October 25, 2014
The Liberty Lake Splash
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Sergeant Darin Morgan, left, and Officer Austin Brantingham flank Liberty Lake Police Chief Brian Asmus after being sworn in to new posts during the Aug. 5 City Council meeting.

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Council hears latest plans to streamline Appleway traffic
8/6/2014 10:21:36 AM

By Craig Howard
Splash Contributor

The city of Liberty Lake is not sitting still when it comes to traffic on Appleway Avenue.

At Tuesday night's City Council meeting, the governing board heard an update on ideas to address the growing dilemma of snags on the east/west thoroughfare, particularly during peak commuting times. City Engineer Andrew Staples described how an upgrade to the traffic signal at Appleway and Liberty Lake Road would help expedite the flow of vehicles despite a considerable pricetag.

Installed close to 30 years ago, the signal would require a significant overhaul costing in the neighborhood of $200,000 to $250,000, Staples said. Features like a flashing yellow light - facilitating right-hand turns to the I-90 onramp - would be possible with new technology.

"We're talking about replacing the innards of the signal," Staples said.

The backup along the city's central business corridor has become routine in the late afternoon to early evening hours. Last year, Brandon Hunt of Huntwood Custom Cabinets on Appleway described the snarl of traffic as "frustrating and getting worse."

The growing commercial presence of Huntwood, the Meadowwood Technology Campus, Liberty Lake Medical Park, Liberty Lake Business Center and other businesses has contributed to Appleway's bustling rush-hour scenario, with most vehicles caught in a westbound funnel on the two-lane road. Refurbishing the signal "would not eliminate the backup, but help," said City Administrator Katy Allen on Tuesday.

The city is looking at a fix to the light that would coincide with a major renovation of Appleway next year. In June, council unanimously approved a six-year Transportation Improvement Program for capital projects and preservation from 2015 to 2020. A total of $19.2 million has been set aside for capital work during that time, including just over $2 million for improvements along Appleway in 2015.

Staples noted that "with traffic control in place for the paving project," it would make sense to upgrade the signal at the same time.

In other news from the capital projects front, council authorized Mayor Steve Peterson on Tuesday to move ahead with the purchase of grass sod at the Liberty Lake Ballfields, currently under construction. The abundance of rocky terrain in the outfield of both diamonds, as well as the goal to have the venue ready for next baseball season, contributed to the decision. The contract with Desert Green Turf runs $33,222.21 and includes a $1,500 contingency to be managed by staff.

Council had discussed the installation of artificial turf at the venue last year, but the additional cost of $350,000 proved to be a deterrent. The city has budgeted $885,000 for the ballfields in 2014. With bids for the project coming in lower than expected, Finance Director R.J. Stevenson said the cost of the outfield sod could be absorbed.

Allen told council on Tuesday that construction of the ballfields is progressing at an encouraging pace with the parking lot and LED lighting now in place. The next phase of the fields involves installation of the infield on both diamonds.

In other council news:

Liberty Lake Police Chief Brian Asmus presided over the badge ceremony and swearing in of Officer Austin Brantingham and Sergeant Darin Morgan on Tuesday. Brantingham started with LLPD as an intern from Eastern Washington University in 2004 and has served as a reserve officer since 2005. Morgan has been with the department as an officer since 2007.

Council heard an update on the HUB Sports Center from Phil Champlin, the facility's executive director. The multi-use venue in west Liberty Lake has seen attendance increase from just under 100,000 in 2010 to nearly 165,000 last year. The once financially embattled site has covered operating expenses for the last four years and has been able to set aside funds in a capital reserve fund for the past two-and-a-half years. Champlin said the HUB generated an estimated $5 million for the local economy from out-of-town visitors in 2013. He also announced the start of a $3.9 million capital campaign to purchase the nearly 67,000 square feet building and provide an endowment for operating expenses.

Council authorized Mayor Peterson to facilitate a contract for up to $6,000 covering electrical work at the Rocky Hill barn. The site at the east-end park will be used for storage of municipal parks and recreation equipment.

Planning and Building Services Manager Amanda Tainio provided an overview of the annual amendment process to the city's Comprehensive Plan and Development Code scheduled for consideration by council on Sept. 16. This year's agenda includes a proposal to alter the comprehensive land use map and zoning designation on a 13.1-acre parcel of land along Sprague Avenue and Henry Road from the current R-1 single-family residential status to M-2, community center mixed use.

Looking ahead to the deadline for a new regional solid waste management contract this fall, Allen said the city should have proposals from both Spokane County and Waste Management for council consideration by early September.

Allen said the city "understands the concerns and is exploring the options" related to the proposal of 70 ground-source heat pumps at the Lakemore residential property that is connected to the Hawkstone development in the eastern section of Liberty Lake. While the Department of Ecology has been named the regulatory agency for the project, the city is conducting a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review of the project which, some say, presents a potential risk to the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer.

The annual City Council retreat is scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug. 19 at City Hall.

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