Council weighs pending decision on marijuana
By Craig Howard
When the Liberty Lake City Council approved a moratorium on the growth, processing and sale of marijuana back in January, much remained uncertain regarding the statewide implementation of an initiative that had passed in November 2012.
While I-502 made small amounts of marijuana legal for those over 21 and applied taxes to the sale of the drug, cities like Yakima and Wenatchee took a cue from State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who stated that local laws established by jurisdictions took precedence over a state referendum.
Liberty Lake followed suit, passing a six-month ban on any activity connected to I-502. Now, with the end of the moratorium approaching on Aug. 4, the governing board is faced with another decision – whether to lift the injunction, extend it for another six months or implement a permanent ban. Council can also look at current zoning regulations to provide additional safeguards against retail operations associated with the drug.
At Tuesday night's council meeting, Police Chief Brian Asmus provided an update of the I-502 terrain, including news that Wenatchee – a city that had banned marijuana-related businesses within municipal limits – was facing a lawsuit for its stance.
Ultimately, council agreed to table the vote on the moratorium until its next meeting – scheduled for July 15.
"We need more time, in my opinion," said Council Member Keith Kopelson.
Opinions varied on Tuesday, from Mayor Pro Tem Cris Kaminskas, who expressed support for the idea of a permanent ban, to fellow council members Dan Dunne and Bob Moore, who noted that the initiative had passed and was now part of state law.
Kaminskas said her view was based on the fact that I-502 failed by over 10 percentage points on the ballot in Liberty Lake.
Several citizens chimed in on the discussion, including Mike Kennedy, who expressed support for the moratorium and urged the city to beware of "revenue and greed" in the I-502 debate.
"That is the point you're making with this decision and the message it sends to kids, the kids of the future and everyone in this room," Kennedy said. "We don't need that revenue."
Margaret Barnes pointed out that marijuana is still considered an illegal drug according to federal guidelines and told council about her work as a nurse, treating prisoners who dealt with drug problems. She called marijuana "an addictive drug that leads to other drugs."
"I ask you to keep it as far away from Liberty Lake as possible," Barnes said.
Library annual report
The Liberty Lake Library Board provided council with its annual report on Tuesday. Board Member Lu Embrey summarized the financial scenario by telling those around the dais that good stewardship governed the library's agenda. Expenditures totaled $411,178.03 last year, $4,501.97 under the budgeted amount.
"Basically, you gave us money and we stayed within the budget," Embrey said.
The summer reading program included 815 participants in 2013, up 26 percent from the previous year. Attendance for all library programs totaled 5,151. There were 52,501 patron visits in 2013, a year that marked the 10th anniversary of a library that began with donated materials in a cramped space in Greenstone's Liberty Square Building.
The current Board of Trustees is comprised of Embrey, Mary Ellen Steen, Linda Dockrey, Carol Johns and Pat Lutzenburger.
Library Director Pamela Mogen concluded the annual report by introducing what she described as a "community-led library service model." The plan will be led by the board, Friends of the Liberty Lake Library and the Library Foundation and include a survey of citizens as well as a focus group.
"By next summer, we expect to have clarity on the Liberty Lake community's opinion on the direction the library should take," Mogen said.
The feedback would then be forwarded to the City Council, Mogen added.
In other city news:
• Concern was raised in the citizen comments portion of Tuesday's meeting about golf balls from the Trailhead driving range sailing over the back container fence and presenting a safety risk to residents of nearby homes and pedestrians on an adjacent walking path. City Administrator Katy Allen said she would review the situation.
• The city celebrated the final payment on the note for City Hall on Tuesday. Mayor Steve Peterson and Kaminskas participated in a ceremonial shredding of a copy of Ordinance 137, passed in 2005 that approved the purchase of City Hall for $1.75 million.
• Allen provided an update on the future of regional solid waste management, saying that Spokane County had lowered its proposed fees and extended its deadline. The city has had discussions with Sunshine Disposal and Waste Management about a possible private sector agreement as an alternative to the county. Council is expected to vote on a contract in July.
• Allen said the city had received a bid for a restroom at the Liberty Lake Ballfields for $145,000. Council decided to wait on approving the construction until the entire project was closer to completion.
• Council unanimously approved improvements to Pavillion Park on Tuesday. The upgrades will include lighting in the parking lot and along the walkway as well as a shade structure.
• The city will utilize Minapsys to conduct a community survey on priorities for the city prior to the City Council retreat on Aug. 19.
• Finance Director R.J. Stevenson gave an overview and update on TIF (Tax Increment Financing) and LIFT (Local Infrastructure Financing Tool), a pair of funding mechanisms supporting public infrastructure. TIF and LIFT have contributed to the funding of projects like the water and sewer systems for the Bitterroot development, the Harvest Parkway infrastructure and the Harvard Road roundabout.
• Council unanimously approved equipment – in an amount not to exceed $45,000 – for the next installment of the Fallen Heroes Circuit Course in the new Town Square Park.
• Allen noted that Stan Jochim was appointed as the new chair of the planning commission, replacing Moore who was sworn in as the new council representative on June 10. The city is now advertising for a replacement on the planning commission.
• Council has cancelled its regular meeting scheduled for July 1 and will meet again at 7 p.m. July 15.