Month: November 2009

November 24, 2009

Special Council Meeting:
Final Public Hearing for 2010 Budget
followed by
REGULAR COUNCIL MEETING – DRAFT ONLY
November 24, 2009

CALL TO ORDER:   Mayor Echanove called the Council Meeting to order at 7:02 PM.

ROLL CALL:   Council members present:  Darcie Bagott; Mark Bailey; Mike Milano; Andy O’Neill; Norm Schorzman; Jeff Snook; & Rick Wekenman.  Also present: Public Works Superintendent Dwayne Griffin; Police Officer Joe Merry; City Clerk-Treasurer Joyce Beeson; & Deputy Clerk Ann Thompson.  Public present:  Pete Hertz, Bev Pearce, Greg Pearce, Mike Bagott, Tiana Gregg, Sam Gregg, Connie Newman, Mary Rothlisberger, David Wold, Dean Huber, Linda Snook, Jeslyn Lemke, Randy Zehm, Sharon Tharp, Tereasa Hemphill, Gordon Hemphill, Bruce Beeson, Robin Rilette, Doug Willcox.

Open Final Public Hearing for 2010 Budget:  7:03
No public input.  Mayor read portions of the 2010 Budget Message.  The 2010 budget as proposed is approximately 19.7% lower than 2009.  The decrease is primarily due to completion of Whitman Street and H Street projects, and partial completion of the Brownfields IPG.  The 2010 budget for gross salaries was decreased by a total of $12,950, primarily due to opening the pool later and not hiring summer help for public works.

Close Public Hearing @ 7:12 and Open Regular Council Meeting.

APPROVAL OF MINUTES:   Councilmember Snook MOVED to adopt the minutes of the Special Council Meeting of November 10, 2009.  Councilmember Schorzman seconded the motion and the motion carried unanimously.

OPEN FORUM:
Tiana Gregg:  The 5th Annual Turkey Leg is a fun run on Thanksgiving Day to raise money for books that stay in our own Palouse Library and to fund two, $200 scholarships.

Connie Newman:  Spoke with state rep Susan Fagan on what she views as Palouse’s excessive Public Records Requests (PRR) issues.  Rep. Fagan was already aware of our and other city situations.  Rep. Fagan told her that legislators must address two questions:  What are excessive PRR truly producing, and what is the cost to communities.  Connie explained WA State is in the minority and that most states charge for PRR.  Connie wants her to propose communities be allowed to charge for excessive PRR.  Rep. Fagan is going to have her staff start researching it.  Councilmember Bailey gave some statistics from Lakewood, WA that show the impact of excessive PRR.  Robin Rilette asked if there are any standards in place already that determine when PRR become excessive.  Councilmember Bailey said no, there really aren’t any standards, the law is vague.  City Hall has a request that was ready to be picked up on the 19th that hasn’t been picked up yet and owes $13+ and yet he continues to make more PRR.  There are people in Western WA who are making their living by submitting PRR and then suing when a city messes up.  One individual made $160,000 from doing that.  Doug Wilcox suspects this issue is much larger than we’re aware of.

Dean Huber gave an update on the Habitat for Humanity house.  The construction is progressing very well as they are 1-2 months ahead of normal construction schedule.  The house is expected to be complete by late Feb. or March.  The credit goes to the citizens of Palouse and all their support.  The painted stud program was initiated here during Palouse Days and raised over $1,000.  These studs were used on the interior walls and will be covered by sheetrock.

PUBLIC WORKS REPORT:   Supt. Griffin submitted a written report.  Regarding the reservoir, we’re working on a steel tank.  Inside the brick structure there is a 135,000 gallon steel tank which has a leak where the tank meets the supply line.  We think we’ll have it sealed up next week.  We’re not jeopardizing any safety issues; it’s completely shut off and drained right now.  Our other reservoir is over 500,000 gallons.  Daily usage this time of year is 80-90K gallons/day.  Both wells have electronic sensors that PBAC is using to monitor.  We’ll be able to go 48 hours w/o pumping.  Data collection devices are 400’ down in both our wells plus there’s one in the river.

POLICE REPORT :  Officer Merry reported they have been working on junk vehicles in town.  In the spirit of the community most owners have basically cooperated without forcing us to go to a hearing.

For the past 6 weeks we’ve had ongoing issues of vandalism and burglary at the Palouse school.  Chief Neumann interviewed witnesses and other students and by 3:00 pm he had full confessions from the two students.  Parents are cooperating.  Other than that everything is normal and going fine.

PLANNING COMMISSION REPORT :  Councilmember Bailey reported that the commission met and went over new rules, discussed public hearing process,  and current operating code.  Dean Huber added that a fair amount of time was spent discussing clear communication.  There are a number of maps with different information.  They need to be very clear whether the maps are in a draft form, report form, or final form.  Councilmember Bailey said none of the maps have reached draft form yet.  Clerk Beeson reminded the planning commission that there is money in the budget to go towards CAD mapping and printng.

CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION UPDATE :  Clerk Beeson stated they will be changing their regular meeting date.

OLD BUSINESS
Resolution 2009-12 :  2010 Salary/Reimbursement Schedule – Mayor read aloud the resolution.  Salaries are all the same as 2009 with the exception for Public Works Supt. and returning pool manager.  Councilmember Snook MOVED to adopt Resolution 2009-12.  Councilmember Bagott seconded.  It was noted that the mileage reimbursement hasn’t changed in years and is very low.  Motion carried unanimously.

Ordinance No. 863 :  Water/Sewer Utility Tax Amendment to reduce tax from 7% to 6%.  This is an ordinance that has been in place since 2001.  Councilmember Bailey said the auditors told us to either start collecting it or make it go away.  Mayor read aloud the ordinance.  This ordinance was discussed extensively at the previous council meetings.  Councilmember Bailey MOVED , and Councilmember Snook seconded to adopt Ord. 863.  Councilmember Milano clarified this tax was on the books since 2001 but hasn’t been initiated.  The tax will average to less than $3.00 for the average citizen per month, (not including overage during summer months).  Councilmember O’Neill suggested that council take a look at w/s rates to assure that our w/s infrastructure is fully funded.  Supt. Griffin asked if the tax affects people outside the city limits.  No, this tax revenue goes into the general fund and affects only water and sewer accounts within city limits.  Motion carried unanimously.

Ordinance No. 864:   Public Records Requests.  Councilmember Bagott MOVED and Councilmember Wekenman seconded to suspend the rules for reading Ordinance No. 864 in its entirety.  This amends Title 1 of the PMC creating a new chapter 1.18 relating to the disclosure of public records.  Councilmember Bailey read aloud the findings.  The form to request for access to public records has been revised so that only one specific document or specific set of documents is allowed per request.  1.18.100 covers the copying fees.  Mark worked with the city attorney on this.  1.18.070 A & B cover the response to request and the length of time.  Connie Newman asked how the council plans on supporting staff in making the determination of whether a PRR is legit, and how much time is needed.  We have no formal structure in making that determination but there are resources such as the city attorney, Canfield & Assoc risk management, and AWC attorneys.  Councilmember Bailey prefer city staff go to the attorney if there is any question whatsoever. If someone turns in a PRR and it’s actually a question, it needs to initially be denied in writing as a PRR.  Most insurance companies won’t cover a city if they are sued for a PRR violation.  Connie Newman recommends that staff closely document what steps they’ve taken to fulfill a PRR, i.e. calling the atty, researching online, etc. so that staff can justify the time it took.  Councilmember Bailey MOVED to approve Ord. 864, Councilmember Milano seconded.  Motion carried unanimously.

Maul Foster & Alongi Contract Part 2:  MF&A have completed the Phase 1 portion of their IPG.  They have now submitted their scope of work and cost estimate for Phase 2 of the IPG.  The estimated total cost for Phase 2 is $124,270.  Doug Willcox and Mayor Echanove have consulted with MFA on the process.  They are wondering if, with the background of investigation that exists for this site, it won’t be possible to avoid some of what might normally be involved with site investigation work, thus saving some of the estimated cost.  They will continue to, along with MFA, persist with this line of inquiry and save whatever is possible within their site investigation process.  In the end, MFA will need to do all that is necessary to properly complete this task.

Much focus has been aimed at the economic and planning efforts needed for our community as a whole.  The greatest outcome of this Brownfields Project, however, could be the overall stimulus that it provides for especially the entire Palouse Main St. business community.  MFA intends to recognize and maintain this focus.  MFA thought it a good idea that our “experts” on Main Street be involved in some kind of task force with the professionals of MFA who have a vision of the regional impact economically.  Unlike the community meeting at the end of Phase 1, this would be a more structured meeting.  The budget is nothing more than a budget; we’re going to try and keep the costs to a minimum.  The Brownfields Committee will meet prior to the next council meeting.  Doug projects that after the first quarter of the year, the community will see things happening on that site.

COMMITTEE REPORTS/REQUESTS: 

Parks, Cemetery, & Buildings:   Shelly Goertzen is going to order the playground equipment after the first of the year.
Lions Club has requested to put Christmas lights on the gazebo.  Supt. Griffin sees no problem with that.

Streets & Sidewalks :  Still working with Dwayne on the snow removal policy.

Water & Sewer :
Councilmember O’Neill was reviewing some older minutes and wants to clarify a few things from the 9/8/09 minutes:  1.  Under the w/s section, they refer to having a meeting with DOH, when we actually had a conference call.
2.  Councilmember O’Neill acknowledges that he may have spoken hastily when stating that a water system plan is not required, because that is a determination as a result of a pre-planned meeting with the DOH and that meeting has not yet occurred at this time.  However it is important to note that a Small Water System Management Program is required for the City of Palouse.

DOH is meeting with COP Dec. 11th to discuss a possible water extension plan in the Breeding’s Addition.

Police, Fire, & Safety:
Councilmember Wekenman reported that Curtis Arrasmith was honored for his service to the community at the last meeting.  The JFB is finishing the year under budget.  City Hall will now be doing the monthly financial reports.  There were three fire calls in Oct, bringing the yearly total to 28, 9 more than last year.  Regarding the grant that Chief Bagott is still working on, there is a 9% downward adjustment which means a downgrade in the turnouts were trying to get.  There have been a few repairs to vehicles.  They’re still looking for long-term storage for a parade use only fire truck (anyone with an old barn).  Chief Bagott went to Kennewick to look at new technology for rural fire departments and handling the potential for limited response.  They looked at a fire extinguishing bomb that is deployed into a one or two room structure fire that sprays a fire-extinguishing powder which can substantially knock down a fully involved fire.  It can limit property loss and water damage and more importantly, increase the safety of our firefighters.  They demonstrated it and it worked as advertised.  The cost of the unit is $1,000 which Chief will expend as soon as the budget allows next year.

MAYOR’S REPORT :
Mayor read aloud the Notice of Intent to continue coverage for the Permit for Biosolids Management.  Councilmember Snook MOVED , Bailey seconded authorizing Mayor to sign the notice of intent.  Motion carried unanimously.

Mayor Echanove wanted the public to know that in regards to the PRR filed against him at his WSU office, he did receive some findings that he was in violation of state law for using state equipment, primarily local telephone calls, for non-WSU use.  As far as WSU is concerned, there are two uses:  WSU and anything else.  The “anything else” part exceeded the minimum amount that is allowed.  The report will be sent to the administrative office at WSU for their consideration.

ALLOW PAYMENT OF BILLS:   Councilmember Schorzman MOVED that the bills against the city be allowed.  Councilmember Wekenman seconded the motion and the motion carried unanimously.

ADJOURN:   Councilmember Bagott MOVED to adjourn.  Councilmember Wekenman seconded the motion and the motion carried unanimously.  The council meeting adjourned at 8:50 PM.

The following vouchers/warrants are approved for payment:
Claims Paid     1831-1871       $  8,506.80
Payroll Paid     1872-1896       $33,719.22
Payroll Paid     EFT                 $  7,360.89

November 10, 2009

Special Council Meeting: 
Public Hearing for 2010 Preliminary Budget
followed by
REGULAR COUNCIL MEETING – DRAFT ONLY
November 10, 2009

CALL TO ORDER:   Mayor Echanove called the Council Meeting to order at 7:00 PM.

ROLL CALL:   Council members present:  Darcie Bagott; Mark Bailey; Mike Milano; Andy O’Neill; Norm Schorzman; Jeff Snook; & Rick Wekenman.  Also present: Public Works Superintendent Dwayne Griffin; Police Chief Jerry Neumann; City Clerk-Treasurer Joyce Beeson; & Deputy Clerk Ann Thompson.  Public present:  Tiana Gregg; Chaucey Wittinger; Corey Laughary; Greg Pearce; Bev Pearce; Mike Bagott; Pete Hertz; Pat O’Neill; Tracy Milano; Linda Snook; Mary Rothlisberger; Connie Newman; Jon Fleischman; Cecil Floyd; Tracy Flynn.

Open Public Hearing 2010 Preliminary Budget:  7:01 Bev Pearce asked if the city has any 2010 projects coming up.  With the exception of the Brownfield project, no.  The city has talked about our footbridge and our reservoir as possible future projects.  Our Public Works will be able to continue with our arterial street plan due to the wonderful support of our community.

Close Public Hearing @ 7:03 and Open Regular Council Meeting.

APPROVAL OF MINUTES:   Councilmember Schorzman MOVED to adopt the minutes of the Regular Council Meeting of October 27, 2009.  Councilmember Milano seconded the motion and the motion carried unanimously.

OPEN FORUM:
LCSC Nursing Student Chaucey Wittinger surveyed various Palouse residents to help raise awareness on health.  Based on those surveys, she found residents’ biggest health concern is the lack of exercise facilities in Palouse.  Palouse has a great pool, parks, sidewalks, trails, etc.  The school gym is available at different times.  Check into the weight room use as well.  Perhaps the new community center will provide exercise classes.

Mayor pointed out that council meetings may be recorded unless anyone objects.  Tianna Gregg recorded the meeting.

Prior to council, Connie Newman filled out the ‘request to address council’.  Using information she gathered from the Public Records Request (PRR) that she filed with the city, Connie presented a number of statistics regarding the PRR the city has received.  In the last 10 months, there have been 24 PRR filed with the City of Palouse.  However, that number is misleading because within those 24 requests, there were 98 PRR and 56 detailed questions.  That’s actually 154 requests within those 24 PRR.  Staff cannot question the motive or reasonableness of these requests.  One of her concerns is multiple requests for identical information (she cited examples).  All but 5 of the PRR have come from Steve McGehee and Jim Farr.  On Oct. 18, Jim Farr had a PRR with 12 requests which took 9.25 hours for city staff to complete.  Connie believes they are misusing the PRR.  They are asking for documents to be developed.  Jim Farr had a PRR asking staff to compile a list of “all communications to and from the COP between he and Nicole Wood (his partner), …including all water, sewer, access, remodeling, demolition, site approval, dumping, easement, and right of way proposals, for the years 2007, 2008, & 2009”.  That’s correspondence that HE sent to the city.  In three weeks, Joyce alone has spent 21 hours compiling PRR.  These cost the city a lot of money.  It appears these people are conducting their own private audit, and misusing city staff time.  Connie requests that each PRR be allowed to have only ONE request per form.  Connie also requests adopting a policy allowing staff to extend the amount of time originally told to requestors because it is too difficult for city staff to know how long each PRR will take.

Mayor stated that Jim Farr and Steve McGehee have inundated staff with these requests.  Mayor spoke with Atty. General Tim Ford’s office.  He suggested that the city could hold a public meeting much like this where all this data becomes available for the public to review and input to develop a policy.  We must do something; engage the community; develop a plan to help the staff move forward.  Mark Bailey modified another city’s ordinance last week to address these issues.  Through the course of all this we realized we don’t have an index of public records which is required under RCW.  In Mark’s research he hasn’t found a single city in the state that maintains an index, but rather, they exempt themselves by ordinance.  Mark included in the modification not locking ourselves into a timeframe for completing PRR.  He would like to see Connie’s idea of allowing only one request per form.  It is important that people know that questions are not PRR.  Connie said also that it sets a bad precedent if we allow questions on a PRR.  Questions are welcome but residents should channel their questions properly.  Bev Pearce stated that the council should move forward with a public meeting to address the need for a stronger PRR policy.

Mark Bailey thinks these PRR are punitive at this point because the city isn’t giving them (SM & JF) what they want.  Mark said the city of Mesa a few years ago was dealing with this exact situation and said “no more”.   Mesa lost a lawsuit when it was appealed in the Appellate Court, after the initial trial court had ruled that Mesa had more than substantially complied.  They were fined $230,000 which was nearly 75% of their general fund budget.

Despite the requestors’ altruistic statements of having the best interests of Palouse in mind, Mark doesn’t believe that anymore.  Mayor said these individuals are also going to state agencies: DOH, DOE, WSU (a PRR at the Mayor’s office at WSU).  Mike Bagott said it’s pretty clear from Steve McGehee’s last article in the Boomerang that this is personal, pointing out that he (Steve) isn’t present tonight for budget discussions.  We need to keep the public informed.

Jon Fleischman wanted on record that he did not give Steve McGehee approval to put his (Jon’s) name at the end of his (Steve’s) article in the Boomerang and does not agree with many of his opinions.

Mayor said we will work on having a public meeting.  We’ll have Canfield and Associates help us.

PUBLIC WORKS REPORT:   Supt. Griffin submitted a written report.  The chipper/compost pile is getting used a lot.  We’ll chip in another week or so.

POLICE REPORT :  Chief Neumann submitted a written report.

NEW BUSINESS :
Whitman County Commissioner Pat O’Neill spoke about a Proposed Transportation Project.  Whitman County would like to start a van pool for people in Garfield, Palouse, or Oakesdale going to and from work M-F at SEL and WSU in Pullman.  Coast Transportation has committed to the 20% match.  The county’s goal is to provide 2, 12-passenger vans.  Participant cost would be $75/pp/month, (based on 9 riders).  The resolution is complete and the application goes out in mid-December.  They hope to have them operating by mid-January.  Call 635-1604 for more information.

Public Records Index Ordinance :  Councilmember Bailey explained that one of our reasons for this is to exempt us from having to have a Public Records Index which is required by RCW.  We don’t have the manpower to create or maintain an index.  The ordinance pretty much follows the one we developed prior with the exception of extending when PRR can be picked up.  If we’re going to have a public meeting on this, he recommends that we have this ready to review at the next meeting for possible adoption.  We will need to confirm with the city’s insurance carrier and attorney that we can require only one request per form.

OLD BUSINESS
Resolution:  Red Flag Rule – Identity Theft Prevention :  The policy is still in Atty. Bishop’s hand.  The deadline has been extended until June 2010.  The RFR is being required by the FTC to protect consumers from identity theft.  Since the city has w/s accounts we are considered a creditor.  We have to have a policy in place to protect those records which could be used for identity theft.

Discussion on implementing water/sewer utility tax :  Councilmember Bailey gave a power point presentation on the city’s financial trends since 2000.  A few of the many facts presented include the reduced revenues due to the loss of sales tax equalization and the property tax increase limit of 1%.  The revenue was also reduced by the fact that interest rates went from 6% in 2000 to less that 1% currently.  Keep in mind that inflation rises annually by 2-3%.  Expenditures have increased in Law Enforcement because of the city commitment to have a two-man department.  The third officer is paid through the Garfield contract for services.

Councilmember O’Neill stated that before implementing this tax, our current w/s rates need to be reviewed to make sure we put money away for reserves.  He recommends doing an official w/s rate study (they take three months from start to finish).  Councilmember Bailey thinks it’s necessary to implement this tax for 2010 to maintain a reserve balance in the general fund.  Councilmember Milano recommends that we implement the tax since it’s already on our books and then look at w/s rates later.  Councilmember Milano MOVED to ask our attorney to rewrite our utility tax PMC 3.17 from 7% to 6%.  Councilmember Bailey seconded.  Motion carried unanimously.

Mike Bagott said the passing of our street levy and pool levy were pretty telling in the approval rate of the city.  The people who choose to live here are choosing to support their schools, streets, cities, through the tax levies.  He stated that he would much rather pay that extra $2 on the utility bill than have zero reserves in the general fund.

COMMITTEE REPORTS/REQUESTS: 

Parks, Cemetery, & Buildings:   The Chamber has requested having a drive-in movie night at the RV Park as a fundraiser for the community center.  City staff has seen the proposal and their only concern is property damage (grass, sprinklers, etc.). The chamber’s insurance carrier AIA has reviewed the project and will cover any damages that may occur.  The first movie is planned for the end of November and the second one the end of December.  Councilmember Milano MOVED to allow Tyler Barstow to go ahead with his plan with the continued approval from city staff.  Councilmember Snook seconded and the motion carried unanimously.

Streets & Sidewalks :  Councilmember Bagott continues to work with Supt. Griffin on the snow removal policy.   She spoke with Greg Partch from TIB and he doesn’t think we need an official ceremony for the H Street project but a letter from the city with pictures would be good.

Water & Sewer :  Councilmember O’Neill’s term is up in December.  He thinks the city should send council members to the IACC conference once a year.   It has proven to be a very valuable investment for the city.

He said in the next year someone should take a serious look at the w/s rates and do a full analysis of where we’re at.  Non-profits such as ERWOW and RCAC can provide hours of free services.  Councilmember Bailey MOVED , second by Schorzman to request an official w/s rate study.  Councilmember O’Neill abstained.  Motion carried unanimously.

MAYOR’S REPORT :
The mayor is speaking about Palouse next week at the WA. Chapter of Assn. of American Planners.

The Mayor thanked voters for passing our levies.  That money is invaluable to the community.

The 2010 preliminary budget is available to the public at City Hall.

Councilmember Bailey MOVED to excuse Councilmember O’Neill from the Oct. 27 council meeting.  Second by Councilmember Snook.  Motion carried unanimously.

The PRR meeting will be a public meeting, not a public hearing.

ALLOW PAYMENT OF BILLS:   Councilmember Snook MOVED that the bills against the city be allowed.  Councilmember Bagott seconded the motion and the motion carried unanimously.

ADJOURN:   Councilmember Milano MOVED to adjourn.  Councilmember Schorzman seconded the motion and the motion carried unanimously.  The council meeting adjourned at 8:51 PM.

The following vouchers/warrants are approved for payment:
Claims Paid     1807-1830                   $34,374.77
Payroll Paid     1787-1806                   $30,171.42
Payroll Paid     EFT                             $  6,655.85
APPROVED: ________________________________   ATTEST: ________________________________