July 14, 2015

Palouse City Council
Public Hearing followed by
Regular Council Meeting
July 14, 2015

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

ROLL CALL: Council members present: Doreen Hanson; Bo Ossinger; Mike Hicks; Senja Estes; Rick Wekenman; Bev Pearce; Absent: Christopher Langsett. Councilmember Estes MOVED to excuse Christopher’s absence. Councilmember Hicks seconded. Motion carried unanimously. Staff present: Public Works Superintendent Dwayne Griffin; Police Chief Jerry Neumann; Clerk-Treasurer Mike Bagott; & Deputy Clerk Ann Thompson.

PUBLIC HEARING to discuss 2016 Revenue Sources: Mayor Echanove opened the public hearing at 7:02 pm. Clerk-Treasurer Bagott is expecting very little change for 2016 for our local levy and our EMS levy. State law only allows us a maximum 1% increase annually on our general and EMS levies. Palouse’s valuation took a sizable hit from last year (dropped about 7%). County Assessor Joe Reynolds said it was from the railroad: he clarified it isn’t land but it’s the railroad’s rolling stock that is taxed as a business. We shouldn’t expect a change in valuation for next year. Whitman County’s tax on a millage basis is the second highest in the state at $14.21 per $1,000 valuation; Palouse’s is $4.94 per $1,000. The Sand Road development will have an impact over time but minimal in 2016.
Mayor closed the public hearing at 7:14 pm.

APPROVAL OF MINUTES: Councilmember Wekenman MOVED to adopt the minutes of the Regular Council Meeting of June 23, 2015. Councilmember Hanson seconded the motion and the motion carried unanimously.

PUBLIC WORKS REPORT: Supt. Griffin submitted a written report.
Backhoe is working great.
Road oiling went well.
North River road chip sealing went great.
The water main at Sand Road development is in but no hook-ups yet to the houses in the new development.

Officer Handley has been on force for two months now. He’s exceeding all of Chief Neumann’s expectation in work ethic and eagerness
The kids’ bike rodeo put on by the PD is coming up in August. AWB, Palouse Library, the coffee club, and a few individuals are sponsoring financially. The money buys new bike helmets for kids.
There have been five arrests in last few weeks; one in Palouse, four in Garfield. Mostly drug-related.
PD received an inquiry from the Viola Community Club about having a beer garden during Palouse Days on south Beach Street. They will go through the liquor control board etc. Their representative will come to a council meeting to ask for council permission. PD doesn’t have a problem with it.
Updating the camera system is still being discussed by committee. The cameras would be motion-activated and would be used in places such as compost site, restrooms at the park, skate park, at the PD, etc. It’s a safety thing; last year, in Sprague, WA, security cameras helped catch a kidnapper. Costco sells them for approximately $800 with 4 cameras. They’re expandable and have a good warranty. Council liked the idea but discussed concerns regarding public perception, necessary signage, and having to maintain them for PRR’s. CT Bagott and Mayor Echanove want a total dollar proposal with installation and also want more investigation by committee on how these videos have to be maintained etc. for PRR’s. Councilmember Wekenman will get some solid numbers and definitive answers on PRR’s and bring back to a future council meeting.

Whitman County Humane Society contract renewal: This is our annual contract with the humane society for the care and sheltering of animals picked up in Palouse. The only changes to the contract are in the cost which is $1,100 (up from $1,000) for 2015-2016; $1,125 for 2016-2017; and $1,150 2017-2018. This contract has been a real asset to the city. The city isn’t a kennel and has no place to keep lost and found dogs. Councilmember Pearce MOVED to accept the contract as written. Councilmember Hanson seconded. Motion carried unanimously.

2nd Quarter Treasurer’s Report: Sales tax revenue is down and CT Bagott isn’t sure why. He’s anticipating we’ll be down in the aggregate this year. Telephone revenue continues to decline substantially because of the loss of so many land-line services. Three positives on the revenue side: 1) the Sand Road Development has greatly boosted our building permit revenue this year. We haven’t seen the property tax income from that yet. The developer anticipates three more homes in the near future. That would be 7 of the 21 lots which is very unusual for a development that isn’t even finished yet. 2) City Assistance from the state is a pleasant surprise; up 45% from this time last year. 3) The RV Park is up 16% from this time last year. These things help balance the things like the loss of the phone revenue.

NEW BUSINESS: Last Friday, the Washington state legislature approved a transportation package. Included in it was a line item for $280,000 for the replacement of the west Whitman Street railroad tracks from Bridge Street to Mill Street. It is hoped this project will begin in 2016. The total reconstruction costs of the project are estimated to be about $680,000. The city will be working with TIB and WSDOT for additional funding to complete the project. The city’s estimated contribution is $20,000. West Whitman Street will be designed to look just like east Whitman Street (sidewalks, new railroad, new surface work, etc.). Representative Schmick and Senator Schoesler joined the meeting via speaker phone for the announcement. Mayor Echanove and council thanked them for being integral in getting Palouse this award.

Resolution No. 2015-07 fee schedule: Mayor read aloud the resolution by title only. The resolution adds the inadvertently omitted street vacation fee of $100 to the fee schedule. Councilmember Hanson noticed the dog tag fee wasn’t on the list either. Deputy Clerk Thompson will add that too. Councilmember Hanson MOVED to adopt Resolution No. 2015-07 as amended. Councilmember Wekenman seconded. Motion carried unanimously.

Streets & Sidewalks, Chair Hicks- The city has received concerns about some sidewalks throughout town in various states of decay, trip hazards, etc. They are a danger. Palouse code makes clear that sidewalk care and repair is the responsibility of abutting property owners. Councilmember Hicks will be drafting an email to citizens of Palouse as a reminder. We will also be contacting the city’s insurance carrier and have them do an evaluation of sidewalks. Letters will follow to those specific property owners whose sidewalks are out of compliance.

Police, Fire, & Safety, Chair Wekenman- Had a committee meeting. Everyone is pleased with how new Officer Handley is doing. Discussion also included the possible purchase of security cameras, how the new vehicles are working, and trying to implement a 3% COLA raise for staff this fall.

Tony Burt addressed the council to ask that a waiver be granted for a late fee on his water/sewer bill. He expressed his reasons for requesting the waiver. Of primary concern was the period of time from when bills are received until payment is due, especially as it relates to those who use online bill-pay. Additionally, he feels that the bills should contain more detailed information regarding usage and billing terms. Finally, he asked about the City’s policy to not charge a late fee on balance of $10.00 or less and why it isn’t reflected in the PMC. Council discussion followed and it was agreed that it is ultimately the responsibility of the consumer to make sure that water/sewer bills are paid on the due date and in the correct amount. The City has no control over bills that are lost in the mail, bill-pay checks that don’t arrive on time, automatic payments that are not in the correct amount, etc. Consumers are encouraged to contact City Hall if they have any questions regarding their bills. As stated on the water/sewer bills, payments are always due on the 15th of the month and late fees added on the 16th. Mr. Burt’s request for a waiver of the late fee was denied. Mike and Ann will develop a letter to email to consumers to provide detailed information regarding their water/sewer bills and where detailed information can be found online. They will also research the policy basis for the late fee waiver for bills $10.00 or less; Ann stated that is how she was trained to do it when she started 9 years ago and Councilmember Pearce did it during her time at City Hall. Deputy Clerk Thompson will research the policy to see if she can find any history on it. Councilmember Pearce MOVED to codify the long-standing policy of only charging a late fee on balances of $10.01 or more. Councilmember Hanson seconded. Councilmember Wekenman voted nay. Motion carried.

The city received a letter from WSDOT regarding the speed signage on the south side of town heading to and from Pullman. WSDOT will install new signs at their own cost. The PD will put the radar trailer there for a while to make people aware.

Chief Bagott doesn’t foresee the burn ban coming off until September. Conditions are still extremely, dangerously dry.

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

ADJOURN: Councilmember Hicks MOVED to adjourn. Councilmember Hanson seconded the motion and the motion carried unanimously. The council meeting adjourned at 9:13 PM.

The following checks are approved for payment:
Voided misprinted checks Ck. #6658-6684
Payroll Paid 6/30/15 Ck. #6685-6711 & EFT $44,652.79
Claims Paid 7/14/15 Ck. #6712-6752 & EFT $47,521.42

APPROVED: ________________________________ ATTEST: ________________________________