Monday, November 26, 2012

Back At It

After vacation and a holiday week, I'm back at it; giving you all the new and exciting news in Ruston, Washington. The first order of business is catching up on the last couple of council meetings.

November 6, 2012

The meeting “for the City of Ruston” was called to order by Mayor Hopkins at 7:02pm. All the councilmembers were present. Councilmember Hedrick moved to remove the budget discussion from the agenda and add an executive session for potential litigation. The agenda was approved 5-0. The motion to approve the minutes for the previous meetings was made by Hedrick for “the City of Ruston”, which passed 5-0.

Staff Reports
Engineering: Jerry Morrissette gave an update on the sewer project, which is almost done. The one significant piece still pending is paving in three alleys. The contractor has offered $8,500 to not pave them, which was rejected. Councilmember Kristovich commented on the volume of water coming of the hillside near the excavation area below Baltimore Street. Morrissette assured her it was flowing as expected. The project is on budget. Councilmember Hardin asked if there were a lot of items still on the punch list. Morrissette pointed to the 5% retainage fee that is held until all the work is complete. Hardin wanted to know what happens if the contractor can’t do alleys all winter if the weather turns wet, but Morrissette thought there should be enough dry weather to get them done in November.

Public Comment
Tom Elmer, CEO of The Commencement, expressed their displeasure and objection to Point Ruston using the planned park area in front of their building for storage of vehicles and other items. He said they lost two very likely new tenants just this last weekend because of the mess. They are also getting complaints from current tenants. Their project is gaining momentum and they don’t want that momentum blocked by the unsightly junk in their front yard. The Commencement wants Ruston to take action and enforce local ordinances that are being violated. The mayor said that EPA and Point Ruston will be at next meeting and the issue can be discussed further. Councilmember Hunt offered to bring pictures of the view from her home.

1-4. Ordinances 1375, 1383, 1384 and 1385 (1st Reading): These four ordinances regarding adult entertainment were all discussed as one package. The attorney said that Ruston had nothing on the books. The most effective approach is to use both zoning and licenses. Two of the new ordinances include a new zoning code and a new chapter that includes new definitions and parking requirements. The planning commission considered these two ordinances and held a public hearing.

The last two ordinances were considered by planning commission, but because they deal with licensing requirements they were passed to the council. The attorney changed all references to a town to city throughout these documents. Legally, Ruston has to allow this kind of free speech. The council can adopt other cities legislative record to back up their decision – an 800 page record is presented with these ordinances. The planning commission considered the secondary crime problems that are common with these types of businesses, as well as the testimony of Officer Celis who worked in Lakewood as a vice cop. After considering the usual buffers from school, churches, parks, daycares, Ruston is not large enough, but the commission felt the southernmost corner of Pearl Street was the best place to zone for these adult businesses since it is required to allow them somewhere.

Town planner Rob White added that the council will need to designate the Winnifred Street median as park. Hedrick was thankful that adult entertainment is protected by the constitution because so are lobbyist and attorneys. He confirmed these businesses are not allowed under the Master Development Plan at Point Ruston. Hunt confirmed timeframes for licenses and asked if the town could deny a license if the applicant had a criminal background. The attorney thought it would be hard to deny a license for that reason. Hunt also confirmed the process for designation the Winnifred median as a park.

Hardin wanted to know if council members could be sued for not knowing all of the 800-page legislative record personally. The attorney did not think it was likely. He was concerned about language in the ordnance regarding the signs creating a way around the regulation. The attorney will clarify the language. It was agreed that the license fees be removed from these ordinances and added to the ordinance that deals with fees. Hedrick thanked the planning commission and staff for their hard work on this. Hunt did not want the license runs from January 1st to December 31st, since those are holidays and the business cannot get a license on those days.

5. Ordinance 1386 – 2013 Property Tax (1st Reading): no discussion.

The agenda was amended again to move the executive session to the end of the meeting rather than as a replacement of the budget (which would be discussed now).

Claims & Payroll: passed 5-0 with no discussion.

Mayor’s Time
Tomorrow Ruston will fund the new investment fund with $4 million. It will increase the investment income $7,000 each year. The mayor apologized for not getting the budget done yet. It was a big year with the sewer project impacts.  The three to four year forecast for Ruston is still poor and he projects the city will run a deficit each year. The new garbage system will be starting by early December. The old cans will be picked up and disposed of by town.

The mayor has asked Kevin Moser to help plan the undergrounding of utilities. He felt doing so would be proactive after seeing what hit the east coast. Point Ruston has proposed only doing curb and gutter as stopgap along Baltimore until the development reaches 50% build-out, since Tacoma water will be working on that street later. Point Ruston was supposed to have this work completed by December 2011, so the town can require everything be installed now. Hopkins also noted that this was hopefully the last week of state audit.

Council Time
Hedrick had none.

Hunt confirmed that sidewalks were supposed to be included in Point Ruston work on Baltimore and she also thanked the planning commission for their work.

Hardin encouraged the mayor to include the dates for the garbage change over in the next town newsletter. He also wanted the dates on when Baltimore will reopen announced once that decision is made. He confirmed change in state law regarding investments that was voted on this month did not apply to Ruston.

Kristovich had none.

Judd had none.

The meeting moved into executive session and would adjourn at 8 pm with no other business discussed.

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