November 10, 2009

Special Council Meeting: 
Public Hearing for 2010 Preliminary Budget
followed by
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.

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.

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.

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.


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.

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: ________________________________