Thursday, March 29, 2012

Get Your Country On!

Get ready, get set, PARTY! Old-fashioned family style that is...

The Ruston - Point Defiance Business District is working on fun-filled day for kids, car lovers and all those in between. Building on the popular Cadillac LaSalle car show held in town the last few years, the district is adding tons of events for the many new families in town and anyone else who wants to come visit our quaint little town.

The fun will be centered on the grassy boulevard along Winnifred Street from N. 51st to N. 54th. One day only, the party will feature not only 50 or more classic Cadillacs, but rag-tag fun with a county fair theme.

Here are the ideas being pursued so far (subject to change):

  • one day only - Saturday, August 11th from 11 am to 4 pm
  • classic Cadillac LaSalle car show
  • old fashioned kids races (3-legged, sack, egg/spoon, dig for coins in hay, more)

  • pet costume contest
  • baking contest with celebrity judges
  • cupcake walk for kids
  • Boy Scout pinewood derby race

  • bike safety rodeo
  • Tacoma Bike for an additional fun bike-related event

  • wagon rides
  • face painting
  • vendors (special focus on antique dealers)
  • traveling musicians
  • food vendors
Feel free to share your ideas here. Volunteers are needed, so contact district president Beth Torbet if you want to help. Just stop by Ruston Market at 51st and Winnifred anytime.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Council Meeting Notes: March 19, 2012

The meeting began about 7 pm with all officials present. After the flag salute, the agenda was approved after adding staff reports. Minutes from February 21st and March 5th meetings were approved. Councilmember Hunt noted that the minutes were lengthy. Past councils had directed that the minutes be short and abbreviated. The current council confirmed they wanted the more complete version to continue.

Staff Reports
Fire: Chief Torbet joked that their fire reduction plan must be working since there was only one call in February. By the end of March, all the fire safety inspections for local businesses would be complete. Department personnel had refinished the floor in the fire house on Winnifred Street. The department has one new firefighter who is starting training at the academy. The department is researching the offer of a free fire engine. It is much newer than the current backup engine.  There would need to be some changes made to fit it into the garage, probably by cutting off the back platform where firefighters used to ride by hanging on. For safety reasons, that practice has been discontinued.

Police: Mayor Hopkins started by thanking Chief Kunkel for helping with the wireless service in the community center. Kunkel said he was pleased that the department would be part of the Easter festivities again this year. The department is also working with Point Ruston on their April 21st opening ceremony. He outlined the calls for the month and said the department firing qualifications had been completed. Tacoma had allowed the use of their firing range, which saved some money.

Public Comment
Beth Torbet spoke as president of the business district. She asked for consideration of the banners the district is proposing for their core area along Pearl Street. Tacoma is providing the graphics and producing the banners for free as part of their inter-local agreement. Tacoma recommends at least 36” banners in order to be visible from a light pole, but Ruston will only allow 18”. Torbet was glad to hear the town may pursue new lighting on Pearl to replace the poles that are in disrepair. When her two minutes ran out, she asked to be able to present their case to the council about the new banners along with the district’s new logo and branding efforts. The mayor agreed to allow a presentation at the next meeting.

I outlined the district plans to add to the classic Cadillac car show this summer with family-style fair events like a baking contest, bike rodeo, kids races (3-legged, sack), pet costume contest and more.

1. Ordinance 1365 – Revise Regular Schedule for Town Council Meeting (2nd Reading): Councilmember Judd suggested the council also update their rules of procedure. The mayor said the town attorney is working on them. The measure passed 5-0, changing the meeting nights to Tuesday instead of Monday.

2. Ordinance 1366 – Sewer Rate Revision (1st Reading): Hunt wanted the categories listed in the ordinance changed to be consistent with Tacoma’s codes (since Ruston buys sewer services from Tacoma). Councilmember Hedrick wanted to know if Tacoma notified Ruston every time water service was turned on in town (this does not happen). This ordinance will require owners to pay for sewer in the future even when their water is turned off. In the past, sewer charges were suspended when there was no water, but owners did not always notify the town when water service was restored (so sewer charges could be reinstated). Hedrick wanted to require that Tacoma notify Ruston whenever water was supplied to a house in Ruston. The mayor will have the attorney look at that possibility.

Councilmember Hardin clarified the intent of the ordinance and that it would not be applied to unimproved lots. Hunt pointed out the ordinance lists 2009 rates, which will be going up again soon. Hedrick had more questions for the attorney which he will email. The mayor encouraged all the council to email their questions to her.

3. Ordinance 1363 – Sign Code Amendment (1st Reading) (staff report): This change is in response to an application from Point Ruston. It adds the sign code to the Point Ruston Master Development Plan. Hedrick questioned when the change would apply. Judd asked if anyone thought he should abstain from voting since his wife is on the planning commission, who recommended this change to the council. No one expressed concern. Hardin commended the planning commission for their work on the code amendment. He was concerned that Point Ruston may have rushed this through and wanted to confirm the commission had enough time to review the issue. He wanted to be sure the same courtesy of quick response would be given to any applicant in similar circumstances.

Claims and Payroll passed 5-0 with no discussion.

Mayor’s Time
Hopkins recently gave an update on the town to Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy and her executive team. He was happy to brag on the town and all the progress, especially on the technology front. McCarthy will visit soon to address the council. Hopkins and Hedrick will visit the state Revenue Department again. Pierce County will be an advocate with the state on the sales tax issue.

Hopkins met with the town electrical team, including the new electrician. They are looking at reducing the number of lights in the alley to save costs (keep it lit, but not daytime bright). The town cannot charge its ratepayers for the costs of those lights; it must be paid by the town. The team is also putting together a plan to underground all utilities in town. There is an opportunity to start by bringing power from Stack Hill across Baltimore Street before it is opened. The owners in the next section uphill on Baltimore have already paid for a bid to underground their area. He wanted direction from the council: if property owners are willing to pay to connect, the town could get bids to proceed. He will bring bids to the next meeting along with current electrical budget figures. That fund runs about $20,000 a month. He feels they could safely use about half of that for infrastructure improvements while keeping the standard 2 months of operating costs in reserve. Hunt agreed that undergrounding utilities made sense; the maintenance costs are lower since there is no wind damage and it added to the view and tax values. Hopkins said he is looking at the Commencement building as well since some of that is already underground.

Hopkins also noted there is money left in the budget from the new street lights in the north end of town, which he wants to use to purchase new lights and have them ready to install when there is an opportunity. Hedrick asked where else needed a focus - along Pearl Street is very visible and would help make the area attractive for developers. The mayor confirmed there is $279,000 in the capital improvement fund that he wants to use for new lights in this area. The new electrician noted many of those poles are in very bad shape. Hopkins hopes to use the small works roster and get it out to bid soon if the council is willing. He confirmed the Harbor Improvement Fund had been used for the sewer project.

Hopkins reported that the town attorney is using a lot of time to look up resolutions. He asked for a volunteer from the council to organize them. Rob White (town planner) said he has already organized them electronically, which he will share with the attorney. Finally, the mayor thanked Hardin for all his work and time getting the town systems up to speed with his computer expertize.

Council Time
Hedrick had no further comments.
Hunt had no further comments.
Hardin joked that his buddy Jake Fey was not invited to an event at Point Ruston (I think).
Kristovich had no comments.
Judd had no further comments.

The meeting adjourned at 7:59 pm.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Cliff Rescue - In Ruston?

The Ruston Fire Department got to use some new skills on Friday when they used ropes to rappel down a steep hillside (or cliff to some) to rescue a woman and her two beagles. 

When the woman's dogs disappeared over the edge of the hill at the end of  N. Orchard Street (near this picture), she climbed down to collect them herself. Once down there, she realized she could not safely get back up without risking falling much further down the very steep hill. So she called 911.

Once there, fire chief Don Torbet tied off and rappelled down. He helped get the dog owner into a harness so she could be pulled up. Firefighters made a makeshift harness for the dogs out of a bag and soon had all safe at the top of the cliff. All is a days work, although cliff rescues are not too common in Ruston.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Easter Egg Hunt

The annual tradition of an Easter egg hunt for the kids and coffee for the grown ups will continue this year. The hunt will be held in front of town hall (5117 N. Winnifred) at 9 am on the Saturday before Easter, April 7th.

Everyone gets to warm up with coffee and muffins afterwards at the Joyce Community Center (5219 N. Shirley). A bake sale will be featured to help raise money for the event during the coffee social.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ruston Liquor Store Will Stay Open

The “For Lease” sign out front doesn’t have any bearing on the future of Ruston’s liquor store at 5013 N. Pearl, according to owner Karen Ferguson. Ferguson plans on staying open for a good long time, even after the privatization of liquor sales this summer.

There are many unknowns about how the transition will play out. The Ruston Liquor Store is a private store, not a state-run operation. The store will have to buy its supply on the open market come June, but the rest of the operation remains much the same. The state-run stores are up for auction, but not so for the Ruston store.

Ruston has had a liquor store at this location for decades. Dean Carmichael ran the store until the 1990’s, when John Trueman bought the building and was approved by the state to run the liquor store. After some health issues, John gave up the liquor store to Ferguson after about 5 years, but he still owns the building.

Ferguson plans on continuing her hard work and hopes to even increase business once the state bows out. There are many unknowns even though the transition is only 3 months away. There is no clear distributor, no indication what the new prices will be, how much the new tax burden will be and many more unanswered questions. Ferguson predicts Ruston will see more tax at the local level from her business, but it will be a new system for her to learn.

The state will stay involved in licensing liquor sales and will set geographical boundaries called trade areas for where these businesses can locate. Delivery of wines by the state has already stopped and Ferguson has reapplied for the license to sell wine.

The court ruling this week means the transition outlined in last year’s initiative will move forward. The state issued a separate ruling last week that allows stores like Ferguson’s to sell her business. Prior to this ruling, she was only allowed to sell things like the shelving and non-liquor inventory without any compensation for the customers and on-going business operation. The change also means stores have standing with banks to secure financing ahead of the transition to help buy their current inventory and set up operation under a very different business model.

The Ruston Liquor Store averages gross sales just over $1 million annually. Ferguson has been working with local restaurants over the last few months, serving as a single point of contact for their liquor needs. Especially as the new system takes over, restaurants don’t want to deal with several different distributors for their differing liquor needs. Ferguson offers a one-stop service. She hopes to build on those relationships in June to help through the uncertainty of the transition.

The store will be able to advertise and offer items on sale under the new system. Before the state set the price, sales and items offered in the store. The last shipment from the state will arrive in mid-May. Ferguson encourages folks to stock up early for their summer festivities just in case prices spike. She’s open and ready for your business.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Point Ruston Multiplex Questioned

Popular South Sound blog Exit 133 highlighted recent questions by Tacoma Councilmember David Boe about the legality of placing a movie theater close to a shoreline. In this case, the Environmental Impact Statement allows for non-water related uses in buildings that are more than 150 feet away from the shoreline. You can read the full discussion here...

Council Meeting Notes: March 5, 2012

Below are the notes from the March 5th council meeting two weeks ago. There is another meeting tonight at 7 pm at the Ruston School building. The agenda looks pretty light for tonight with business items to change the council meetings to Tuesday permanently and the first reading on changes to the sign codes and a proposal to continue to charge for sewer even when a house is under renovation with no water service (full council packet available here).
March 5, 2012 Ruston Council Meeting:

The meeting began almost immediately after the study session about the future of the school building at 7:05 pm. All council members and the mayor were present. The agenda was changed to add a staff report from the town engineer on the sewer project. There were no minutes of the last meeting ready to approve yet.

Staff Reports
Jerry Morrisette presented more pictures of the sewer project. He said the contractor is almost done with the work along 51st Street and about 60% complete witih the project overall. He felt the contractor was doing reasonably well and did not anticipate a winter closure, which means the project should finish by September 2012. Morrisette is pushing to get the final asphalt work on 51st Street done soon and to get better grading on future temporary patching.

Public Comment
Ken Brown spoke for Kevin Moser who is out of town, asking again that the council save the school building. He suggested that other professionals may be willing to provide input on the future of the school beyond the one team that has presented so far. He also asked if there had been any progress on the proposal to pave the alley behind his house.

Fred Byzinker encouraged the council to look at the total picture with the school building. Money is only a part of the picture, there is the construction impact to the neighborhood if the building is torn down and a new structure built. He hoped the council considered all the input.

I commented about my concerns that the presentation by Mr. Olson’s team felt biased, with all the information pointing only towards selling the school building, especially since they have an offer on the table to purchase the building.

Bradley Huson felt it was a good study session, but there needed to be more. He encouraged the council to explore public-private partnerships where flex space for the town services could be built into any new building on the school site. That would give the town room to grow or shrink if they outsourced services, and any new building owner access to lease out space when the town was done with it. He promised to organize his suggestions in writing by the next study session. He was also concerned about the conditions of the sidewalks on Highland where the sewer construction is underway.

  1. Ordinance 1358 – Recreational Vehicle and Trailer Parking (2nd Reading): The town attorney had changed the window for parking before ticketing from 8 hours to 2 days (in any 7) based on the discussion at the last meeting. There would not be any need to change the zoning code. Councilmember Hunt confirmed that Police Chief Kunkel was ok with the changes. Councilmember Hardin stated he did not see the need for these changes. If it was only for aesthetics, that was not enough reason to impose these regulations. He was concerned that this would only move the problem on to private property. He felt a comprehensive look at the zoning code to close the loopholes was a better approach. Mayor Hopkins felt this would free up more parking, which would be a premium with 120 new residents soon.  Hardin stated again that this had to enforced consistently everywhere in town. Kunkel said the old ordinance was unenforceable. The police have always tried to get voluntary compliance, but it doesn’t always work. Councilmember Judd felt the 4 hour limit to park on the street was too tight. It was changed to 8 hours and the ordinance passed 4-1 with Hardin voting no.
  2. Ordinance 1359 – Impound (2nd Reading): Councilmember Hedrick asked if the language needed to reflect that the impound fees where earmarked for police training. After some discussion, it was decided to keep the impound fees in the general budget since it is supposed to be for reimbursement of actual town costs. Judd did not think it was fair for the owner of a stolen car to have to pay impound fees. The attorney pointed out that the town could not absorb those costs. After correcting a type-o, the ordinance passed 5-0.
  3. Ordinance 1360 – Adopting Model Traffic Code (2nd Reading): Judd did not think the correct state code was referenced in the ordinance. He was shown where it was correct and the measure passed 5-0.
  4. Ordinance 1361 – Parking of Unlicensed Vehicles (2nd Reading): Passed 5-0 with no discussion.
  5. Ordinance 1365 – Revise Regular Schedule for Town Council Meeting (1st Reading): There is conflict with some staff who cannot attend the Monday meetings. Hedrick pointed out that changing also meant no more changes due to Monday holidays. After discussion about what days current officials are available, it was decided the meeting would be changed to Tuesdays.
Claims and Payroll: Passed 5-0

Mayor’s Time
Hopkins discussed a printout from BIAS (the town accounting contractors) with the draft of the first quarter’s budget. He has directed some changes and will come back with a better report. He announced that the building permits had just been issued on the Commencement building.

Council Time
Hedrick made a comment about the Huskies winning the PAC 10.

Hunt asked the town attorney to confirm what would happen if the town sold the school building. She thought they would be required to do a Request For Proposals (RFP) and other bidders would be then be allowed. The town attorney did not think RFP’s would be required, but the town could take that step if they wanted. Hunt said the council wants to hear from everyone about the school building.

Hardin had no comments.

Kristovich had no comments.

Judd had no comments.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Celebrations Saturday

UPDATE: 3:30 pm: The party tomorrow at Secondhand Hound is canceled and will be rescheduled. The shop will still be open for business, just no extra treats (just the normal goodies).
Secondhand Hound will be celebrating their second anniversary of business in Ruston on Saturday. They promise lots of treats for humans and dogs from 11 am to 6 pm at 5609 N. 51st Street.

After you celebrate with one local shop, you can head to the zoo to celebrate Saint Paddy's Day with more furry neighbors. Point Defiance Zoo promises lots of fun all day long!

Correction: Freeman Council Presentation

David Freeman of SFA Inc. has pointed out that his most recent presentation to the council was not a repeat of his previous proposal for his firm to perform a feasibility study for the town's future growth. His presentation at the last study session on March 5, 2012 was a detailed review of the town's comprehensive plan. He had provided a copy of what he presented to the council below.

Ruston Way Opening Delayed Again

A headline article in today's News Tribune about progress at Point Ruston (link here) includes notice from owner Mike Cohen that Ruston Way will not open until late May. Although the grand opening ceremony will proceed on April 21st with a 5-K run, the public will not be able to drive the road for at least another month.

The first leg of the $5  million waterfront walkway is set to open by June. Work continues on the Copperline apartments, which should be completed by September. A new condo building is scheduled to start construction on the waterside of the apartment building once enough new owners sign on. Apartments will rent from $900 to $2,000 monthly and condo prices range from a half million to $1.7 million.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Welcome Wren & Willow

Not all the construction around here is on big buildings, although the activity at Point Ruston and the Commencement is music to many local ears. Just across Pearl Street, a labor of love is transforming the former Oak Brother’s Antique building into a new home for Wren & Willow, Inc. Owner Laureen Skrivan started the company as an interior designer, but soon expanded to general contracting with the help of partner Cliff Kendall. She offers a unique perspective as a woman-owned business in a male dominated field. She not only carries a keen eye for design and space, but is passionate about staying true to the history of a building.

Laureen has put that passion to full use as she builds her own office. The space will be part gallery, part office, part meeting space, part showroom and all around beautiful. “When we are hired, our job is to tell our clients story. This building is our chance to tell our own story.” That story will transport visitors back to 1917, the year the building was first constructed. Laureen’s attention to detail is evident in her research into the building history and authentic design for everything from lighting to flooring.

The new office uses the full building, requiring the removal of a false wall that once cut the building in half. The new layout is shown below, with a wide entrance that will feature displays not only of Wren & Willow’s work, but a large fireplace and other pieces that take advantage of the big windows to attract foot traffic through the door. Laureen said her goal to make the office an inviting place to stop and chat. She hopes to eventually offer the space for small-scale community meetings, envisioning something like local history fireside chats and more.

Wren & Willow began in a small office in the Proctor district. They looked for bigger space in that area casually for a couple of years, but when the financing fell through on an offer near their old office Laureen decided to follow up on the “For Sale” sign in the Oak Brothers window. She said she was eating breakfast at Ruston Inn shortly after the Proctor deal collapsed, staring out the window across Pearl Street when the sale sign jumped out at her. The owner agreed to carry the contract and the new story for Wren & Willow is unfolding as time and finances permit.

The company is busy, but there is always room for more clients Laureen says. Wren & Willow focus on remodels, additions and tenant improvements, along with interior design. They hope to complete the front of the new office by summer with an awning and sign, and move into the building by late fall. They are excited to part of the Ruston-area and hope to grow their business as the community grows. Stop by to read the history page (copied below), watch progress and welcome our new neighbor.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

School Building Study Session: March 5, 2012

The study session began at 6:05 pm. The mayor announced that Al Olson and his team would present their findings for 30 minutes (following the agenda their team had provided for the meeting), and then the public would be allowed to comment. Councilmember Hunt pointed out that the public is usually not allowed to speak at study sessions. They should only be allowed to comment after the council had asked their questions if there was time. Councilmember Hardin stated there would be at least one more study session where the public would be allowed to give input.

Mr. Olson then elaborated again on why he felt the town should sell the school building (this was his third presentation on the issue). He said the mayor had asked him to determine the highest and best use for the building, so he gathered the best of the best for the analysis. The team has not charged any money for their work (although Mr. Olson let them know the property may be for sale). He noted he did not have a formal relationship with team members, although he had worked with each of them in the past.

Olson then outlined in detail the qualifications of the team. He noted there is an emotional connection to the building for town residents, but the team operated without emotion – on the facts only. They first evaluated the costs to renovate the building.

Olson was struggling to read his notes without his glasses at this point, so Councilmember Hunt (his domestic partner) loaned her glasses to him. Olson then proceeded with his speech, noting the cost to fully renovate exceeded the current value of the school and would be more expensive than new construction. Keeping the school also incurs additional repair and maintenance costs. The town would have to meet current energy efficiency codes. Managing a rental property would be a hassle. If the public safety services are located in the building, the construction must be at 150% of safety codes. The building must meet seismic codes.

Olson said the team explored 4 or 5 alternatives and stressed again that not paving the parking lots right now was another way to save money (since a developer would likely take them out). He felt the town would benefit from selling now by generating cash, eliminating liabilities and the on-going maintenance costs.  Selling now provides money to the town to focus on future plans.

Dan Booth of HDL Engineering then discussed their findings about the structural integrity of the building. They were hired by Asarco in 1996 or so when Asarco did a major upgrade on the building. He confirmed that no seismic upgrades had been done at that time. Instead, the $690,000 remodel had focused on installing features that would provide basic life-safety, such as steel beams around the exterior walls to hold them in place during an earthquake. This would allow people to escape the building, but was not designed to preserve the walls intact.

Booth spent a lot of time outlining problems with the building, such as the unreinforced masonry of the exterior walls, which are load bearing. He noted the walls are not tied together well. He reiterated that any change of use of the building (such as using it for public safety offices) would mean it had to be brought up to current code.

Hunt asked for a guess on the cost for a seismic upgrade ($50 per square foot – about $1 million without any refinishing work). Booth also stated the town should save the money from the parking lot repairs. Hardin asked if Booth noted any damage from previous earthquakes that had occurred during the life of the building. Booth had not, but felt any damage could have been repaired and not noticeable when he did his inspection.

Jim Newman, project manager for Rushforth Construction, then outlined the projects he had worked on in the past. He reiterated the arguments against saving the school that Olson and Booth had presented. He noted that with an old building like the school, the budget needed to be 20-25% higher for the unknowns that might be discovered. He felt the best use of the property was to demolish the building and start new. Hunt estimated it would be a 24 month process to rebuild, but Newman thought it would be more like 10 months. Newman estimated the cost to renovate with full seismic upgrades at about $135 per square foot, whereas new construction is about $110 per square foot.

Dave Freeman from SFA Architects then presented a review he had performed of the town's comprehensive plan and how a feasibility study such as they are proposing would help the town plan for its future. 

Councilmember Hunt disclosed that she is domestic partners with Al Olson. She stated she had not been allowed to ask questions or discuss this proposal with the team when they had met in her house. She happened to see one of their worksheets during one of the meetings and confirmed that their first goal had been to keep the building if possible. She felt the town could require that any new building to preserve some of the iconic pieces of the building and they could ask the developer to design the new building with some of the same feel.

Councilmember Judd asked if any grants were available. No one knew of any. Mayor Hopkins asked the councilmembers to email any further questions to the town clerk and they would be passed to the team. He stated this decision would be a long process that included a series of meetings. He thought there might be some funding available through the USDA (the source of the loan for the sewer project). The meeting adjourned at 6:59 pm. There was not any time for public comment.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Commencement Building Details (+ Photos)

Tom Elmer, managing director and CFO for new owners Onward Investors called yesterday to chat in depth about their plans for the Commencement building. He graciously provided these photos of a model unit as well. Mr. Elmer confirmed the occupancy goal  of mid-June. They will focus on finishing the top two floors first, then work their way down, finishing a floor every two or three weeks after that.

The other focus will be to finish the model unit (seen here) on the second floor along with a common area that will feature an exercise room, lounge, large patio and other amenities. The building will house an on-site sales office in the lobby, scheduled to open by April.

Mr. Elmer noted that apartment dwellers only need a couple of months lead time, unlike condo buyers who typically take a year or more to shop and finalize their decision. Thus the marketing of the building will begin in earnest in April (two months before the first new resident can move in).

The new owners will carry forward the same vision for the project, using materials left by the previous owners where they can. They plan on keeping the same color scheme and layout (for instance each apartment will still have its own laundry room), as well as keeping the Commencement name for the project.Most of the remaining work is inside, although there are some roof parapets to complete and exterior siding repairs. All the units are painted with the electrical stubbed in and most of the hardwood floors and tile work is done. The finish work varies by unit, depending on where the unit was in the sales process when the most recent bankruptcy hit.

The two current building occupants will remain as tenants. For now, the full building will be apartments. If market conditions change, the owners may consider "stacking" condos, similar to what Point Ruston is doing with their current building under construction. Under this scenario, the top floors would be converted to condos while the rest of building remained rentals. Mr. Elmer did not think that was likely, given the additional requirements that go along with condos. Their vision for this project remains high-end apartments.

Mr. Elmer confirmed that they have agreed to repave both parking lots and the alley around the school building. This was in exchange for staging material on the south lot and to meet some of the obligations of the previous owners. He was not sure of the timing for that work, but said discussions are underway with the town.

Mr. Elmer stated very clearly that "they are for real - with real money." They have the project capitalized and are excited to move forward. They are committed to being good neighbors. He hopes to overcome any lingering neighborhood resentments over time by staying connected and committed to the community.He points out that the building manager and maintenance folks will live close by and be neighbors. The marketing team will be involved with the local business district. For now, the project brings construction jobs and will eventually add new residents to shop our stores and build our tax base.

Noise and activity will once again be the norm for the neighborhood as construction gears up. With the sewer work and Point Ruston build-out underway, Ruston is 'the happening place' to be!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Finally - Commencement Building Underway Again

Ruston mayor Bruce Hopkins announced at the council meeting Monday that building permits had just been issued for the Commencement building as the third set of owners take over the project. The next morning, trucks were busy delivering equipment and haven't slowed down since.

The owners have hired SUHRCO Residential Properties of Bellevue to market the new apartment units. Regional property manager Kathlyn Muller confirmed that Saco will be the general contractor. They hope to have their first unit completed by mid-June.

More details will follow as the project gears up. You can read the press release and background on the new owners and their plans here.... 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Winter's Whispered Goodbye

Unlike our last snow, whose strong grip ground us to a standstill and destroyed so much despite its beauty, this morning’s unexpected greeting of white seemed fragile and delicate. It’s almost as if winter offered a parting gift by painting our world clean and white one more time.  
It’s been a long and challenging season for many of us.  As winter bids us a beautiful farewell, I hope for warmer days and vibrant life for Ruston and all her citizens…


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Get Yours Today!

Did you know that anyone can join our local Ruston-Point Defiance Business District? Home based businesses, retail stores, or residents within the district - all are welcome to help shape the vision and improve the health of our local economy. Meetings are the first Thursday of each month at Don's Ruston Market (corner of N. 51st and Winnifred) at 6:15 pm.

Please add your support, vision and creativity! We are a stronger community when all parts of the neighborhood thrive, including our small local businesses. Plus you get this great window cling for your car or store front!

Annual Memberships:
Store Front:       $50
Home-based:      $30
Resident:           $25 (non-voting)

Sign up at Don's Market or Jungle Fever Nursery at 51st and Pearl. And don't forget to check out the new district web page at!

Monday, March 5, 2012

New Day For Council Meetings?

One of the issues the Ruston council will consider at tonight's meeting is a proposal from the mayor to change the day of the week the council meets from Monday to Wednesday or Thursday. Since holidays are often observed on Mondays (meaning the meeting is rescheduled for Tuesday that week), it causes confusion at times.The council will also consider the ordinances proposed by the police department at the last meeting. The full packet of information is available here...

The regular meeting starts at 7 pm, but a study session begins at 6 pm - both at the community center at 5219 N. Shirley St. The study session will focus on the school building.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Council Meeting Notes: Feb. 21, 2012

The meeting began just a few minutes after 7 pm. Councilmember Hedrick arrived late. The agenda was approved as presented 3-0. The minutes were approved with a change requested by Councilmember Hunt that the discussion about the new councilmember planned for this meeting not be referred to as “would select” but “would interview”. Councilmember Hardin asked that the minutes go back to using the last name of the person rather than using “he” or “she” to avoid any confusion.

Staff Reports
Fire: Among other things, Chief Torbet said there were 5 medical aid calls last month and the CPR training will continue. He invited all the council members to get CPR certified.

Police: Chief Kunkel thanked Kevin Moser for installing security cameras in their office. He said the agreement with Metro Parks had been approved and they will start limited patrols March 1st in Point Defiance Park. He also listed general stats for the department and other details.

Public Comment
Loren Cohen of Point Ruston gave an update on the grand opening event planned for Ruston Way on April 21st.

Dick Shores protested Ordinance 1358 regarding further restrictions on parking recreational vehicles on Ruston streets.

Kevin Moser offered more suggestions on how to make the school a viable building so the town could maintain ownership.

Edie Talllman agreed with Mr. Moser with a few added questions.

Beth Torbet gave an update on the business district and talked about how glad she will be when Ruston Way opens up because of the detrimental impact the closure has had on their business.

  1. Ordinance 1345 – Zoning Violation Procedures (2nd Reading): The ordinance was passed 3-0 with some minor edits.
  2. Ordinance 1354 – Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Moratorium (1st Reading): The town attorney encouraged the council not adopt this ordinance because the legislature had clarified state law to confirm dispensaries would stay illegal, so no action was needed at the local level.
  3. Ordinance 1355 – Collective Gardens Interim Zoning Standards (1st Reading): This is a way to control growing medical marijuana near sensitive populations like schools and daycares. It was decided not to require a permit since that implied permission under recent court rulings.
  4. Ordinance 1358 – Recreational Vehicle and Trailer Parking (1st Reading): Kunkel explained this ordinance had been presented by the police department to address some specific problem areas where they have difficulty enforcing the current code. There was lengthy discussion with Hunt noting this was similar to covenants and restrictions used in gated communities, which she felt were needed in Ruston. Hardin was concerned that any ordinance be uniformly applied at all times, not just when there was problem or complaint.  
  5. Ordinance 1359 – Impound (1st Reading): Kunkel stated this brought Ruston code in line with state law. Hunt and Hardin had questions that were addressed by the chief.
  6. Ordinance 1360 – Adopting Model Traffic Control (1st Reading): The last time Ruston adopted traffic codes was 1977. This ‘cleans up’ the books and brings the town up to date.
  7. Ordinance 1361 – Parking of Unlicensed Vehicles (1st Reading): This brings Ruston’s fees current with the state.
  8. Council Member – Discussion/Appointment: The mayor noted that no council members had submitted any questions for the single applicant for the vacant council seat, so he assumed they were all satisfied with the application as submitted (which the town refused to make public). Councilmember Hedrick moved to appoint Bruce Judd as councilmember until the next regular election. Hunt seconded and the motion passed 4-0. Judd was sworn in and took his seat.
  9. School Building – Discussion/Al Olson: Mr. Olson said the mayor had requested that he come to give a brief report on his team’s finding about the future of the school building. He outlined the qualifications of his team and then reiterated his team’s views that the building should be sold and the money be used to hire his team for strategic planning to handle the town’s projected growth as well as improvements to the current town hall.  He noted his team did their research and prepared their report without any payment or contract and it resulted with a valid purchase offer from the team. After about 10 minutes, the mayor suggested the discussion be moved to a study session so they could have more time. It was agreed to meet at 6 pm before the next meeting on March 5th so Mr. Olson could continue his presentation. Hedrick promised more study sessions at a later date to take public comment (which is not allowed at a normal study session).
  10. Budget Discussion – Salary Review: Ruston employees have voted to de-certify their union. The mayor said how glad he was that the town does not have to go thru collective bargaining. The mayor requested a 3% salary increase for 2012. Hedrick confirmed a budget amendment would be presented for approval.
Claims and Payroll: approved 5-0

Mayor’s Time
Hopkins thanked Hedrick for agreeing to give the speech for the town at the Ruston Way ribbon cutting. He welcomed Judd to the council. He encouraged the rest of the council to take the tour of Point Ruston. He is working on the plans for the landscaping in the new roundabout located in Ruston at the bottom of N. 51st, including getting pricing for his ideas. He has the town planner working on securing a separate zip code for Ruston to ensure all sales tax comes to the town that is due. He will try to keep the meetings to one hour to limit consultant costs (because they attend the meetings). He expressed his appreciation about hearing from the public about the school building.

Council Time
Hedrick welcomed Judd and noted the willow tree damaged in the ice storm at Winnifred and Pearl had finally been fully removed. He also noted his new baby girl.

Hunt welcomed Judd and asked the council pull out the council rules and start following them again. She said she had nothing to do with her partner Al Olson and his bid for the school building. She wasn’t sure she even agreed with him.

Hardin congratulated Hedrick on his new daughter and welcomed Judd to the council. He welcomed input from the public on the school. He will check with a friend who works for Tacoma about getting a used garbage truck.

Kristovich welcomed Judd and Hedrick.

Judd had no comment.

The meeting adjourned at 8:37 pm.

In The News

The Tacoma Weekly has a great summary article on the progress at Point Ruston and the hope to open the waterfront walk by this summer. You can read the article here....

Friday, March 2, 2012

Ruston By Another Name

Most of the time, the Ruston news alerts don't mention anything about our hometown here in Washington. They usually refer to sports in Ruston, Louisiana or parts for the Ruston train engine. Occasionally they reference someone with the name Ruston.

Today's list included this article about a letter written by Major Ruston to the father of a young army captain in World War I. The letter outlined how Captain Salomons died a hero after refusing to leave his sinking ship until all his men had made it to safety. The home parish in England had 128 men die in this tragic collision between two ships. You can read the full story here...