Council welcomes new city leadership
By Craig Howard
Hugh Severs earned a place on the Liberty Lake City Council in last November's general election, defeating Jeff Sitton with just more than 56 percent of the vote.
On Tuesday, both Severs and Sitton embarked on new journeys in the city they call home.
Severs took the oath of office at the first council meeting of 2014, officially replacing Josh Beckett, who opted against running for re-election after four years on the governing board. Sitton was confirmed to the Liberty Lake Planning Commission with Council unanimously approving the appointment made earlier by Mayor Steve Peterson.
"There's a lot to learn; I'm just here to do my best," said Severs after the Jan. 7 meeting at City Hall.
In another shift around the dais to start the New Year, Council Member Cris Kaminskas was nominated as mayor pro tem by colleague Odin Langford, who has held the role for the past two years. The nomination was unanimously approved by council.
Langford and Council Member Keith Kopelson, who each won their respective re-election bids last fall, took the affirmation of oath on Tuesday. Council Member Lori Olander, who also emerged victorious on the ballot, missed the meeting with an excused absence due to illness.
Along with a number of new municipal leaders, this month will also mark the debut of the city's renovated website. Finance Director R.J. Stevenson provided an overview of the site (www.libertylakewa.gov) on Tuesday, set to go live on Jan. 13. New features will include an "Emergency Alert" that will notify residents of issues involving extreme weather and other urgent scenarios.
Visitors to the site can also create a personalized list of priorities drawing from departments like the library, parks and recreation or public safety. The city will send out updates from each area throughout the year. Individual pages will also include more accessible links to features at the library and Trailhead Golf Course.
A new business section on the site will be separated by categories similar to the Yellow Pages and include links to the websites of local companies. Stevenson said the city will be sending out flyers to Liberty Lake businesses this month to let them know about the free online directory.
The site will provide an opportunity for residents to report potholes on local roads and other safety concerns. Information regarding building permits, business licenses and the senior lunch program will also be included.
In a wrap-up of the year-end money numbers, Langford updated council on some encouraging news from the most recent finance committee meeting. The report was highlighted by a $465,000 boost to the general fund beyond the projected amount for 2013. The revenue was attributed to a surge in auto and RV sales as well as an increase in both building permits and planning reviews. Income from the real estate excise tax in 2013 also surpassed predictions. The city budgeted $280,000 for the year, but received $460,000. Trailhead checked in with a banner year as well, generating $514,000, some $109,000 beyond the revenue projected for last year.
City Administrator Katy Allen provided a rundown of projects for 2014 on Tuesday, starting with the Liberty Lake Ball Fields. Allen said construction of the two diamonds "will begin as soon as the ground thaws." Improvements to Pavillion Park and Rocky Hill Park are also on the agenda for this year, along with a new reading garden at the library.
City Engineer Andrew Staples chimed in with an update on the illuminated pedestrian crossings and enhanced street lighting, noting that the machinery should arrive at City Hall by Jan. 20. The city is working with Avista to incorporate new LED lighting on local roads.
Allen's report also included what she described as "anchor dates," a list that features municipal priorities like an update to the capital improvement plan (summer), City Council retreat (August), utility tax discussion (September) and a community open house at City Hall (spring). Allen added that the calendar for 2014 should include workshops on topics like the proposed Interstate 90 interchange and updates to the Parks, Recreation, Open Space and Trails Plan.
In other city news:
• The Liberty Lake Police Department received a $1,000 grant from Walmart while Spokane Teachers Credit Union donated $1,500 to the Liberty Lake Municipal Library.
• In an effort to create additional opportunities for the area's flock of wintertime golfers, the city will spend approximately $3,500 to add five garage doors at the driving range this month to divert the elements.
• In the aftermath of Initiative 502 last year, the city has received two applications for marijuana distributorships in municipal limits. Allen said both requests were ruled invalid because neither applicant has secured the necessary paperwork from the Washington Liquor Control Board, the state's licensing agency for such businesses.
• As the new mayor pro tem, Kaminskas will receive requests from fellow representatives of the City Council for the finance, community development and finance committees. Appointments to all three committees will be determined at the next council meeting on Jan. 21.
• Allen and Peterson will represent the city in Olympia at the legislative conference sponsored by Greater Spokane Incorporated, Jan. 22-24.