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.

No comments: