Thursday, January 31, 2013

Council Meeting Notes: Jan. 15, 2013

Mayor Hopkins called the meeting to order at 7:01pm. Councilmember Hardin was excused. The agenda and Nov. 20, 2012 and Dec. 4, 2012 minutes were approved with no changes.  

Staff Reports
Police: Chief Kunkel announced that Sgt. Lawless is joining the Tacoma Police Department and on January 8th he appointed Vic Cellis as the new sergeant. There is one out of state applicant available for lateral transfer under consideration. The chief then outlined last month’s calls. Hedrick asked if the officers were using the new decimal meter. It is in use, but they are waiting for clarification from the mayor and the attorney.

Fire: Chief Torbet highlighted the hundreds on volunteer hours given last month. He noted they are losing one fire fighter, but they have three applicants for the vacancy. Torbet said they had hundreds of donations for toy and food drive in December. He is still working on getting the new-to-Ruston radios from Tacoma Fire. The chief then outlined training planned, including the CPR training available to local residents. The mayor thanked him and the department for saving his friend’s life with the CPR training. Torbet felt that incident was one of the highlights of his career and noted that many lives were changed for the better that day.

Public Comment
John Mace, wanted to see resolution to Stack Hill development issues.

1. Hannah Aoyagi, Ph.D. – Tacoma Smelter Plume Update: Ms. Aoyagi from the State Department of Ecology introduced project manager Amy Hargrove and 4 others. Hargrove let everyone know their project is in the final design phase with public comment coming soon. The state program is different from the federal EPA yard replacement project: 1) it is a statewide program, 2) it is voluntary with only one chance to participate and 3) the state has a 100ppm arsenic action level instead of 230ppm. They hope to do 15 homes in Tacoma this year. The process for yards in Ruston will begin with a review of the EPA sampling results to see if the property qualifies. The owner then gets a letter and would have to allow the work. Ecology then meets with owner before the construction contractor meets with them. All the EPA sample results are in a public database. Ecology will use a weighted average of arsenic and lead in the 0-6” layer, then look at 6-12" layer. Any overall yard averaging above 90 parts per million (ppm) arsenic or 500ppm lead or single subunit average over 200ppm arsenic or 1,000ppm lead at those depths would be replaced. The lowest priority are those yards with clean soil down to 6 inches. If the top 12 inches was replaced with clean soil, no further action will be taken. The initial priority is yards where no EPA action was done. The homeowner must agree, and remove sheds, trees and such if they want soil in those areas to be replaced. Ecology plans to offer changes to the yard that include more native plants, rain gardens and other environmentally friendly ideas. Public comment on the design is expected in March. They are also working with Metro Parks for additional cleanups at Point Defiance and Jane Clark parks.

Councilmember Hedrick confirmed the cleanup was voluntary and funded thru Asarco settlement funds. He confirmed cleanup standards as compared to EPA and that the state has the authority to redo a federal cleanup. He asked why the state standards are more stringent. Hargrove said the EPA decision was 20 years ago and that other cleanups around the nation have a lower standard. Ecology felt there was still risk out there and new people might want a lower cleanup level. Hedrick wanted to know if there would be any stigma from this new standard. Ecology said they are not putting anything on property titles, but the work would be listed in the public database. It was noted that the state cleanup extends way beyond EPA Study Area. Councilmember Hunt confirmed who has sample results listed in the database and explained her understanding of the EPA program. Councilmember Kristovich had personal questions and took a phone number to call later. Mayor Hopkins was glad to see progress.

2. Ordinance 1392 – Noxious Weeds (1st Reading): The attorney explained that under state law the city can only enforce removal of certain noxious weeds. This change to Ruston code gives more specific details and outlines the process so it can be enforced. Hunt wanted a warning about enforcing this published in the town newsletter.

3. Ordinance 1394 – Weight Limits for Streets (1st Reading): Ruston already restricts heavy truck traffic on some streets. This change adds several streets and makes city code consistent with state law. The city engineer wanted to add the same restrictions on N. 52nd and 53rd from Pearl to Bennett Street (which was approved and added). There are exemptions allowed for emergency vehicles, city trucks, school buses or you can apply for an exemption if needed. Kristovich confirmed that the park district or anyone using 54th Street must have exemptions granted (including all the Point Ruston construction work). Hunt confirmed Ruston owned all of 51st Street and must pay all maintenance costs.

4. Resolution 534 – Assignment of Electrical Consultant Contract: This agreement keeps the same electrical engineer, who is now with new employer. Approved 4-0 with no discussion.

5. Resolution 535 – Code Enforcement, Environmental Review Contract: Approved 4-0 with no discussion.

6. Resolution 536 – Radio Maintenance Contract: Approved 4-0 with no discussion.

7. Ordinance 1382 – COMP-P Zoning Map and Text Amendment (1st Reading): The change from commercial zone to Commercial Pearl zone (COMP-P) effects only one building lot and was initiated by the property owner. The mayor asked for disclosure of any appearance of fairness issues or exparte contact on the issue from council members and asked the audience if there were any challenges on that issue. There were none. Planner Rob White outlined the history, including details about the planning commission public hearing on this issue. The changes include correcting type-o’s in the code, updating lighting standards, changing this one lot from commercial to commercial-Pearl zone and updating the map with several recent changes.

Hunt recalled a prior approval for upgrading the old Coles tavern and felt only that plan should be approved. The planner clarified this change is a different property. Hunt only wanted the higher limits allowed on Pearl Street, not 51st. Planning commission chair Kevin Moser noted that the amenities required in the Comp P zone are not required in the regular commercial zone, so it made sense to extend the same look and feel one lot down 51st Street.

Claims and Payroll, approved 4-0 with no discussion.

Mayor’s Time
Hopkins said that Commercial Street will be without street lights for 10 days as electrical lines are undergrounded. A resident asked for a place on the town web page to make donations to fire department, so he is looking into that. He met on new electrical meters recently and the issue will be coming before the council for approval in the next 60 days.

Council Time
Hedrick expressed mixed emotions about Sgt. Lawless leaving. He is an outstanding officer and he is sorry to lose him. Hedrick thanked him for service to Ruston.

Hunt had no comment.

Kristovich had no comment.

Judd had no comment.

The meeting adjourned at 8:02pm.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Baltimore Finally Opening?

The Ruston council will hold a special meeting at 7pm tonight to consider a revision to the Stack Hill plat that lays out a specific schedule for completion of the Baltimore Street connection to Ruston Way.

Even though Ruston Way has been open since last summer, Ruston officials have kept Baltimore Street closed, citing safety concerns (first due to the sewer replacement project - link here, now the staff report says the closure is because of alignment concerns - link here). Regardless of the reasons, tonight's action will set enforceable deadlines for Point Ruston to complete the required street improvements. Tacoma is scheduled for waterline work along the same stretch of road in March. The goal is to coordinate both projects and finally have Baltimore Street open by this summer.

Latest On Point Ruston

Point Ruston just issued their January newsletter (link here) with details about their latest work. From capping sediments just off-shore, to working on the Copperline Apartments, to nearing completion of the Waterwalk art work - the project is continues to progress. The first layer of asphalt now covers the road to the Copperline, new plastic caps cover more of the site, Ruston is reviewing new building permits for Stack Hill; all steps getting us closer to completion!

Friday, January 25, 2013

New Entertainment At Point Defiance Cafe

UPDATE 12:19pm: This is one of the many things that make living in a small town so great - after tonight's scheduled karaoke group failed to show to set up today,  Ruston's own fire chief Don Torbet will step in to save the day. Besides serving as Ruston's fire chief, Torbet and his wife own and operate Don's Ruston Market. Don has sung and played drums in local rock and roll bands since high school and recently bought a professional karaoke system. He's upgraded with thousands of new songs and has been looking for a way to share his new toy with others. Everyone wins! Be sure to stop in and check out the fun for yourself tonight (5037 N. Pearl, Ruston, 98407)!

Point Defiance Cafe and Casino owner Steve Fabre announced this week that they have added some nice enticements to get customers in the door. The popular karaoke crew that worked at the now closed Ruston Inn will be entertaining guests at Point Defiance on Friday and Saturday nights after 5pm.

The cafe also has newly remodeled room that now serves as a sports bar - with special pull tabs that are not available anywhere else in the state. Stop in soon, sing a song or two and support another local business!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Business District 2013 Priorities

Ruston-Point Defiance Business District President Beth Torbet recently sat down to chat about what is on the horizon for our local businesses. First and foremost was her expression of thanks to the neighbors who support our local shops. Input and involvement from the community is also very important, so she encouraged folks to stop by Ruston Market or email her with ideas and suggestions (

One major visible accomplishment last year was the completion of the design and installation of historical plaques on a few buildings. Designed by local sculptor Paul Michaels, the plaques describe the buildings first use and offer a hint to our history. Watch for more plaques around the district soon.

One priority for the near future are improvements to our gateway entrance on Pearl Street. Ruston leaders have been discussing new street lighting for a few years and the district is leading the way trying to coordinate discussion with Tacoma. The project is complex and costly, so no firm decisions have been made yet. Torbet hopes that all parties can keep the area a priority and improvements start soon.

Stop in a local shop soon and show your support!

Preliminary Pearl Street Light Design

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Time Flies

January 16, 1993
It's been 20 years already. Two decades ago today, we had 100,000 people gather in Ruston to watch the Asarco Tacoma smelter stack fall. We made national news. Some of of us wept for the end of an era, far more cheered the change. The landscape dramatically changed that day and has been changing ever since.

Join us today as we gather to reminiscence, raffle off a few bricks from the old landmark and celebrate 20 years of change in Ruston - 3-7pm at the VFW Hall, 4741 N. Baltimore.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Father of Dune

Erik Hanberg, who contributes to the Post Defiance blog, has written a great piece about Frank Herbert. Herbert was a well-known science fiction author who grew up in and loved Tacoma. It turns out our very own Ruston smelter and the fears that pollution like it would wipe out the earth helped inspire Herbert's work. You can read more at Post Defiance here...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Council Meeting Tomorrow

There are a few changes under consideration by the council tomorrow night. On tap is an update from Ecology about their soil clean up plan, prohibiting heavy trucks on Winnifred, 49th and 54th Streets and changes to the comprehensive plan to make way for development on the lot behind the old Coles Tavern on 51st. The full agenda and information is available on the town web page here. The fun begins at 7pm tomorrow night at 5219 N. Shirley...

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Shoreline Plan Commenting Open

In case you missed the opportunity to comment with our local planning commission, you have another chance. The Department of Ecology is asking for comments on Ruston's new Shoreline Master Plan for our 200 feet of waterfront. You can get more details and comment on Ecology's web page here...

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Lone Sentinel

As regular readers of this blog know, on rare occasions I share some personal thoughts on things that interest me. This time it was catching a glimpse of this shed at Point Ruston. It is the last remnant of Asarco (above ground at least). It's newer construction from the 1990's, used to house monitoring equipment for an old storm water outfall - soon to be demolished. As you may also know, I worked for Asarco here in Tacoma until 2010, spending more than one blustery day standing here fighting the cold and the birds who used those eaves for shelter.

I guess as we get older, we find more and more places exist only in our memory. We can close our eyes and picture our childhood home or first schoolroom, even if there is no brick and mortar left to touch. The memory can be almost as real as the physical place.

Not that an old shed or even an old smelter are worth remembering for many. I understand the value of moving on, of building a bright new future. It is a good and beautiful thing that is rising from the ruins of this vast industrial complex. But the people who worked that industry matter. They built a town, they supplied metal that society demanded and they were proud to do so.

It's been two decades since the smelter stack took its final bow. My granddaughter has no idea what our skyline looked like when that massive chimney dominated our view. So many now have no idea that a smelter ever existed on that beautiful waterfront. There were some at the time who wanted to save the stack. We even had a mayor back then who suggested painting it like a finger pointing at Seattle, or putting restaurant on top...

It's good we have moved on. But it's also important to pause and glance back at what brought us to today. This lone sentinel was that pause for me this week - a window to a past I value and people I miss.


Friday, January 11, 2013


This video (link here) documents just how beautiful our back yard is. We are so blessed to live in Ruston! Thank you Exit 133 for the heads up. Take a look at the video, then take a stroll in person over what promises to be a beautiful weekend. And be sure to stop by the Pagoda grand re-opening at 2pm on Saturday. Blessed indeed!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Local Shop Ranks 7th In State

Evening Magazine's Best of Western Washington has ranked Ruston's Secondhand hound 7th in the Best Pet Supplies category. Open almost three years now, the store offers gently used items for the four-legged member of the family. Besides helping pet owners with reasonable prices, the reuse of these items helps reduce waste going to the landfill. Shop owners Angie and Joel Green are also big advocates of pet rescue efforts and often foster dogs and help them find a new home.

Another great reason to visit Ruston - or stop the car next time you drive through town and wander a bit. Good things are happening!

Thursday - Sunday
11am - 6pm
5609 N. 51st Street

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Council Meeting Notes: Jan. 2, 2013

Mayor Hopkins called the meeting to order at 7:05pm. Councilmember Hedrick was excused and Councilmember Kristovich was absent (arriving late). Councilmember Hunt asked if they should add something to the agenda from an email the attorney had sent. After discussion, Item 3 was added to discuss liaisons to the council.

Staff Reports
Engineering: Jerry Morrissette updated progress on the sewer project. The contractor will still be required to repave three alleys in the spring when the weather gets better, but they are protesting. It is time to close out the loan so the city can lock in the interest rate, but keep contract open and use sewer funds for any remaining work. There are still punch list items to complete. The contractor is going through the bond process for any remaining work so the city can declare substantial completion to close out the loan. Hopkins noted that the staff working on other major road projects (Ruston Way, Yacht Club Road, Baltimore Street) and doing great job staying ahead of curve.

Public Comment

1. Resolution 531 – Authorizing Contract Award to Fence Specialist: The mayor explained this action is part of the work to move overhead utilities underground along Commercial Street. Hunt questioned language in resolution that states there is an Exhibit A. Exhibit A is supposed to be the scope of work, but it is part of the contract. The resolution was changed to delete the reference to an exhibit. Councilmember Hardin confirmed that work starts Jan. 8th and there is funding in the 2013 budget. Hardin shared that Hedrick felt that this vote would be a conflict of interest for him since this improvement impacts his property. The mayor said the attorney did not agree – with such a small community many improvements could impact individual council members too often to reasonably recuse themselves for that reason. Passed 4-0.

2. Resolution 532 – Authorizing Contract Award to Tercom Construction, Inc.: Hunt had the same issue with no Exhibit A, so the resolution was changed to remove the reference. Hunt confirmed where the lights will be located; she was concerned about darkness at night by her house. There are no plans for any additional lights right now. Passed 4-0.

3. Discussion – Councilmembers As Liaisons: After discussion, these assignments were agreed to - Hedrick:  budget, Hunt: infrastructure, Hardin: public safety/courts, Kristovich: parks/public works, Judd: land use/development. Motion passed 4-0.

Claims & Payroll passed 4-0 with no discussion.

Mayor’s Time
Hopkins asked Kristovich to work with him with the idea of a system that uses radio to reads electrical meters. The idea is being researched now. The change would allow meters to be read from the street without fighting dogs, or entering private property. Kristovich asked if Tacoma does this. The mayor said no, they are looking at more expensive system. Hardin asked if there are any concerns that the system could be hacked. Hopkins had not heard of any, but will check. He also noted two new building applications for houses at Stack Hill.

Council Time
Hunt wanted to know if the lights on the bridge be changed to new style fixtures or at least paint them to match. Mayor Hopkins will check on the costs.

Hardin, no comments.

Kristiovich, no comments.

Judd, no comments.

The meeting adjourned at 7:40pm.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Point Ruston Requesting Signage Waiver

Exit 133 is reporting that Point Ruston is asking the City of Tacoma for less restrictive regulations for the signs on most of their buildings within the Tacoma boundary. The development sits within a shoreline zone, but Point Ruston is asking that regular commercial regulations for signs be applied. Join in the discussion and review the full application from Point Ruston at Exit 133 here...

Pagoda Reopens Saturday

Regardless of the weather, it's worth a stroll to the park on Saturday to celebrate the new and improved Pagoda. Festivities begin at 2 pm. More details available at

Monday, January 7, 2013

CPR Class Helped Save Life In Ruston

Our fire department has begun their community CPR classes, free to Ruston residents. They are highlighting an incident from last fall, when a local couple took the class. The husband had a heart attack a few weeks later. His wife knew just what to do and was able to perform CPR until the fire department arrived. It's a two hour class well worth your time! Details below in the announcement from the fire department:
Quarterly CPR Classes are underway.
CPR classes on a quarterly basis.  There is no charge if you are a Ruston resident. The next class will be held on Saturday, January 19th from 1:00 – 3:00pm.  We ask that you please really consider taking one of our classes.  We recently proved that the American Heart Association Hands Only CPR and our instruction save lives.  It is unfortunate that one of our fellow residents had to use the skills we taught them a few months earlier.  Due to the training this person received she was able to save the life of a family member.  So please if you don’t do it for yourself, do it for your family members, friends and neighbors.  To reserve a seat please call Town Hall at (253)759-3544 or email

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

First Meeting of 2013

Happy New Year one and all! The first meeting of the year for our Ruston leaders looks pretty quiet tonight with just a couple of contracts on the agenda. The background information for the meeting is available on Ruston's web page here...