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.
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.
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.
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.
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.