City continues to sift through WSDOT roundabout bill
By Craig Howard
Astute observers of the Harvard Road roundabout may have noticed a similarity between Liberty Lake's latest traffic calming project and the corresponding bill from the Washington State Department of Transportation.
It seems both have the capability to take you around in circles.
At the March 18 City Council meeting, City Administrator Katy Allen and Finance Director RJ Stevenson provided the governing board with the latest update on WSDOT charges related to the roundabout, a point of contention for the council since overage costs came to light after the project was completed last October. Allen, who has met with WSDOT officials to discuss the issue, emphasized that "the numbers haven't moved" since the state agency confirmed the cost to the city in January.
"We asked for a closeout and they've lived up to that," Allen said.
City officials have expressed concern with WSDOT's management fee which was estimated at $192,629 at the start of the project but came in at $249,000 at the end. Stevenson told council on March 18 that with certain items from the project still pending, WSDOT has indicated that overage charges could be $98,811 in a best-case scenario or up to $122,042 in the final bill.
Mayor Steve Peterson took issue with what he described as "accelerated costs" related to the project and suggested that changes to WSDOT's billing process could have a beneficial effect well beyond Liberty Lake.
"There need to be reforms," the mayor said. "If you bid $192,629 we expect you to put in $192,629 not $249,000."
The city has paid WSDOT $656,991 to this point out of the Harvard Road Mitigation Fund. A balance of $18,000 remains in the fund. Stevenson said the city could cover the remaining cost to WSDOT from the street fund, then be eligible for reimbursement through the Local Infrastructure Financing Tool or LIFT.
Mayor Pro Tem Cris Kaminskas said she hoped for "better management and definitely better contract negotiations moving forward."
"It's frustrating," Kaminskas said. "It's not easy to come up with an extra $122,000 when we're trying to find money to pay for other important projects."
Peterson stressed that "the problem is with management" not with contractors. He told council that he continues to hear positive reviews of the roundabout including feedback at a recent Greater Spokane Inc. meeting.
"They said it was the best roundabout in Spokane County," Peterson said.
Harvard plan updated
In another discussion related to development and fees, council voted unanimously on March 18 to approve amendments to the Harvard Road Mitigation Plan. Implemented prior to the incorporation of Liberty Lake, the plan provides a mechanism for builders to offset the impact of development on transportation infrastructure by paying established fees. The program has not been updated since it was launched in 1996.
The amendments refine the boundaries of the plan to reflect municipal limits. Traffic counts have also been redefined based on future buildout of the city. Under the new standards, developers would pay $671.02 for construction of a single-family home, up from $416.63.
"It's worked incredibly well but it's never been updated," Allen said.
Allen added that the impact fees will continue to be optional. Developers who decide against paying the fees must conduct their own traffic study, something that has not occurred since the plan has been in place. City officials have met twice with developers this year to discuss changes to the program. The new fees will take effect May 1.
Allen said 46 percent of the fees collected under the new guidelines will go toward a new Interstate 90 interchange, a long-anticipated addition that has drawn support from developers. The remaining revenue will be put toward new citywide transportation projects.
City to weigh solid waste options
City Administrator Katy Allen updated Council on the transition of regional solid waste management from the city of Spokane to Spokane County at the March 4 meeting, noting that the county hosted a workshop on the matter Feb. 27. Allen said the county has taken the first step with an outline of an interlocal agreement but note that cities "must now decide what that interlocal agreement will look like."
Allen told council that county has yet to release specifics on the cost, hours of operation and programs that would be part of the agreement.
"We didn't learn a lot of information on Feb. 27," Allen said.
On Feb. 28, Allen met with the city administrators from Millwood, Deer Park and Airway Heights and Spokane Valley to discuss the county's proposal. She said Liberty Lake would still like to proceed with its own request for proposals, adding options from the private sector into the mix.
"We still want to go out with our own RFP," she said. "We probably won't get a price point from the county until this summer. Right now, we don't have a voice at the table. It's more complicated than just curbside collection - there's household hazardous waste, there's education, waste reduction and recycling."
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In the Books, On the Docket
A look back and ahead at business conducted by the LL City Council
By Craig Howard
IN THE BOOKS (MARCH)
• Council approved time-sensitive repairs involving plumbing and mold-removal to the lower level of the Trailhead at Liberty Lake golf facility.
• Council approved improvements to the Trailhead driving range that will expand the turf area to the north of the covered tee boxes.
• Library Director Pamela Mogen said the library is now conducting a trial period of various databases. The test phase will also include a survey. Mogen said the library has also introduced a Teen Cybersmarts program outlining safe and responsible use of the Internet by adolescents.
• At the March 4 council meeting, Liberty Lake Relay for Life Co-Chair Jean Simpson shared plans for the fourth annual event scheduled for July 18-19 at the Meadowwood Technology Campus. Simpson told council that the fundraising objective has been set at $30,000. Last year's event generated $27,000. Organizers are hoping for 25 teams to register. "It's been really rewarding," said Simpson. "Relay is growing in Liberty Lake. I would just like to see the entire community look forward to it each year." More information can be found at www.cancer.org or www.relayforlife.org/libertylakewa.
ON THE DOCKET (APRIL)
• The community-wide Clean Green collection is scheduled for from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 5. The event, co-sponsored by the city and the Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District, encourages residents to bring leaves, branches and other yard waste to the site of the Liberty Lake Farmers Market on Meadowwood Lane.
• City Administrator Katy Allen told council in March that the Liberty Lake Ball Fields project is scheduled to break ground on April 7. The contract spans 85 days which, weather permitting, would put completion sometime in July.
• Allen will provide an update on the design phase of Town Square Park, a proposed 2-acre greenspace near the site of the Liberty Lake Farmers Market, at the April 1 meeting. Allen told council in March that design of the project is now more than 60 percent complete. The city expects to award the construction contract in May.
• A workshop on proposed improvements to the Trailhead Golf Course clubhouse facility will take place April 1.
• Council is expected to award the bid for construction of a reading garden at the Liberty Lake Library at its April 1 meeting.
• Council will consider the purchase of several city vehicles at its April 1 meeting.
• Proposed updates to the personnel manual for municipal employees will be presented to City Council for consideration and approval on April 1.
• The city will host an Arbor Day celebration at 10:30 a.m. April 14 at Pavillion Park.