Council approves 2014 budget with supplements for pedestrian safety
By Craig Howard
The Liberty Lake City Council wrapped up 2013 by passing a budget that will take strides to improve safety conditions on municipal streets and sidewalks.
Following in the footsteps of a $30,000 amendment to this year's budget for LED crosswalk warning systems, the governing board shifted $75,000 originally slated for a concession stand in Pavillion Park to a fund that will address street lighting and additional pedestrian safety crossings in 2014. Council also earmarked up to $100,000 in surplus sales tax revenue from 2013 to the same fund.
The 2014 budget – ringing in at $11.7 million – was approved on Tuesday by a 5-1 margin with Council Member Lori Olander in the minority. Mayor Pro Tem Odin Langford missed the meeting with an excused absence.
"We have ourselves a budget," said Mayor Steve Peterson.
The financial game plan for next year will also include $25,000 in added salary and benefits for city staff, $50,000 more for the design phase of Liberty Lake Road and $130,000 for a restroom in the yet-to-be built Town Square Park. Funds in the amount of $100,000 for public art at the Harvard Road roundabout have been eliminated while a $610,000 interfund loan to the LIFT (Local Infrastructure Financing Tool) will include a dollar-for-dollar state match and eventually be repaid to the general fund.
Council also voted in favor of the interlocal agreement with Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service for 2014 at the Dec. 17 meeting. The contract with SCRAPS was adjusted from $5,700 to $9,703.
With some discussion, council approved an agreement with the Spokane Transit Authority that will see STA allocating $81,000 to the Town Square Park project. The bulk of the $655,000 construction price will be paid through the city's real estate excise tax. City Administrator Katy Allen assured council that STA – which operates a park-and-ride lot on the site – would be fully refunded if the project did not materialize.
Another funding situation with a different transportation entity produced a few more rumblings on Tuesday. Faced with overage charges from the Washington State Department of Transportation for the roundabout project, council voted to hold off on payment until a letter from the mayor could be sent. WSDOT surpassed the original budget by 25 percent, a difference that Allen said "should have been included on the front end of the agreement."
WSDOT's bill to the city is based on a percentage multiplied by the cost of construction. Peterson argued that the final numbers "should have been derived from an actual estimate of resources assigned to this project."
"My goal is to get down to why these numbers changed on the management side," the mayor said. "I look at this as a case study."
Council Member Josh Beckett raised the motion to address the issue before paying the additional cost.
"We should not just write DOT a check and call it good," Beckett said. "We should negotiate. We have a responsibility to our taxpayers."
The DOT impasse mirrored a different scenario on the table Tuesday, this one involving a decision by the Board of Spokane County Commissioners.
Earlier in the day, Allen attended a county hearing that featured a unanimous vote by the board to include Liberty Lake and the city of Spokane Valley in the jurisdictional area for noxious weed enforcement. Allen had recommended that Liberty Lake – which already has its own noxious weed program in place – not be included in the amendment.
At a rate of $3 per land parcel, the county collects $9,500 from Liberty Lake and $94,000 from Spokane Valley each year for the program. While the county facilitates education and outreach, Allen said "there is still a question about the overall benefit of the program to the city."
"We shouldn't be subsidizing the rest of the county, especially if we already have our own program," said Council Member Cris Kaminskas.
Council directed City Attorney Sean Boutz to look into options the city might have regarding the county's decision.
"Everyone should pay into this," Peterson said. "Why not Spokane, Cheney, Deer Park or Rockford?"
In other city news:
• The mayor recognized Beckett for four years of service on the City Council. Beckett decided against running for re-election on the November ballot and will be replaced on the board by Hugh Severs.
• City Engineer Andrew Staples, Parks and Recreation Director Michelle Griffin and Maintenance Supervisor Bob Kestell were each acknowledged for five years of service with the city. Library Director Pamela Mogen and Police Officer Mike Thomas were both recognized for reaching the 10-year mark. Mary Ellen Steen of the Library Board was also singled out for her contributions while Library Technician Georgette Rogers was honored as municipal Employee of the Year.
• The Liberty Lake Police Department distributed its annual awards with Mike Bogenreif recognized as Officer of the Year for the second year in a row. The Sergeant's Award went to Officer Brad Deines while Records Clerk Sakti Hiatt was acknowledged with the Chief's Award, the first non-commissioned employee to receive the honor. Council Member Shane Brickner, who donates time as a reserve police officer, was named LLPD Volunteer of the Year.
• Staples gave an update on the LED crosswalk warning systems approved by council at the last meeting. The machinery should arrive within the next four weeks, and weather permitting, be installed at the intersection of Country Vista and Mission as well as a crossing on Mission near the library.
• Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District Commissioner Tom Agnew provided an overview of the Spokane River Regional Toxics Task Force, a group working to reduce the levels of phosphorous and PCBs in the Spokane River and Lake Spokane. Agnew said citizens can do their part by properly disposing of household waste, being careful about what goes down the drain at home and making sure only water finds its way into storm drains. "We care about the environment," Agnew said at the end of the presentation. "We know how important water is."
• The Liberty Lake Kiwanis recognized Brickner with its "Everyday Hero" award. Along with volunteering for the police department, Brickner facilitates a Grief Share support group, participates in Relay for Life and donates time as a coach for youth sports.
• City Hall and the Liberty Lake Library will close at noon on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve and be closed for Christmas and New Year's Day.
• Council approved an agreement designating CH2M Hill as the city's engineering firm for large-scale transportation projects, such as the proposed Interstate 90 interchange at Henry Road.
• The next City Council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 7 at City Hall.