Town Square Park to break ground in July
By Craig Howard
After years of debate and discussion, the scruffy field in the heart of Liberty Lake will finally be transformed into a destination point.
City Council approved the long-anticipated Town Square Park project by a vote of 5-1 on Tuesday night at a price tag of just under $730,000, well below the budget of $785,000 approved last year. Construction is expected to start in early July and be completed in around three months.
"The motion carries, we're building a park," said Mayor Steve Peterson after the council vote.
The lone dissenting vote was cast by Council Member Odin Langford, who expressed concern with the inclusion of an entry arch, priced at just under $24,000. Langford and fellow Council Member Keith Kopelson were outvoted by their colleagues 4-2 in an earlier vote to remove the expenditure from the proposal.
Another topic of debate included the addition of a parking area near the Greenstone building just to the west of the park site on Meadowwood Lane. City Administrator Katy Allen indicated on Tuesday that Greenstone was willing to cover the costs of nearly $23,000 to pave 17 new spaces. Langford questioned why the council was learning of the agreement so late in the process.
Allen responded by saying the development company had been planning to add parking and the potential collaboration emerged during design discussions involving the park. She added that the parking will be considered public and not be limited to Greenstone employees or visitors.
"We've done our best to keep everyone informed, and I apologize if it seems like this is last minute," Allen said. "Greenstone was going to address it themselves, and the city added to the project to get the price."
Peterson said Greenstone's participation was based on the company "looking at this as a benefit to the community."
The Town Square Park concept was designated as one of three primary City Council priorities at its retreat last July. In September, Allen presented the governing board with what she called "an historical perspective" on the land and the variety of visions that have surrounded it. When the city's comprehensive plan was approved in 2003, the document prioritized the need for "a public presence in the central business district."
The city purchased the 6.4 acres along Meadowwood Lane for $1.75 million in 2005. Talk of transforming the property into the site of a community center and library complex faded quickly after a $9.8 million capital bond was resoundingly defeated at the ballot in April 2008.
In March 2012, the city hosted an open house to discuss design options for the property with the anticipated cost hovering around $850,000. When a state grant fell through later that year, discussions quieted again.
During the design phase, Town Square Park has been compared to other centrally located greenspaces like McEuen Park in Coeur d'Alene and Riverfront Park in downtown Spokane. Proponents of a civic site also pointed to the value of developing the acreage that serves as a backdrop to the Liberty Lake Farmers Market for nearly half of the year.
The city will fund the project primarily through $580,000 from the real estate excise tax as well as $81,000 from the Spokane Transit Authority as part of an agreement to add parking at the nearby Park-and-Ride. The balance of the cost will be covered through the Greenstone contribution and $25,000 from Aquifer protection/stormwater funds.
"I think this will be a great asset to our community," said Council Member Dan Dunne.
Solid waste update
Allen said the city will have a better idea on the future of solid waste disposal after May 27 when the request for proposals from private companies is due. Spokane County, which took over the regional sold waste program from the city of Spokane, has set May 31 as its deadline for area jurisdictions to provide an answer on a proposed interlocal agreement.
Liberty Lake has issued an RFP for price comparisons along with the city of Spokane Valley, Airway Heights, Deer Park and Millwood. Towns such as Spangle, Latah, Fairfield, Waverly and Rockford have already indicated they will sign on with the county for garbage disposal.
Allen said she would let the county know Liberty Lake would likely have an answer by the next council meeting on June 3. Peterson said there was a possibility that the city could call a special meeting next Thursday if the county needs an answer by May 31.
"It's getting pretty complicated as we head down the stretch," Allen said. "I think the county is concerned that cities aren't signing on and cities are concerned because they don't have a price. We want to put our best foot forward and do what's best for our citizens."
In other city news:
• As of Tuesday evening, the city had received only one application for the council position vacated by Lori Olander who stepped down May 6, citing conflicts with her work schedule. The deadline for applications is June 2. Council will hold a special meeting on June 10 to review applications, interview candidates and vote on a replacement.
• A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Fallen Heroes Circuit Course at Pavillion Park will take place on Memorial Day, May 26, at 10 a.m.
• The public safety committee reported that a structural assessment on the vintage barn at Rocky Hill Park has determined the building is safe to store maintenance equipment.
• Council voted to cancel its regular meeting originally scheduled for July 1.
• Allen will present an overview of the proposed survey on signage by the consulting firm of Studio Cascade at the June 3 meeting. She called the study "an important investment in updating some of the regulations we have."
• Work is well under way on the Liberty Lake Ball Fields, while the reading garden at the Liberty Lake Library is now complete.
• Larry Larson, project engineer with the Washington State Department of Transportation, provided an update on the interchange justification study for a proposed project on Interstate 90. The work would address access along Harvard and Henry roads. Larson said it would be between six months to a year before the report is ready. The Federal Highway Administration will review the study and evaluate anticipated impacts on I-90. Larson added that WSDOT will begin a repaving project on I-90 from Barker Road to the state line on July 7. The work will take place at night and run through August.
• City Engineer Andrew Staples introduced the six-year Transportation Improvement Program required of cities by state law. The city has set aside $19.3 million for capital projects from 2015 to 2020 and $2.9 million for preservation work.
• Steve Skipworth, commissioner with the Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District, encouraged citizens to be "good stewards of water" as the warm weather descends. LLSWD provides free consultation related to efficient water use, such as advice on the installation of timer-operated sprinkler systems.