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.
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
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.
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.