May Council Recap: City maps out priorities for streets, capital projects
5/28/2015 9:33:06 AM
By Craig Howard
As a veteran of municipal public works, Katy Allen knows that proper infrastructure construction requires an efficient blueprint blended with an equally insightful funding strategy.
Now in her fourth year as city administrator of Liberty Lake, Allen helps coordinate a trio of documents that form the outline for road, trail and facility improvements throughout Spokane County's easternmost jurisdiction. At the May 5 City Council meeting, Allen introduced the latest developments with the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP), Capital Facilities Plan (CFP) and Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).
"These plans need to be current and relevant," Allen told council. "They can get redundant, but our goal is that the plans are consistent and work together."
The first meeting of May featured City Engineer Andrew Staples running through a list of TIP projects beginning in 2016 and covering a six-year span. The anticipated work falls into three categories - safety, condition of roads and capacity issues. The intersection of Mission and Molter, Staples said, is one example of a junction that will eventually need to be addressed due to future congestion.
One line item on the TIP includes $100,000 for street and pathway upgrades that could emerge based on observations of those who use the routes regularly, Staples pointed out.
"Residents are seeing the need for safety improvements that we haven't necessarily seen ourselves," he said.
When Council Member Shane Brickner pointed out concerns with sight lines at Signal and Appleway, specifically for motorists making a left-hand turn on Appleway, Staples said the city had addressed the issue by ruling out trees and vegetation that had been slated for the site.
While TIP cost estimates are still in the very abstract phase, the total for 18 projects is tabbed at nearly $16 million. The total does not include a price on the proposed Henry Road interchange, a project still being considered for funding by the state legislature.
Street preservation accounts for the largest portion of the TIP budget, weighing in at $2.39 million. Improvements on Country Vista, from Broadway to Liberty Lake Road, have been projected at $1.86 million, while a two-phase reconstruction of Liberty Lake Road, from Sprague to Country Vista and from Country Vista to Appleway, carries a price tag of $2.626 million.
Some projects, such as upgrades to Mission Avenue on the north side of the freeway, will be completed by developers, Staples added. The city is in a unique position to have such projects reimbursed thanks to a funding mechanism known as the Local Infrastructure Financing Tool (LIFT).
The TIP is updated annually and is required for the city to qualify for critical state and federal funding support.
Planning and Building Services Manager Amanda Tainio provided an overview of the CFP on May 5, a layered document that includes proposed improvements for parks, utilities, roads, buildings and facilities. Tainio referred to the roof at City Hall as an example of "trying to be proactive about generating project lists."
"Give us feedback," Tainio told council. "If there's something missing, let us know."
Among the major CFP projects over the next six years include a long-discussed upgrade of the flagship building at the Trailhead at Liberty Lake Golf Course. A replacement of the antiquated irrigation system at Trailhead is also on the horizon, with a price tag in the neighborhood of $1 million.
Council Member Hugh Severs added his thoughts regarding another future project at Trailhead - safety improvements at the driving range. While council has discussed extending nets and fences to protect passersby from stray golf balls, Severs said the city should also look at limited-distance balls at the practice facility.
Tainio said there has been discussion about adding two more stations to the Fallen Heroes Circuit Course, bringing the total to seven. The sites would be on the north side of the city and honor a fallen police officer and firefighter. Other CFP projects in the potential mix include expansion of the parking lot at the Liberty Lake Ballfields, a pair of community parks in the River District area, improvements to the Nature's Place at Meadowwood arboretum and a community garden at Pavillion Park.
Tainio said a CFP workshop will take place sometime in late July or early August, with approval by council sought by September.
"This is still a very preliminary list," Tainio said. "There will continue to be additions."
Strategies for Rocky Hill Park
As greenspaces go, Rocky Hill Park has emerged as a high achiever, despite an uphill battle.
To start, the 14-acre site was faced with the daunting role as the inaugural recreational site developed by a newly incorporated city. In its shadow stood the legacy of Pavillion Park, the community gem that sprang from a grassroots effort and was firmly established well before the vote for cityhood passed in the fall of 2000.
While the park benefited from a generous land donation from Greenstone, there was a series of funding challenges as Rocky Hill's first two phases were developed.
These days, those challenges are firmly in the rear mirror. Rocky Hill is recognized as a Liberty Lake landmark. While it may not be the destination point for events and community gatherings like Pavillion Park, it may feature a greater range of activities than its counterpart to the west. On any given day, lacrosse, soccer, gardening, rugby, tennis, bocce ball and more comprise Rocky Hill's recreation agenda.
At the May 19 council meeting, Tainio provided the governing board with an overview of future goals for the park as it looks ahead to its third and final phase under the site master plan.
Tainio pointed out that Rocky Hill benefited from robust public participation when the city was mapping out its original priorities. In a process that included Greenstone, city representatives and Mike Terrell Landscape Architects, residents weighed in on potential features through a series of workshops and site tours. While some ideas like a history/arts center located in the iconic red barn did not make the final cut, many recommendations did. Meanwhile, amenities like the bocce ball court and Rotary concession stand benefited from donations by community groups.
Tainio said the city is now working to prioritize a list of improvements that range from an expanded parking lot, informal amphitheater, sand volleyball court, splash pad and community building. Early talk about adding parking spaces to area near the knoll on the eastern boundary has now shifted based on sight line issues for motorists coming down the hill.
"When you look at that area, there are very few areas to expand the parking," said Mayor Steve Peterson.
The mayor and others around the dais also raised concern about traffic around the park, particularly with motorists headed down Mission Avenue at high speeds.
"We need to mitigate that issue first," Peterson said.
Proposed additions to Rocky Hill will eventually find their way onto the project list under the capital facility plan later this year. Allen issued a reminder that any sort of wish list would need to take funding availability under consideration. There has also been talk of revitalizing the turf for various sports and resurfacing the basketball and tennis courts.
"We can only make so many improvements each year," Allen said. "All of these have costs."
Tainio expressed hope that the same community-wide approach to gathering feedback for Rocky Hill would characterize the process of planning for another city-sponsored greenspace - Orchard Park on the north side of town. Meanwhile, Council Member Dan Dunne applauded Tainio for her efforts to secure RCO funding and other grants for municipal projects.
"Your grant application work with the city has been epic," Dunne said.
LLPD annual report
Liberty Lake Police Chief Brian Asmus presented his department's 2014 annual report on May 19, highlighted by a decrease in domestic violence cases last year. Juvenile crime was also down in 2014.
LLPD implemented a traffic school last year and updated its policy and procedure manual. All officers met or exceeded the training hours required by the state in 2014 while the department was issued a clean audit by the state. The department also hosted the fourth annual Domestic Violence Symposium.
On the hiring front, the agency brought on another full-time officer, Austin Brantingham, and added reserve officer Dan Wilson. Asmus said the department hopes to add one more full-time officer this year, bringing the total to 11 and establishing a ratio of 1.33 officers per 1,000 residents.
"Our officers take a personal interest in serving this community," Asmus said. "We're proud to serve this community."
Budget amendment for park
Council approved a budget amendment of $41,490 May 19 for upgrades to Pavillion Park, including a permanent concession stand, expanded restroom space and added storage. While the vote passed 5-1 with Council Member Odin Langford in the minority, others around the dais expressed concern with adjustments to a budget that had been passed at the end of last year.
"I think the budget process should be completed, not amended," said Council Member Bob Moore.
Peterson pointed out that a number of city projects also come in under budget, adding that he "would put Liberty Lake up against any city in the county for the miniscule budget amendments that we do have."
"When we spend less, should we bring forward a budget reduction amendment?" Peterson asked. "A budget is what you intend to do, not a guaranteed road map."
Like Moore, Severs said he also struggled with unanticipated expenditure shifts.
"We're overspending what we budgeted for," Severs said.
Finance Director R.J. Stevenson said amendments are required when the city accesses funds from the Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) since a specified amount had already been appropriated for 2015. While REET revenue is up again this year, Moore said it shouldn't mean a green light for spending.
"There is a big picture implication here," Moore said. "We need to consider the impact this is having on our cash balances at the end of the year."
• • •
In the Books, On the Docket
A look back and ahead at news from City Hall
By Craig Howard
IN THE BOOKS (MAY)
• The city has been working on a wayfinding sign program along with other jurisdictions in Spokane County. The goal is to establish a uniform directional network to public sites like parks, hospitals and libraries.
• A ribbon cutting for a sensory garden at the Nature's Place at Meadowwood Arboretum took place May 13. The Liberty Lake Lions Club has been the catalyst for the project.
• City Administrator Katy Allen said Greg Dohrn, a consultant hired by the city to help with an update of the comprehensive plan, could be brought in as a facilitator for upcoming discussions on proposed changes to the city sign code.
• The city is considering adding safety improvements, such as an illuminated crosswalk, at the intersection of Molter and Country Vista.
• Police Chief Brian Asmus swore in the newest LLPD officer, Matthew McKay, at the May 5 council meeting.
• The first meeting of a community task force/steering committee for capital projects took place May 21 at City Hall. The citizen-based group will first address priorities for an aquatic center followed by discussions about adding a community building and a new library. The goal is to gather feedback in time for the council retreat in August.
• The city's first bulky waste cleanup on May 9 resulted in nearly three tons of collected material. Goodwill also gathered enough reusable items to fill two trucks.
• Council approved a resolution related to the appointment of Mayor Peterson to the Spokane Transit Authority Board of Directors. While the tenure will only last until the end of the year, Peterson indicated that the appointment would pave the way for the city to have an increased long-term voice with STA.
• The Liberty Lake Centennial Rotary Club hosted a breakfast and program on Memorial Day at Pavillion Park. The dedication of the latest Fallen Heroes station, honoring Army Cpl. Kelly Grothe, a Central Valley High School graduate, took place later in the day on the first fairway at Trailhead.
• Council Member Bob Moore and his wife, Jackie, earned extra diligence points for their attendance at the May 19 council meeting. The couple celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary that day.
ON THE DOCKET (JUNE)
• Allen said completion of the improvements to Pavillion Park - including a concession stand and expanded restroom and storage space - should be in place by the end of June while the new restroom at the Liberty Lake Ballfields should be completed by mid-June.
• A public hearing on the city's Transportation Improvement Program, covering proposed road, trail and sidewalk improvements from 2016 to 2021, will take place at the June 2 council meeting. Council will also consider a resolution to authorize and adopt the document.
• The Liberty Lake Municipal Library Board of Trustees will present its 2014 annual report at the June 16 council meeting.
• Council will hear an update on community donations from Waste Management Inc. on June 16. The company included a commitment to philanthropy as part of a new waste collection contract signed with the city last year.
• A closed public hearing on the Trutina preliminary plat is scheduled for the June 16 council meeting.
• The annual City Council retreat has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug. 11 at City Hall.