Saturday, June 30, 2012

First High-Rise Rescue For Ruston Fire

All's well that ends well... Ruston Fire Department performed their first high-rise rescue today at the Commencement building. As any building under construction, glitches come up and are fixed. Today's glitch was a stuck elevator on the 5th floor, with a person inside. Ruston Police were first on scene with the fire department close behind. Fire personnel had to improvise tools to get the doors open and soon had the trapped man out and on his way. The elevator repairman arrived shortly thereafter, and one can expect the elevators will run well from now on.

The Ruston Fire Department trains for many different kinds of emergencies, some of which are thankfully never needed. The department has been preparing for potential emergencies with a new, tall building in town. The department's new skills and training were put to good use today. And now the department knows what tools to order to have on hand just in case this ever happens again, rather than rely on the resourcefulness of our fire fighters! As someone said at the scene today, neighbors helping neighbors... such is life in Ruston on a busy weekend.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Many Roads In Ruston Still Closed

UPDATE: Saturday, June 28th, 2 pm:

Mayor Hopkins provided this explanation for the continued closure of the Baltimore Street connection: Baltimore Street is closed at 49th Street (local access only) because of the sewer project. Pt Ruston removed the fencing at the north end of Baltimore Street that allowed traffic to flow onto a closed roadway. This was a safety issue and that is why the town put the road blocks up.

Despite the announcement in the paper yesterday and the construction crews working overtime to complete the work today, the Baltimore Street connection remains closed tonight. Point Ruston confirmed they opened the road shortly after 4 pm when they had completed all the required work on the road, sidewalk and fencing. Town officials arrived shortly thereafter to shut down the road again. I have asked Ruston Mayor Bruce Hopkins to outline the reasons for the closure and will post his response as soon as he provides one.

Given the invasion of cars in Ruston this weekend due to the Taste of Tacoma at our doorstep, traffic flow is especially critical. This is compounded by the fact that N. Winnifred is completely shut down as of yesterday for repaving related to the sewer replacement project.

Despite these concerns, it was a huge step forward today to have the connection to Ruston Way finally opened and traffic flowing through town once again. Let the rebuilding continue!

Council Meeting Notes: June 19, 2012

The meeting began at 7:03 pm with Councilmember Hedrick excused. The agenda was approved as presented.

Staff Reports
Police: Chief Kunkel reminded everyone that the Taste of Tacoma was only a week away. He noted the anti-gang task force is setting up a command center at the event this year. They are planning for the worst but hoping for the best.

The department was able to surplus the old vehicles for $1,000 each in service credits. The chief’s conference went well. The department is going through use of force training. Councilmember Hunt was pleased with the service credit. Kunkel asked the council to waive all requirements for the kids 4th of July parade – which they did immediately with a 4-0 vote.

Fire: Chief Torbet said there were 2 medical aid calls last month. The department continues with their on-going weekly training.

Public Comment
I asked for the date that the notice was published about the change to a code city. There was no response from any of the town officials.

  1. Ordinance 1353 – PSE Franchise (2nd Reading): Passed 4-0 with no discussion.
  2. Ordinance 1377 – Amendment of RMC 1.04.012 (2nd Reading): Passed 4-0 with no discussion - changes the process for how building permits are reported to the county.
  3. Ordinance 1378 – Amend Chapter 5.10 of Ruston Municipal Code (1st Reading): This measure removes the rental requirements for the town’s facilities from the code and puts it into a resolution format. That way changes can be made without having to do a second reading. Councilmember Judd wanted to give the mayor authority to waive the insurance requirements along with all the other rental fees and other requirements. That piece will be addressed with the upcoming resolution. Councilmember Hardin confirmed there is one event scheduled soon that requires action on this issue tonight (Summer, Wine & Chairs). The council voted to waive the requirement for a second reading and passed the ordinance 4-0.
  4. Resolution 513 – Adopt Guidelines For Use of Town Facilities: The resolution was amended to allow the mayor to also waive the insurance requirements if he chooses. Hardin asked if that also applied to the insurance and other special requirements if alcohol is served. It was decided those requirements for serving alcohol could not be waived. Hardin said he would vote in favor of the measure but wanted the town attorney to fully vet the liability issues for them. Passed 4-0.
  5. Resolution 511 – Appointing Planning Commissioner: Mike Wagner was appointed to a 6 year term, replacing Collette Judd. The mayor introduced Mr. Wagner, who was at the meeting. He is a 14-year veteran of the Seattle Fire Department. Wagner stated he wanted to get involved and contribute. This seemed like good way to do that. The resolution passed 4-0.
  6. Resolution 512 – City of Camas Garbage Truck: Hunt wanted to know how this purchase would be handled in the budget. Mayor Hopkins said a budget amendment for this and other issues would be presented soon. He reminded the council that this means garbage collection will only need one person. There will still be an additional $45,000 purchase coming for the cans. The purchases will be funded from the surplus property fund and repaid over a 3 year period. No rate increase is needed. He confirmed that Camas will hold the bid for them and they can purchase the truck and cans in the next 3 to 4 weeks. His goal is to get everyone trained and the new truck running by September 1st. He plans on using the second garbage collector for other duties. Hardin confirmed the funds are strong enough to absorb the loans/expenditures and that the loan did not need to be approved before authorizing the purchase. Hunt was glad to hear no rate increase was needed since sewer rates had to be raised soon. The resolution passed 4-0.

Claims and Payroll passed 4-0 with no discussion.

Mayor’s Time
Hopkins announced that paving for the sewer project should start June 26th, focused on the streets first and then the alleys. The contractor does not plan on paving the Friday of the Taste. The savings from not doing the temporary patches will be used to pave more area on the streets.

Point Ruston expects to have the street lights installed and energized by the end of June. Hopkins confirmed with the council that when the town engineer signs off on the final punch list the town will allow the road to reopen without waiting for formal approval from the council. Hunt was ok with this as long as Point Ruston did not ask for additional concessions like the right of way they want donated. The mayor will have the attorney look at that issue. He stood by his decision to keep the road closed until the lights were functioning; he felt it was a public safety issue. Hardin wanted to know what was on the punch list and if there was money in reserve for warrante issues. The mayor acknowledged that the wording on bonding and warrante still needed to be worked out. Hardin encouraged the town to release as much information as possible so that no one would “post things” holding the town responsible for keeping the road closed longer than necessary.

The mayor stated the budget was on track for the year. The clerk-treasurer is doing a great job spreading out costs over all the funds. He reminded the council that the AWC conference was this coming week and the town would lose a grant if no one attended. No one volunteered. There is a new USDA loan for $7 million available at a lower interest rate than what the town is getting on their sewer loan. The mayor joked about getting that loan to repay the current loan to get the lower interest rate. The town will quickly have to figure out how to fund the repayment of this loan.

Council Time
Hunt thanked the mayor for doing such a fine job and encouraged him to run for president so he could fix the budget.

Hardin said he was excited and overwhelmed with the amount of work the mayor, his wife and the clerk do for the town.

Kristovich asked for clarification on the extra paving planned with the sewer project. It was noted that all of 49th will be paved, half by Tacoma Water since they are replacing the water line in that area while the road was torn up.

Judd had no comment.

The meeting adjourned at 7:49 pm.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ruston Way Opens In The Morning!

The News Tribune is announcing that Ruston Way will finally open at 8 am tomorrow morning, Friday June 29th. The Baltimore Street connection will open in the afternoon. You can read the details here... Finally and HURRRAAAAAAY!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Very Competitive Gas Prices - In Ruston?!

Just in time for the Taste of Tacoma,the new owners of the Chevron station in Ruston are finally pumping gas - at $3.49 a gallon (the lowest price in town for Chevron brand according to the owners). That rate is equal to the two stations up the hill at 46th and much lower than the owner paid when he filled the tanks a few weeks ago. After dealing with glitches in the card readers and other problems, the gas is finally flowing.

The newly remodeled interior store features over 60 varieties of beer and as many types of wine, plus all the munchies, milk, bread, cigarettes and other necessities. The store is open 5am to midnight daily for now, but the hope is to expand to 24 hours a day once Ruston Way opens.

The Ruston operation is managed by Garry Gill and his brother AJ. The duo have 12 years of experience in the gas station business. They purchased the station about a year ago. After converting the service garage to grocery space, they opened their doors with a focus on low prices and high customer service.

Garry feels lucky to have found Ruston. He says folks are friendly and appreciate having the station in town. Garry welcomes input from customers and invites everyone to stop in, take a look and buy local. He can be reached at Stop in and say hi to your new neighbor!

Fitness Walk In Ruston Today

It's always easier to meet your fitness goals with friends to encourage you along the way. So join your neighbors, bring the kids and pets and let's get walking. The Ruston-Point Defiance Business District, lead by Ladies Workout Express, is taking a power walk around the area this morning. Every 2nd and 4th Wednesdays thru September, everyone is encouraged to gather at the Point Defiance Cafe at 5037 N. Pearl at 10:30 am. The walk lasts about an hour with some extras thrown in to make it worthy of the term "exercise", but all fitness levels will be able to handle the fun. Participants earn a special treat from local businesses to boot. And we finally have sunshine for the walk - so join the group today!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Turning The Corner

This may be the week things finally start to feel different around here. We start to put things back together, paving-wise at least.
  • The mayor announced at the last council meeting that the street re-paving for the sewer project is scheduled to start tomorrow, June 26th. With the savings achieved by not doing any temporary patching, the repair paving will cover more street. The plan is pave from the center line to the curb rather than just cover the trench. The streets will be re-paved first, then the alleys.
  • Ruston Way may be opened by Friday. The council approved the concept of allowing the road to open after the town engineer certifies the work is complete. The actual process of taking ownership of the road will take several more weeks, but the council agreed with the mayor to expedite the road opening once the "punch list" of final work items are done and approved. The mayor and Point Ruston say things should be done by the end of June.
  • Parking around the Ruston School will be challenging for a couple of months. Mayor Hopkins confirmed that the paving on the north lot should be completed by July 9th. Once that lot is done, work then begins on the south lot, lasting until sometime in August. The retaining wall and fence will be removed around the south lot as part of that project. The alley behind the school is scheduled for paving from August 9th to September 10th.
Here's to new roads, less dust and turning the corner without hitting another "road closed" sign!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Council Meeting Notes: June 5, 2012

This meeting included the vote to change to a code city, so I've given more detail than usual. I am still researching the code city change. There are not many sources of information on the issue, so if you have input please let me know. Thanks, Karen

Mayor Hopkins called the meeting to order at 7:01 pm. Councilmembers Hunt and Judd were excused. The agenda was approved as presented and minutes approved with no changes.

Staff reports
Town Engineer: Jerry Morrisette was out due to medical issues so Dan Oser from their office provided the sewer project update. As of the April 30th billing the project was 72% complete. They are negotiating the extent of the contractor responsibility for damage caused by project. They hope to see the streets getting paved within 2 weeks, which brought laughter since the 2-week time has been offered so many times before. The sinkholes in the new paving will be repaired at end of project. 7 houses so far have been found releasing too much water into sanitary sewer, probably from storm water infiltrating the line. Morrisette Engineers presented the town with 4 options from do nothing to options that require the homeowner to make repairs. The stormwater line on Highland needs to be extend so the homes in that area with problems can connection at cost to the town of $73,000. As it stands now, the owner would have to pump their storm water up to the alley without this extension. The town could allow the increased flows to continue, or charge the owner each month until they fix the problem. Many of these homes are releasing 10-20 times a normal flow rate.

Councilmember Hedrick asked about the homeowners who had no idea they had an underground spring was going into sanitary system, he was not sure it was fair to charge them. The mayor pointed out that although Tacoma does not currently meter rates into their sewer system, they will eventually. At that point all the tax payers will pay for the unneeded flow. Hopkins also noted a repair of $30,000 was needed to the stormwater system under the repaving in the alley between Highland/Winnifred. The stormwater reserve fund has $200,000 and could absorb the $103,000 cost for both repairs (alley and Highland Street). Councilmember Hardin went on record as wanting to charge the monthly fee to the homes releasing extra flow. It would be a way to document that the owner knows it needs to be addressed. He also wanted the Highland Street stormwater system extended while street is unpaved. He confirmed with the engineer that bid prices were reasonable. Hardin asked how the reserve fund would be replenished. The mayor noted there will still be $120,000 in the fund and the monthly charge of $5 for each customer on the current bills provides $24,000 per year, taking 5 years to replenish these two projects. Hedrick agreed to the repairs. The mayor felt that, despite the problems, the town was better off for not doing the temporary paving on the trenches through town. That savings could be used to repair existing roadways that are failing.

Public comment
Fred Byzinker felt that traffic was going to fast in town. He reminded everyone that the speed limit is 25 mph everywhere expect for Commercial Street, which is 20 mph. He suggest town leaders set an example and go slower. He walks often and has come close to being run down by council members.

Michael Johnson said he was on council in mid-90’s when the sewer system was videoed and it was in bad shape then. The current project has taken too long, and too long to repave. He has rocks all over his yard now without even cold mix on the trench to get thru the winter. He is a construction supervisor and knows the standards and felt the contractor was leaving concrete work areas closed too long as well. He noted that the required silt socks didn’t go in storm drains until 2 months ago, well after the project has started.

William Walker stated he had heard that water supply for town used to come from the area on Highland. He was sure two of the three owners of the homes with increased flow were aware of problem. He said one of the owners built their house after filling in a swamp.

Ordinance 1377 – Amendment of RMC 1.04.012 (1st Reading): This was a housekeeping measure to correct the current onerous process the town uses to transmit building permits to the assessor. This simplifies the process to match state code. The mayor noted the town is also working on an electronic notification process. Hedrick reminded the council that the current process was enacted after finding that many parcels were not on tax rolls or improvements (and the increased value to tax) had not been reported. The problem now cleaned up and he was ok with making changes.

Resolution 509 – Intent to Reclassify to Code City (outline - memo - powerpoint): The mayor mentioned the article in the paper the day of the meeting and clarified that this proposal was not the same as was presented to voters in 2008. The town attorney explained that the issue was discussed last year at several meetings, a special workshop was held April 21 and the measure passed by the council on June 6, 2011, but then the notice was not published as required. Rather than try to fix mistake, the attorney suggested doing it all again. This is reclassification, not reorganization as was attempted in 08. The town is governed by RCW 35 and has less power than 1st class cities, such as no power of citizen referendum. There was a movement in the 1960’s to allow all cities to have same power. This change would allow Ruston to do everything that other classes of cities can do. It creates easier standards for appointments to office and fewer required positions. Understanding the governing statues is easier since they are all in one place in state law under in 35A. There are easier land use planning procedures and protection for zoning irregularities that might cause the zoning code to be overturned. The town can hire a hearing examiner rather than use the planning commission for quasi-judicial issues. Reorganization changes council/mayor format, but this proposed reclassification means the town can keep the same format they have today.

The attorney then outlined the reorganization format options and noted that a new election of the council would be required if the town chose to reorganize. If they keep same format no election is needed. The mayor can veto in code city. There are four ways to make this change; 1) citizens can petition to the council to reclassify via a council vote, or 2) petition the council to set an election on the issue, or 3) the council can initiate the process by direct resolution or 4) pass a resolution to take the issue to an election. It is faster and there is no cost using this resolution method. After passing the resolution, the town would publish the notice within 10 days, then wait 91 days to see if citizens file a referendum requiring a vote. If none is filed, the council must pass the ordinance to reclassify – they cannot change course and not reclassify.  The referendum requires signatures from 10% of the voters from the last municipal general election and the issue would be placed on next regular election. If the reclassification passes at the election, the council must adopt to reclassify. The way the council is choosing via resolution only is cheaper, faster, there is no election required for the current office holders and it the easiest way to administer the change.

Hedrick felt it was ironic that come again because the notice was not published it. He asked the attorney how he could be compelled to vote a certian way. The attorney pointed out that state law requires the council follow through once they start down this path. Hedrick confirmed it is somewhat easier to annex to other city as a code city, the Local Improvement District (LID) process is easier, the town could establish a parks board and there is more flexibly in the for planning processes. The attorney noted that it would be less likely to get planning decisions overturned. Hedrick confirmed the town could still contract for a planning director rather than hire someone directly. He asked if the police chief could be placed in charge of all public safety and put the fire department under the police. The attorney didn’t see any reason why not. Hedrick stated he sees a lot of beauty in a professionally run city, not using a volunteer mayor. He wanted to know if there was a two-step process to change to a council-manager system next? The attorney responded that nothing stops Ruston from hiring an administrator that reports to mayor without changing form of government.

Hardin reminded everyone why this came up. The council placed the item as a referendum on the ballot, which got into legal action declaring that they did not have authority to do that as a town When they went back to their attorney asking if they had the authority, they were told maybe, but it would costly in court fees to find out. They could instead use this process they were voting on now. The council had decided they were expanding democracy by giving citizens more rights by reclassifying and they had considered other options during the previous meetings. It was clear that folks like the words “Town of Ruston” and they had confirmed if they change to a code city, they can keep the name the same. He felt they were getting best of all worlds. All this information came out in the previous meetings and he was upset that someone thought they were railroading this through now.

Hedrick noted that the council was down two members tonight, and asked if they should wait for the full body before voting. Hardin felt that councilmembers were aware that the issue was on the agenda, so they would have been at the meeting if they thought it was important. The mayor added that he would have heard from them if the issue was important to them and they had not given him any comment. The resolution passed 3-0.

Resolution 510 – Temporary License Agreement with Cingular Wireless: This agreement is for a temporary mobile signal booster during the Taste of Tacoma. It pays $100 a day for 10 days. Hedrick confirmed it will be truck in the north lot of the school. He confirmed that Ruston is not getting less than they had been paying Tacoma. Passed 3-0

Claims and Payroll: Passed with no discussion 3-0

Mayor’s time
Hopkins field trip to look at the garbage truck in Camus went well. Maintenance supervisor Steve took a test run, they looked over service records and Camus will train our employees if Ruston pays the staff time. Hopkins offered $37,000 rather than the asking price of $40,000. New trucks like this cost over $225,000. This truck has 80,000 miles and is in great condition. It empties one can a minute, so they can pick up the full town in a day, yard waste in a day (rather than the current two days) and reduces the number of people needed to do the work from two to one. The mayor had priced new cans needed to outfit town at $45,000 (including recycle, yard waste and garbage). He felt the current rates were adequate to repay the loan that would be needed from the surplus property fund. It would be a 3-year loan with market rate interest paid back to that fund. The mayor planned on giving each household two yard waste cans and one recycle. If someone wanted more cans the cost would be a one-time $50 charge. Hedrick confirmed Ruston still does not recycle glass. Hardin asked the timeline (truck is ready in two weeks). He wanted to know if this had any effect on Labor & Industries. The mayor did not think it improved the current rates but hopefully the automated system would prevent future claims. Hedrick wondered what would happen to other employee not needed with the new truck. Hopkins will ask Taylor to come up with a plan. Ruston has to maintain new traffic circle at Point Ruston so there is more work to do.

Hopkins announced that the paving of the parking lots at the school would hopefully be moving forward quickly. The town just took delivery of the snow plow and sander attachments for the maintenance truck. They are now looking for loader to get sand into the sander. He is still working on the sales tax issue. The Department of Revenue found $20,000 so far in tax coming to Ruston that was incorrectly coded. He is hoping for 5 times that eventually. The attorney is sending a letter to businesses with the correct code to report their Business & Occupation taxes. On building code enforcement, the mayor has floated a price to Mike Bart, who is cringing at the offer. Hopkins has not heard back yet on the offer.

Council Time
Hedrick asked if his help was needed with the Department of Revenue and suggested meeting with Tacoma’s mayor Strickland since they may be interested in the same tax issues.

Hardin had no comment.

Kristovich had no comment.

The meeting adjourned 8:18 pm.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Love 'Em Or Hate 'Em

Most Rustonites have a love-hate relationship with the local racoons. The cute critters routinely empty our garbage cans and can cause quite a fright when unexpectedly encountered in a dark alley. They've even been known to take down a cat. Metro Parks is getting very serious about stopping the feeding of our neighborhood bandits this summer, even hiring officers to hand out $500 tickets if needed. The press release below has details.

June 20, 2012
Contact:   Marina Becker, park superintendent, 253-305-1024,
               Nancy Johnson, communications manager, 253-226-4530,

As Picnickers Head to Parks, Education Efforts Expand to Help End Illegal Feeding of Wildlife
Many people are unaware of the issues that can result from feeding wildlife. For the public’s health and safety, Metro Parks has expanded efforts this summer to educate park users about the law prohibiting the feeding of birds and animals, and the health and safety risks illegal feeding can create for the public and wildlife.
Description: cid:image001.jpg@01CD496C.5B941760“This is a chronic problem that endangers wildlife and results in costly consequences for our community. We are placing an emphasis on public education about why the law prohibits feeding,” said park superintendent Marina Becker. “We are optimistic that once educated about the issue, those who care about wildlife and the well-being of our community will quit feeding birds and animals.”

Visitors to Point Defiance and Wapato Park will notice more regulatory signs – both permanent and portable/temporary – highlighting just a few of the reasons why feeding is illegal. Park staff will work to distribute more than 5,000 informational cards to park visitors to help raise awareness.

As a last resort to curb this issue, off-duty officers will conduct a limited number of focused patrols throughout the summer, beginning mid-July. Violation of Tacoma Municipal Code 8.27.130, which prohibits the feeding wildlife, carries a penalty of $532.

Why the Law Exists:
Protecting Wildlife and Community Health & Safety
Feeding is not only potentially harmful to wildlife; it can also lead to significant health and safety risks for humans and domesticated pets as well. As wildlife becomes conditioned by human feedings, many species will actually alter their natural behaviors, resulting in adverse consequences.
For example, Canada geese will completely change their migratory habits and take up permanent residence when conditioned by routine feeding.

A normal diet for geese would consist of grass, seeds and aquatic plants. Human foods lack the nutrients provided by these food sources. So when you feed bread, popcorn and other foods to young geese, it can literally result in bone deformities that can cripple them and keep them from ever being able to fly.

Interactions with humans during feeding can also lead to a loss of natural instincts to retreat from people. In fact, wildlife can actually exhibit more aggressive and territorial tendencies when conditioned to view people as a source for food.

On land, goose excrement provides a breeding ground for E Coli. Geese scatter their waste through picnic and play areas as they travel confidently toward people who offer bread and other foods.   

“Geese are natural carriers of a number of disease causing germs that can cause serious illnesses in humans,” said Ray Hanowell of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.   “Exposure to these germs can come from direct contact with goose feces, or swimming in lake water that has been contaminated with goose feces.   Feeding the geese can encourage higher numbers to congregate at the lake increasing the risk of human illnesses.”

The feeding of raccoons at Point Defiance has led to similar issues. Raccoons are naturally nocturnal creatures; yet due to conditioning from feedings, they are commonly found begging along 5 Mile Drive throughout daylight hours. Studies indicate that raccoons are an intelligent species, prone to remember solutions to a task for as long as three years. It’s no wonder that these animals are so easily conditioned to view all humans as a potential resource for food, once one of us has handed over a tasty treat. Like Canada geese, raccoons can become quite aggressive when expectations for food are not fulfilled.

When the need to forage for food within their native habitat is replaced by an abundance of food readily handed over by passersby, overpopulation inevitably occurs. You may recall the outbreak of Canine Distemper among the raccoon population at Point Defiance last summer. While the virus posed no threat for humans, it did pose a temporary risk for unvaccinated pets if they had come in contact with an infected animal or its feces. Unfortunately the infected raccoons also typically died an unpleasant death. The virus is one of nature’s regulators for bringing overpopulation of the species under control.

“Raccoons are also carriers of the rabies virus and “raccoon roundworm”.  Although bats are the main concern for rabies in Washington State, raccoons are the largest source of rabies in most other areas of the United States.   Due to the threat of roundworm, and the rabies and distemper viruses, it’s best to avoid human and pet contact with raccoons” added the Health Department’s Ray Hanowell.

Efforts to Reduce Overpopulation:

Over the years, Metro Parks has enlisted special services and employed a number of activities to help address overpopulation issues. In an effort to minimize human health risks, while attempting to deal humanely with overpopulation issues, the Park District:
•           Modified landscapes to deter geese
•           Utilized noise makers, lasers and decoys to encourage geese to relocate by making the area less  
            comfortable and appealing to them
•           Hired professional dog handlers to disperse Canada geese from parks
•           Worked with USDA Wildlife Services to addle eggs when nests are found in parks
•           Installed signage throughout the park system to increase awareness of the law prohibiting the
            feeding of wildlife
•           Focused park staff efforts on outreach with visitors to communicate that feeding is bad for the
            wildlife, has negative impacts on water quality and the environment, poses health and safety risks
            to humans and pets and is illegal.

Summer Enforcement - Focused Patrols & Fines
In mid-July off-duty police officers will begin to conduct focused patrols at random times, with special enforcement efforts in parks where chronic feeding and overpopulation issues persist. During the focused patrols, citations in the amount of $532 will be issued to anyone violating Tacoma Municipal Code 8.27.130 which prohibits feeding wildlife.


In The News

The News Tribune confirmed the news of the unexpected street light requirement delaying the opening of Ruston Way (read the story here). I noted on the drive home last night that no new light poles are visible from the Tacoma end yet. The wait continues...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New School Parking Lots

Years of driving on the thin layer of asphalt coating either side of the Ruston School building have taken their toll. Add to the mix a large construction project a few feet away across the alley and here we are. The town and new owners of The Commencement building negotiated an agreement where The Commencement would repave the school lots in exchange for release from some previous obligations.

Construction equipment showed up Monday morning and started work. It appears the project includes removal of at least some of the old rusted fence. I have asked the Mayor Hopkins to confirm how long until completion and what the plans are for the rest of fencing. No word from him yet. But hopefully a new driving surface will be installed soon.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Council Meeting Tonight.

It appears to be a fairly routine council meeting on tap tonight. More changes and updates to town code, final adoption of the franchise agreement for natural gas service, appointment of a new planning commissioner and adopting rules for using town facilities are among the issues to be approved. Most of the background info is available on the town's web site here. See you all at 7 pm at the school!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Street Lights Now Required Before Ruston Way Opens

Loren Cohen confirmed today that the jurisdictions will now require street lights to be installed and functioning before they will allow traffic to flow on the new Ruston Way connection. Tacoma had originally only required street stripping and sidewalk completion, but a rumor recently surfaced that Ruston would require the additional step of street lights before they would allow traffic along their section of road, citing safety concerns.

It appears that Tacoma has now joined forces with Ruston and the developer is scrambling to meet the new condition. There had been quiet hope that the road could open by this Friday, June 22nd. But since the new punch list includes street light installation, the opening date is pushed back until at least June 29th.

Cohen offers this encouragement; "Needless to say we’re hustling to get everything done, but we think this beautiful, new road will be worth the wait.  We appreciate everyone’s patience and look forward to celebrating the July 4th holiday with all of the Freedom Fair revelers along Ruston Way!" 

Catch Up On The Corner

Progress is being made on our signature corner at North 51st and Pearl. Here is the latest:
  • Ruston Corner Apartments: At least half of the six new apartments have already been rented. Rents start at $625 for a studio up to $750 for the one-bedroom units with a 12 month lease. The agent for the downstairs retail space reports there are a couple of interested parties in that space as well.
  • Ruston Inn: I have not heard back from the new owners or their agent for the Ruston Inn, but I note the name of the new owner is the same name as the owner of Indochine at North 46th and Pearl. Perhaps a new location for the popular local restaurant is in the works?
  • Chevron Gas Station: The owner of the recently opened convenience store reports that business is going well. The station should have gas available at the pumps starting this week and hopes to start operating 24 hours soon.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Randy's Road

A lot of fine people have worked on that large piece of waterfront property that sits at the base of Ruston's hill. Many of them worked for Asarco, not only on the remediation and clean up of the former smelter, but thousands of men and women who made an honest, working wage when the plant was operating. I admit I'm prejudiced, having put in almost 17 years for the company. But as with any complex issue, it's unfair to paint all the complexities with one broad brush. I believe we do just that when we, as we are prone to do now, dismiss all the pre-Point Ruston days with a scowl, wagging our finger at those evil people who ravaged the earth and patting ourselves on the back that we've overcome such ugliness. But I'll save that sermon for another time.

Today I want to highlight a piece of our history that only the remediation team from the 1990's would recall. Randy Snyder was one of the engineers who worked on the clean up after the smelter closed. One of his final projects was the design and remediation of the new Ruston Way alignment through the former smelter property.

Randy left for a new job shortly after the new roadbed was installed. One of his parting gifts from the team was the road sign you see above; which reads "Randy's Road". Randy came back for the ribbon-cutting on the new Ruston Way in April and we snapped a few more pictures of Randy and his sign on the paved (but still unopened) road.

This town owes a debt of gratitude to Randy and the rest of the Asarco-led team that spent more than two decades working with EPA, designing and implementing a challenging clean up. And I believe we owe thanks to the hardworking men and women who dedicated their lives to producing the copper that built this town. Those are my thoughts. I welcome yours...

Monday, June 11, 2012

Smile & Art - A Good Combination

The smiles say it all - a creative work of art that was fun in the making. Local artist and teacher Mary Mann and her students are contributing once again to the neighborhood. After completing the new mural on the Antique Sandwich Company wall last year via a grant from the West End Neighborhood Council, the team has just completed a tile mural for the wall across the street on the newly remodeled Ruston Apartments building. The project is funded this time by Ruston Parks and Arts, run by Ginger Kyrger and Lucy Davis. The funding comes from the sale of the artist-painted Adirondack chairs two years ago and is run thru the business district-wide Tacoma Neighborhoods Together so the donations would be tax deductible.

Mann and her SAMI students began work on the mural last fall after Kryger approached her wanting to find ways to get more art in Ruston. Kyrger donated the use of her kiln and the Application & Adventures class started work. The first day was spent walking around Ruston looking for the perfect wall - which was waiting for them at the corner of N. 51st and Pearl.

The class decided on an underwater theme given the location here surrounded by Puget Sound. The focus is on native species that are common to Point Defiance (thus the application of science lessons). After a visit to Claudia Riedener, an accomplished ceramic artist, the study of working with clay, ceramics, glazing, coloring and other technology took off. Spring semester, half the class changed and the final work on the tiles was completed.

Each student chose an animal, with some creative spacing for the larger species like the seal. Mann reviewed and approved the choices and the team found a cohesive way to piece the design together. The class only met 10 times each semester, so creating 96 tiles was a challenge. Mann describes their process; "The clay had to be rolled with a slab roller three days ahead of carving day, so that it would reach the "leather hard stage".  Fresh clay is too soft and pliable to be able to hold the shapes. We borrowed the slab roller from Ginger. Many students stayed after school with me to help with the preparations each week. It took two sessions to apply the colorful underglazes on the bisque ware. Students had to be deliberate about which background colors were applied to the water areas because we were trying to achieve a distinct transition from light to dark, which simulates the underwater point of view."
The end result is a beautiful work of art scheduled to be installed this summer. Great work by lots of great people.

Tile Artists
Deon Anderson          Carlmisha Jives
Sarah Becker              Maya Kalsta-Watkins
Angie Carrillo            Abby Linder
Daisy Cruz                  Acacia McCord
Daniel Damian          Grace McKenney
Rachel Duke              Lindsey Norden
Eris Egan                   Taylor Palacio
Bailey Furuyama     Jessica Reynolds
Justice Greer             Tesh Smith
Haley Groseclose       Matilyn Stargel
Bryan Gutierrez        Kilee Vega
Andre Harrell            Tatyanna Wrinkle
Precious Hunkin       Mary Mann, Instructor

Friday, June 8, 2012

Ruston Changes Being Watched

Popular south-sound blog Exit 133 has a story on the Ruston Town Council vote this week to change to a code city (link here). Besides highlighting the cool graphic from the town attorney, its nice to know there are others outside our small town paying attention to our changes.

Are we ready to give up the designation as a town? Are we ready to be a city now? Have we changed that much? Are there absolutely no negative consequences to this change as the town officials state?  What do you think?

Sweetness On Many Fronts

Ruston police are joining other local agencies in the annual Cops on Doughnut Shops. The fund raiser for Special Olympics features officers sitting on top of Krispy Creme shops collecting donations all weekend. Our Ruston officers will once again join the fun this year. They made the following announcement on Facebook this morning. Stop by, eat a doughnut and enjoy the sweetness of our law enforcement community giving back.

Come out and support the kids!! Starting tomorrow morning, several of our officers and officers from other agencies will be donating our time at the Krispy Kreme donut shop at the Tacoma Mall for the Special Olympics Fundraiser "Cops on Donut Shops". The event is from 6AM to 6PM this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It's a great cause and a great time! Hope to see everyone there!

Goldfish Gallop + Ruston Family Fair

It turns out there are two fun events scheduled for the Ruston area on Saturday, August 11th. And you can easily participate in both. The Ruston Family Fair and Cadillac LaSalle Car Show will happen along North Winnifred Street from 11 am til 4 pm with fun games for the kids, cool cars for the adults, wagon rides for the whole family and more.

Then at 7 pm, you can head to the nearby Goldfish Tavern for the third annual Goldfish Gallop. The 5-K run begins and ends at the popular watering hole. Sign up here for the run and watch for more details soon on the Ruston Family Fair.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

"Town" of Ruston No More?

The Ruston Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to once again change the town to a code city. Citizens have 90 days after the announcement is published in the Tacoma Daily Index to file a petition to force a public vote. Councilmembers Hunt and Judd were excused from the meeting, so the vote was 3-0.

The town attorney provided extensive discussion supporting the change (here) and council members at the meeting stated they did not believe this was a change in the form of government since the format for the executive and legislative branches remained the same.  The council had the option of putting the issue out for a vote at the next election, but citing the cost for an election, chose to make the decision themselves.

It is unclear if there are any potential negative impacts from this change other than the nostalgia of losing the designation as a "town". I'll be doing more research on the issue and have further details in the coming days.   ~ Karen

More Details On Marlene's At Point Ruston

The News Tribune has more details about the new agreement between Point Ruston and Marlene's Market & Deli (link to story here). The plan is for a 20,000 square foot operation with a full grocery offering along with Marlene's signature organic produce and deli service. And the article quotes Cohen as predicting having the newly stripped Ruston Way open by the end of June.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

More Art In Ruston

This summer, Ruston welcomes more outdoor art to its streets. The popular Adirondack chair art project is back, planned to grace the Winnifred Street tree-lined boulevard in late July. And a new mural is planned for the recently renovated Ruston Apartment building soon. Chair event organizers released this statement recently:

There is to be a display and auction of decorated Adirondack Chairs again this year.  Chairs will be on display between July 20 and 28 during the day with a silent auction on July 28, 2012.  Funds from the 2010 display and auction provided some of the plantings in front of the Ruston Town Hall and Ruston school (2011), Christmas lights and decorations (2011), ceramic raku fish (made in 2011) to be installed at the PDZA aquarium at a future date, a tile mural which SAMI students are currently working on and various other plantings around the Town (2012).

The installation of a tile mural is planned for the brick wall on the signature corner at 51st and Pearl. The local students at the nearby Science And Math Institute (SAMI) have been working with Ruston artist Gina Kryger creating ceramic tiles for the new display. More details will follow on this exciting project.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Marlene's Market At Point Ruston

Good news for Ruston's future tax base - Point Ruston announced today that a third anchor shop has agreed to locate in their new retail center. Marlene's Market & Deli has joined the hotel and movie theater in committing to the new development. The News Tribune has more here. Now if we can just hold on til the road opens....

Monday, June 4, 2012

Change In Government In The News

The News Tribune has an article about the council's pending vote Tuesday that would change Ruston from a town to code city. Read it here....

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Ruston Council Ready To Change Town Form of Government Without A Vote This Time

After loosing an election on the issue in 2008 (story here), the Ruston Town Council appears set to give up its designation as a town without a public vote or even special notice to their citizens at their council meeting Tuesday night. Town Attorney Jennifer Robertson is recommending the council approve Resolution 509, which changes Ruston's designation as a 4th Class Town to a Code City. It sounds like citizens have 91 days to respond with a referendum to force an election. Resolutions such as this (as opposed to ordinances) do not require a first or second reading, so the council generally votes on them at the same time as they are discussed.

The memo from the attorney is available here, the outline of the options is available here, a PowerPoint presentation on the issue is available here and Resolution 509 is available here. The agenda for the full meeting is available here.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Council Meeting Notes: May 15, 2012

The meeting began at 7:05 pm with Councilmember Kristovich absent. The agenda was approved with no changes. The minutes were approved without corrections. Councilmember Hunt complimented the town clerk on how well she writes the minutes.

Staff Reports
Fire: Chief Torbet thought the ribbon cutting at Point Ruston went well. Their department enjoyed working with Tacoma Fire for the event. They responded to two aid calls during the 5-K run. Their department has started tracking the volunteer hours each month. 342 hours were logged in April. There were 7 calls in total last month, 5 medical aid and 2 fire. The fire calls were a gas leak and fire alarm, both of which turned out to be unfounded. Some of their fire fighters are attending training in eastern Washington in June. Hunt confirmed the cost is covered in the training budget.

Police: Chief Kunkel agreed that the Point Ruston 5-K went well. He did not see any major traffic impacts from event. The new impound law is working well. The inter-local agreement to provide police coverage to Point Defiance Park was approved and Ruston started coverage May 1st.

Kunkel asked the council to surplus two old patrol vehicles. They just purchased a new used car, buying a 2005 to replace a 2000 model. The money for the purchase is in the budget. He may be able to trade in both old cars for a credit for service with the dealer. Hedrick asked that both new(er) vehicles be painted the same color – which was already planned.  Hunt asked when the police chiefs conference was located this year (Kennewick). The mayor complimented the department on their increased foot patrols.

General Public Comment
Kevin Moser wanted to be on the record stating what a poor job the sewer contractor is doing with so many roads torn up around town. The dust is unbearable. He has heard the explanations, but did not think it was ok. Moser asked if the town attorney was involved yet (not yet).

Sandy Alstead wanted to know when the sidewalks on her street would be repaired after the sewer instillation and informed the council that the alley behind her house now has standing water. The mayor explained there are storm water problems in her area. They are designing some corrections that involve the sidewalks, so they don’t want to repair them just to have to replace them again with the repairs.

Don Torbet passed along a comment from one of his customers at Ruston Market, “I was looking for Ruston – I think I found Beruit.”

1. Ordinance 1353 – Revised Ruston Franchise Agreement (1st Reading): This replaces the now expired agreement with Washington Natural Gas (now Puget Sound Energy – PSE). PSE had a representative at the meeting who thanked the town for negotiating a fair agreement. Many of conditions of the agreement are set by state law; Ruston is not allowed to charge a franchise fee but will be refunded their attorney fees. Councilmember Hedrick confirmed this agreement is similar to other municipalities. Hunt confirmed it is not exclusive; if another provider comes to the area Ruston can contract with them as well. 

The mayor asked what was happening with service to Point Ruston. The representative said he understood Point Ruston had two options; 1) convert the high pressure line on Baltimore as it reaches the development or run the high pressure line into the development and convert it to lower pressure later. Either way it is an expensive process and he understood the developer had not made a decision yet. Hedrick confirmed the rates are set by a state commission. Hedrick wanted to know what happened to the infrastructure if PSE went away. PSE said they don’t expect that to happen, they hope to expand. The town attorney pointed to section 15 of the agreement showing that a new company would have to apply but the town could not reasonably withhold approval under state law.

2. Ordinance 1368 – Repeal RMC 12.08 – Small Works Roster (2nd Reading): Hedrick reminded the audience this was to clean up Ruston’s code and keep it consistent with state law. The measure passed 4-0.

3. Ordinance 1369 – Repeal RMC 1.01.020 and RMC 1-01-040 (2nd Reading): Hunt thanked the town attorney for finding all these inconsistencies in the town’s code. Hedrick explained that this ordinance replaces the News Tribune with the Tacoma Daily Index for notices that must be published. Passed 4-0.

4. Ordinance 1370 – Amend RMC 12.08 Adopting Current WSDOT Standards (2nd Reading): Passed 4-0.

5 .Ordinance 1371 – One Day Business Licenses (2nd Reading): Councilmember Hardin thank Hunt for getting the ordinance on the table and the town attorney for drafting it with flexibility. He also thanked the citizens and business district for putting on the event. The attorney asked if the town wanted to change the ordinance to include a provision that events like this cover all the town costs. Hedrick said he was not ready to take that step right now. The measure passed 4-0.

6. Ordinance 1373 – Amend RMC 21.02.010 Update Sanitary Sewer Fees (2nd Reading): Hunt thought the ordinance and fee schedule were well written. With one change to the name of the restaurant group, the ordinance passed 4-0.

7. Resolution 506 – Declaring Property Surplus and Authorizing Sale: The sale of the two old police cars passed 4-0.

The meeting went to into executive session for 15 minutes to discuss legal matters at about 8:05 pm. Kristovich arrived just as the executive session began. The regular meeting was reconvened at 8:15 pm.

Claims and Payroll: Approved 5-0

Mayor’s Time
Hopkins referred to an email he had sent the council about a new garbage truck for sale in Camas, Washington. He and maintenance chief Steve Taylor were heading down to look at the truck the following Thursday. This truck has an automatic lift and is needed to save the labor/injury to town staff. The truck cost is $40,000 and another $45,000 to outfit the town with new cans. The truck has 80,000 miles. It could be purchased with an inter-fund loan from the utility reserves.

The mayor confirmed the council had received the outlay reports on the sewer project. He notified them that he wants to hire a full time utility clerk.  He has noted that too many things are falling through the cracks right now. When he took office, there was $16,000 in unpaid bills that has been eliminated, but the town needs someone to stay on top of the issue. He asked for council input and plans on putting an ad out soon. He said the next issue he wants to tackle is the investment policy.

Council Time
Hedrick was frustrated that the paving has not started on the sewer work yet, especially the alley that was not graded correctly that he mentioned at the last meeting. The mayor noted other problems in that area (failed compaction, storm water issues) and that the engineer is working on a proposal to fix the problems. Hopkins anticipated a solution by the next meeting.

Hunt thanked the town for installing a “Children At Play” sign near the playground, but still wants to see speed bumps installed. The mayor was concerned about the cost and meeting Department of Transportation codes. Hunt agreed to research the issue. She also apologized for missing the last meeting. The new meeting day was not scheduled correctly in her calendar.

Hardin voiced his support for hiring a utility clerk. He asked what the interest rate was on an inter-fund loan. He wanted to explore any leverage to use with the disputes with the sewer contractor. The attorney said there is a retainage fund the town could use, but the mayor was reluctant to take any action in the middle of the project.

Kristovich apologized for being late.

Judd had no comment.

The meeting adjourned at 8:32 pm.