Addition to ballfields, snow removal contract draw council debate
11/19/2014 10:16:25 AM
By Craig Howard
The cost of capital projects and municipal services has generated plenty of fodder for discussion at Liberty Lake City Hall over the years.
On a night when not a single public comment was received on the city's 2015 proposed budget, there was no shortage of dialogue over a late addition to the Liberty Lake Ballfields and the dynamics of the snow removal contract with longtime city contractor Peplinski Construction.
The first conversation at the Nov. 18 council meeting arose when City Administrator Katy Allen outlined the projected price of a building that will house a restroom and storage space on the grounds of the Liberty Lake Ballfields, a project that added two baseball diamonds to a parcel near Liberty Lake Elementary this summer. While referring to the original estimate of $160,000 for the restroom alone, Allen told council that the addition of a storage room for maintenance equipment would bring the price to $244,000.
Allen said lugging gear back and forth from the diamonds would present "a logistical challenge and efficiency issues."
To date, the city has spent $974,110.27 on the project. Mayor Pro Tem Cris Kaminskas was one of several around the dais who expressed concern with going well beyond the $1 million mark by adding the proposed building.
"I understand we need it, but I'm having a real struggle with the cost," said Kaminskas who referred to the first approximation of $800,000 for the overall construction.
Council Member Keith Kopelson said he was "frustrated" with the shifting numbers.
"Here's another quarter million dollars we're talking about," he said.
The design of the building would resemble the restroom facility recently installed at Town Square Park. Allen acknowledged that the budget had ballooned but reminded council that the parameters of the project had changed since the initial discussion of one diamond at $500,000.
"I don't want to overspend budgets either, but the variable tends to be the scope," Allen said.
The other ballfield debate had to do with drainage issues at the site, specifically a collection of quagmires that have cropped up on the perimeter of the fields. City Engineer Andrew Staples said the city was keeping an eye on the puddles in hopes that "the turf growing in would fix the problem."
"If that doesn't solve it, this would definitely be a warranty contractor issue," he said.
Allen said the problem likely had something to do with overwatering on the property that took place during the scorching summer weather.
While the site is under warranty for close to a year from now, some council members frowned on the idea of waiting too long.
"If we know we have an issue, I don't think we should delay addressing it," Kopelson said.
Mayor Steve Peterson noted that the excess water is currently outside of the foul lines, but said the city will "notify the contractor and expect them to have it fixed by February."
Snow removal contract
Historically, the task of renewing the snow removal and de-icing agreement with Peplinski Construction has been a formality, but on Tuesday, several council members questioned why there had not been a more competitive process involving the contract for clear and safe roads each winter.
An action item on Tuesday's agenda – which would have approved the agreement with the Newman Lake company and authorized Peterson to sign the contract – was tabled after Kopelson and Council Member Odin Langford suggested the city collect bids on the work.
"(Peplinski) does good work but just the fact that you do what you're supposed to, shouldn't mean you're automatically awarded the contract," Kopelson said.
Langford said comparing prices and securing a cost-effective agreement "is a matter of perception and good business."
The 2014 contract with Peplinski covers $70,000 with $49,000 having been spent to this point.
Peterson agreed that it would be a good idea to talk with other cities and gather bids, but emphasized the deliberation would not put streets in peril this winter.
"Our streets will not be filled with snow," he said.
SVFD announces property purchase
Spokane Valley Fire Chief Bryan Collins told council that plans to move the existing fire station on Harvard Road to a site on Country Vista have now been adjusted after SVFD purchased a different 50,000-square-foot parcel on Country Vista between Legacy Ridge and Henry Road.
Collins called the eventual transition of the Harvard station to the new site "a win for us and a good thing for the city."
Collins said the plan is to have the move completed by the end of 2017. The new location will provide better access to Interstate-90 and the new connector road across Henry, he added.
"It meets our response goals," he said.
Collins said the department had "worked out favorable conditions" with the Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District to purchase the site on Harvard which sits just to the south of the LLSWD treatment plant. He added that the developer of the original SVFD land on Country Vista had bought that property back.
In other city news:
• By a vote of 6-1, council approved a 1 percent property tax increase for 2015 on Tuesday. Kaminskas was in the minority. The hike will mean a home assessed at $250,000 will pay an additional $4 next year.
• Allen said the Fallen Heroes dedication ceremony at Town Square Park on Veterans Day was well-attended despite freezing conditions. She added that the event and project in general has drawn "nice comments from the military community."
• The fall leaf pick-up generated 800 bags of compost, Allen said. The event is a collaborative effort between LLSWD and the city.
• Allen told council that Spokane County has changed the property tax assessment for noxious weed maintenance in Liberty Lake and Spokane Valley to $1.80 per parcel, down from $3. The change, she said, will ensure that all county residents are paying the same rate.
• Allen said proposed changes to the municipal sign code are now in draft form for council review. The plan is to take the document to the community development committee, the planning commission and finally the City Council for consideration.
• Council has generated 32 "mayor's budget questions" in response to Peterson's 2015 proposed budget.
• Police Chief Brian Asmus provided an update on the I-502 moratorium, banning marijuana sales, producing and processing within city limits. The current lid will expire in February 2015. Asmus presented a proposed map that would expand the buffer zones prohibiting I-502 activity within 1,000 feet of STA bus stops, school bus stops, churches and trailheads. Several council members said they are waiting to see how legal scenarios in Fife and Wenatchee play out. Both cities had their respective bans upheld by superior court but both decisions are under appeal.
• Council unanimously approved a pair of land use proposals on Tuesday – the Legacy Ridge preliminary plat and the River Crossing North addition plat.
• City Hall will be closed Nov. 27 and 28 in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday.
• The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Dec. 2 at 7 p.m.