Concerns over roof closed library April 15-21
By Craig Howard
The timing of National Library Week was less than ideal for Pamela Mogen and her colleagues.
Mogen, the longtime director of the Liberty Lake Library, was on hand at the April 15 City Council meeting to accept a proclamation observing the week, only a few hours after the local storehouse of books on Mission Avenue was closed due to concerns over a water-damaged roof.
"We'll have to take a raincheck on everyone heading to the library," said Mayor Steve Peterson after thanking Mogen and her staff for their "outstanding work."
The city made the call to temporarily shut down the library in the early afternoon after a crew hired to re-roof the building discovered weakened trusses over a section of the former warehouse.
"When they peeled back the membrane (old roof tiles), they found the damage," said City Engineer Andrew Staples. "It was completely invisible from the outside. We were definitely surprised."
City Administrator Katy Allen told council that the closure was "precautionary" and emphasized that the city would work diligently "to fix the structural connections in question."
Ultimately, the closure lasted less than a week, with the library re-opening at 2 p.m. on April 21. The city consulted with a structural engineer and the roofing contractor, who determined that temporary braces could be installed to secure the part of the roof in question. Just to be safe, the city partitioned off the section of the library below the provisionary fix. The plan, Allen said, was to "repair or replace the trusses," for long-term stability. The cost is estimated at $20,000, with the city hoping to have the mend wrapped up the first week of May.
Council has already approved funding for re-roofing of both the library and the police precinct.
The current site of the library was once the home of Northern Technologies. The city purchased the building for just under $2 million in 2008 and spent another $675,000 to transform the structure - spanning 37,400 square feet - into the new headquarters for the library and the Liberty Lake Police Department. The library officially opened in March of 2009.
Allen told council on April 15 that there were plans to utilize the adjacent police department for some materials checkout while the library was closed. In response to Council Member Keith Kopelson's question about the impact of the closure on library employees, Allen noted that "the goal is to make sure no employees will be financially impacted."
Town Square Park bid on horizon
Council also received an update on a project a block to the west of the library at the April 15 meeting. Staples presented an overview of the Town Square Park design, a greenspace slated for the center of the city on just over two acres off Meadowwood Lane.
The project would add 56 parking spaces, sidewalks, landscaping, a restroom and lighting to the now barren space just east of the Liberty Lake Farmers Market. The cost estimate on the park sits at $744,000, under the $785,000 budgeted by council.
Council Member Odin Langford was less than enthused about one proposed landmark in the park - an entryway arch that was part of the original plan drawn up years ago and revised by Welch Comer Engineers as part of a more cost-effective budget. Allen emphasized that the arch was "a nice feature, but not an essential feature" and could be included as a line item in the bid "so council could decide whether to include it or not."
"Our goal is to not keep adding things to this project," Allen said. "I'd rather have the discussion tonight than when we bring it back to award the contract."
Staples said plans are to award the bid at the May 20 meeting and begin construction by the end of June, with the park being wrapped up sometime in September or October.
Waste management update
Allen's report on April 15 also included the latest on the city's attempts to secure a waste management contract in light of Spokane County taking over regional solid waste from the city of Spokane. Liberty Lake has aligned with a group of jurisdictions that includes Spokane Valley, Cheney, Deer Park, Millwood and Airway Heights to test the waters for waste management alternatives and, in Allen's words, "see what the best cost options are."
Allen added that "some questions have emerged" in response to the city's request for proposals that went out in April, with seven entities responding. Allen said all RFP proposals are due by May 8.
Meanwhile, Liberty Lake has yet to receive any cost estimates from Spokane County. The county issued a letter to the city on March 31 requesting an answer on an interlocal agreement by April 30. That deadline has now been moved to May 15.
Peterson said the debate over whether to sign on with the county or a private company for waste management "includes a lot of variables," adding that a final agreement would need to be reached by November.
Council narrows options for Trailhead facility
Over the past decade, Trailhead at Liberty Lake has been transformed into one of the region's more respected and utilized golf courses.
Meanwhile, the venue that serves as Trailhead's flagship facility has been part of another storyline.
The city, which purchased the course and accompanying building for $2.4 million in 2002, will spend around $40,000 this year to address plumbing and restoration issues at the venerable structure that is home to a pro shop, banquet facilities and Palenque Mexican Restaurant. The total represents a significant jump from the average annual expense for previous repairs - around $5,000 from 2008 to 2013.
At the April 1 City Council meeting, the governing board tossed out options to patch up or remodel the existing facility, currently in need of a new roof, updated HVAC system, plumbing upgrades and improvements that would bring the building into compliance with standards outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act.
While the city is currently assessing the structural stability of the deck and railing on the top floor of the building and addressing asbestos issues on the lower level, it appears the idea of a massive renovation has given way to the goal of a new facility.
"We're basically looking at a Band-Aid approach or a forward-thinking approach," said Mayor Peterson. "I think the message tonight was loud and clear that we want the forward-thinking approach."
Finance Director R.J. Stevenson presented council with five options for the building, each with corresponding funding sources. After passing on the patch up/remodel alternatives, council also expressed disinterest in issuing a bond to pay for a new building. The current note on the Trailhead site is at just over $600,000 and should be paid off by 2017.
Council was more agreeable to options that would generate money for an original venue through the sale of a portion of the Trailhead parcel or a leasing part of the property to a developer. Both would include stipulations on land use from the city.
Council Member Hugh Severs was one of several around the dais who expressed hesitation with selling off the land, describing it as a "great asset to the city." Stevenson emphasized that the city was merely trying to narrow down options for the site, not move ahead immediately with a strategy.
Council Member Dan Dunne said any plan should take into account the potential of the property.
"This location is a great opportunity for the city," Dunne said.
Allen said the city would be allotting funds over the next year to ensure that the building is "safe, compliant and operational."
In an update at the April 15 meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Cris Kaminskas reported that initial inspections of the deck at the Trailhead building have revealed some rail damage but it appears that, overall, the structure is "solid." The city is still waiting on a report on the deck from a structural engineer. Asbestos was also removed from the lower level of the Trailhead facility, clearing the way for the space to reopen.
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IN THE BOOKS, ON THE DOCKET
A look back and ahead at business conducted by the Liberty Lake City Council
By Craig Howard
In the Books (April)
• Council heard a presentation by Yoko Colby of Minapsys at its April 15 meeting. The company specializes in online surveys that, in Colby's words, "produce meaningful results through discussion, collaboration and evaluation." The city has had discussions with Minapsys about gathering follow-up information from the parks, recreation and open space survey as well as conducting future surveys. Since the company is attempting to break into the municipal market, there would be no initial cost to the city.
• Jennifer Camp, the city's Parks and Open Space superintendent, provided an update on spring maintenance, noting that runoff has led to bunker damage at Trailhead and the need to replenish sand. She added that several irrigation breaks at the course have already been repaired. Camp also noted that diseased trees have been taken down along upper Country Vista with plans to replace them with red sunset maples. The city has also recently hired Nick Arellano, a full-time irrigation technician, who previously worked for the city of Coeur d'Alene.
• City Administrator Katy Allen told council April 15 she has had discussions with management at the Hawkstone apartment complex on East Appleway regarding a shuttle van at the facility. Allen said while the vehicle has been utilized by seniors to this point, the city is recommending that shuttle transportation be available to all residents. At a meeting April 1, Council members barraged representatives of the Spokane Transit Authority with questions regarding the lack of a bus stop near the complex. The STA officials pointed to the challenges of navigating a turnaround in the area as well as the expense of extending a route but suggested that STA bring the city a cost analysis of adding another stop.
• Pat Dockrey delivered an overview of the Food for Thought program which now provides nutrition for 180 less-fortunate students in 13 local schools. The program serves as a weekend supplement to the free-and-reduced lunch program. Dockrey said organizers are hoping to rally community support through donations. A resident or business can sponsor a student for the school year for $125.
On the Docket (May)
• A municipal open house will be held at City Hall from 5 to 6:30 p.m. May 15
• Council will hear an update on Spokane County's Emergency Management program at its May 6 meeting.
• Also on May 6, the Liberty Lake Police Department will present its annual report and municipal staff will
provide an update on plans for the building at the Trailhead at Liberty Lake golf course.
• Council is expected to award the contract for structural repairs at the library on May 6 and review a first read ordinance on a budget amendment to cover the cost.
• Larry Larson of the Washington Department of Transportation and Allen will conduct a workshop on the proposed I-90 interchange at the May 20 council meeting.
• The May 20 meeting will also include a workshop on the city's Transportation Improvement Program, outlining capital projects and priorities from 2014 to 2020.