market the building, it will look better to have an active tenant in the building. They have suggested ways to reduce utility costs such as closing off the bottom and/or top floors. Point Ruston is the town’s largest employer with over 30 people using the building, which the town loses if they are forced out.
    Beth Torbet provided the latest newsletter from the business district and pointed out the new logo. She noted the district is looking for ways to involve youth and reminded folks there are many businesses still open despite the empty storefronts on Pearl Street.
    I provided my comments on selling the school building (get the public involved, at least keep the exterior of the building) and encouraged the council to support their local businesses since they help bring revenue to the town.

1. Oath of Office: Hedrick was sworn in after being re-elected to his position.

2. Open Council Position Discussion: Applicants have until the close of business January 31st to submit their material. Hardin confirmed the council has 90 days to fill the vacancy, but the mayor encouraged quick action since they are struggling to get a quorum of members for council meetings. Interviews will be scheduled for the next council meeting.

3. Snodgrass Freeman Architects: David Freeman read his presentation to the council (here) about their proposal to do a feasibility study on the school building and outlined their recommendations on paving the parking lots, their proposed schedule (below), etc. He confirmed they are part of Al Olson’s development team and had been one of the bidders on the building last time it was offered for sale. Hedrick stated the council wanted a very public process and did not think the proposed 3 months till listing the building was realistic. He felt the town needs to decide what its future looks like before making a decision about designing a new town hall complex as proposed by Freeman. He did not think it was the right time to fund a new town hall with so many other needs that lack funding.

Hardin asked where they got their financial figures from (Al Olson and a local blog). He questioned the projected $100,000 increase in revenue in the proposal. Freeman said that number was based on no more losses and a tax increase once the property was in private ownership. Hardin stated he did not think the fast track proposed would work given the need for public input. Kristovich had no comments.

4. Ordinance 1347 – Right of Way Encroachment Permits (Second Reading): Hedrick said the town engineer was adamant that this ordinance not include fences or retaining walls because the annual permitting would become a nightmare. Hardin continued to be concerned about the requirement to permit walkways and driveways built after this became law. The issue was tabled until the next meeting when the engineer could bring his concerns.

5. Ordinance 1348 – Encroachment Master Use Permit (Second Reading): Tabled

6. Motion 499 – Master Fees: Tabled

7. Ordinance 1349 - Repeal RMC 1.14 Regarding Fees: Tabled

8. Ordinance 1342 – Title 19 Amendment to Appeal Procedures (First Reading): Town planner Rob White explained that the town attorney found that the town code was inconsistent with state law under Title 19. This ordinance corrects those inconsistencies. There were no comments from councilmembers.

9. Ordinance 1351 – Click Franchise Agreement (First Reading): Last November Click asked to install empty conduit as part of the Point Ruston LID construction, but did not plan on providing service at this time (or service to the rest of the town). A new agreement would be needed if they ever wanted to run line and provide service. Hardin was glad to see it and looked forward to discussion about service in the future. Hedrick asked about the approval process since the conduit is already installed. Under the agreement, the town is refunded for its costs such as attorney time. The site plan is available on the town web site (here).

10. Executive Session – Real Estate Disposition: The audience was ushered into the hall while the council deliberated in private for about 15 minutes about an unnamed real estate issue.

Claims and Payroll was approved 3-0.

Mayor’s Time
Hopkins reported details from the January staff meeting:
  • He had authorized the purchase of a snow plow attachment and trailer that could be used for sand to help with future snow events (but would not be here in time for tomorrow’s predicted snow).
  • He has directed town maintenance chief to look at ways to improve the current town hall, such as making it ADA compliant, new windows and doors to help with utility costs, remodeling the back area so it could be shared with the police.
  • He thanked Chief Kunkel for the new phones that had walkie talkie communication for all town staff.
  • The code enforcement officer has resigned so he is looking for a new one.
  • He has asked staff for their 2012 goals with a focus on the sewer project and slowing down on producing new ordinances (costly in staff and consultant time/costs).

Council Time
   Hedrick thanked the town for electing him to another term. He felt Dorothy Bailey would have been a great addition to the council and he was sorry she had to move. He asked the mayor if there had been an uptick in the sales tax coming in to the town after his efforts to ensure the Point Ruston sales were being properly routed to Ruston. Hopkins said they saw an increase from $4,000 to $8,000 in November (the latest data available) but it was not the $12,000 they were expecting. Hedrick promised to keep working on the issue with the Department of Revenue.
   Hardin also felt Bailey would have been a great councilmember. He asked what was new with the sewer project and expected they would be shutting down for the year since the weather had finally turned wet. He asked if temporary patches would be laid on the current open areas and wanted to be kept apprised of the negotiations with the contractor on the alley that the town wanted regraded.
   Kristovich did not have any comments.

The meeting adjourned at 9:46 pm.