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Staples departs city after decade of engineering efforts

If a city-sponsored building project took place in Liberty Lake over the past decade, it was safe to say Andrew Staples had a major part in it.

Staples was hired as Liberty Lake's inaugural city engineer in 2008 and oversaw overhauls of main streets like Appleway and Liberty Lake Road, to name a few. Park improvements and other capital projects also fell under the auspices of the University of Idaho graduate who came to the city after working for the Coeur d'Alene engineering firm of Welch Comer.

At the April 3 City Council meeting, Staples was recognized for his decade of service by Mayor Steve Peterson. On April 9, Staples will begin a new professional chapter as special projects manager for the city of Spokane.

"We're going to miss Andrew," said Peterson. "He's been an excellent addition to the staff and our community. When something broke, people would say, ‘Let's call Andrew.'"

Staples is the latest loss to the city's management team. Longtime Planning and Building Services Manager Amanda Tainio resigned last month after a tenure that began as one of the city's first hires in December 2001.

Before coming to Liberty Lake 10 years ago, Staples worked on several of the city's street projects through contracts with Welch Comer.

"I've enjoyed my time in Liberty Lake," Staples told the gathering in council chambers. "I love this community and the citizens. The mayor, council and staff have all been great to work with."

City Administrator Katy Allen announced that Dennis Scott, who has been serving as the city's engineering assistant in charge of code enforcement, will take over Staples' duties on an interim basis. Scott is the former director of Spokane County Public Works and has been the proprietor of his own consulting firm.

Allen introduced another addition to staff Tuesday night as Lisa Key, former planning director for the city of Spokane, will take over as interim planning manager. Council approved the hiring unanimously. Key brings nearly 35 years of experience in land use planning, economic development, project management and transportation planning to her new role.

"There are a lot of great things happening in the city of Liberty Lake," Key said. "I'm grateful for this opportunity."

In the workshop portion of Tuesday's agenda, Finance Director R.J. Stevenson told council that the city has only used $55,000 of the allotted snow removal budget of $160,000 for the 2017-18 winter. Stevenson also noted that while overall city expenditures are currently exceeding revenues, the number is misleading due to the fact that property tax revenue will not be received until next month.

Allen provided an update on a patch of land in the Rocky Hill neighborhood that is protected by a provision known as a "deed of right." The 75-foot parcel lies near Rocky Hill Park behind four homes and is considered by the city as a challenge to incorporate into the park because it is comprised mostly of rugged, decomposed granite on a severe slope. Allen said the plan is to transfer the property out from under the deed of right and over to the homeowners.

Because the land is protected for greenspace purposes, the city is pursuing a request through the state Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) to secure a piece of property comparable in value and size at the site slated for Orchard Park on the north side of the city.

Allen said there will be an opportunity for public comment before the proposal goes to RCO.

"This is a separate parcel that would expand Orchard Park," Allen said. "It's taken us three years to get to this point."

In other city news:

• Council approved the second read on an amended ordinance to create the inaugural Parks and Arts Commission and establish responsibilities of the group.

• Council authorized Peterson to sign a three-year lease agreement for two front-end loaders. Stevenson indicated that leasing the maintenance vehicles would represent a cost savings for the city over renting.

• Council also authorized the mayor to move ahead with the on-call agreement with AAA Sweeping for street sweeping services.

• Upcoming council meetings/workshops include a discussion on the construction contract for Orchard Park on April 10, the regularly scheduled council meeting on April 17 which will include an update on improvements to Mission Avenue in the River District and a workshop to go over the city's strategic plan and priorities on May 8.