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City continues to mull WSDOT roundabout bill
3/19/2014 5:46:30 PM

By Craig Howard
Splash Contributor

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 Tuesday night's 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 Tuesday 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.

In another discussion related to development and fees, council voted unanimously on Tuesday 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 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.  

In other city news:

 Amanda Tainio, Planning and Building Services manager, presented an overview of the update to the city's Parks, Recreation, Open Space and Trails Plan. A community survey on greenspace and recreation priorities will be distributed from April to August with open houses and review by focus groups to follow. The planning commission, council and residents will provide input on a draft plan with council adoption of the six-year document anticipated by late 2015.

 Council approved time-sensitive repairs involving plumbing and mold-removal to the lower level of the Trailhead at Liberty Lake golf facility.

 The community-wide Clean Green collection is scheduled for Saturday, April 5. The event, co-sponsored by the city and the Liberty Lake Sewer and Water District, encourages residents to bring their leaves, branches and other yard waste to the site of the Liberty Lake Farmers Market. 

 Council approved improvements to the Trailhead driving range that will expand the turf area to the north of the covered tee boxes. 

 Allen provided an update on several capital projects, including the Liberty Lake Ball Fields, scheduled to break ground on April 7. Design of the Town Square Park project is now more than 60 percent complete. Allen said the city expects to award the construction contract in May.

 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.

 A City Hall open house has been tentatively scheduled for May 15. A workshop on proposed improvements to the Trailhead facility will take place at the council meeting on April 1. 

 The Friends of the Library Annual Tea will be held Saturday, April 26, from noon to 2 p.m. Tickets are $20. The event will include music, a silent auction and more. 

 Local doctors Jeremiah and Julia Stevens will be leading a health discussion at the library on the last Thursday of each month beginning at 6:30 p.m.