Friday, October 23, 2009

Residential Advisory Committee

Wednesday evening I attended the 2nd Residential Advisory Committee (RAC) meeting. It was held in the Leavenworth Fire Hall at 7pm. The RAC consists of an 11 member Board, three of which are City Councilmen (Elmer Larson, Tibor Lak, and Bob Francis) and out City Administrator, David Torgler, and the others are Leavenworth citizens. Elmer lead the meeting, starting out with some city updates.

Completed street paving
There were three street paving projects completed this Fall. Each of these projects were contracted out by the City. All of Cascade St was repaved, as well as the Pine St/Fir St intersection and the intersection in front of the liquor store and Highway 2. Before the Pine St/Fir St intersection was repaved, the project included fixing a broken pipe under the road that had been causing a large pot hole.

Recycling update
The City is finalizing an agreement with Waste Management for residential curbside recycling. They are hopeful that the agreement will be complete and approved shortly, and that the recycling program will be up and running by December 1st! The agreement draft is complete and it is now with Waste Management's and the City's lawyers for approval. Once the lawyers are done, the agreement will go to the City Council for approval. The curbside program will require residents to contract individually with Waste Management. It will cost $7.90 and pick up will be bi-monthly.

The City is also looking at possibilities to maintain the drop off site that Leavenworth Recycles has been running for the past few years. If the city runs the drop off site, they want to fence the site and would most likely only man the site a few days a week. They are going to wait to see what sort of need there is for a drop off site once the curbside program is up and running, but the City does realize the need to keep the drop off site open. The City has acquired $125,000 to use toward a recycling program for the city. This money may be used to set up the city's drop off site. The City is thinking of restricting the hours at the drop off site to encourage the curbside program. They may look at charging to drop off as well, to cover the costs.

Affordable Housing
When Chris Rader was sitting on the City Council, she was highly involved in seeking affordable housing for the city, sitting on the Council's committee . Since she stepped down off the council this Summer, affordable housing has been on the back burner with the City. The RAC has recently recommended that the council get the committee up and running, very soon. It is the council's hope that the newly elected council member sit on this affordable housing committee.

Streets needing paving
The next portion of our meeting consisted of coming up with a list of streets that are in critical need of upgrading and repaving. The list is as follows:
  • Summit St.
  • Ash St.
  • West St.
  • Orchard St between Pine St and Birch St
  • Commercial St, west of 8th St
  • Whitman St.
Streets needing sidewalks
We then discussed streets within the community that were in need of sidewalks for residential safety, particularly child safety as they walk to and from school. The list is as follows:
  • Pine St from Ski Hill to Chumstick
  • Birch St from Ski Hill to the school
  • West St, tie it into Benton
  • Orchard St between Pine St and Birch St
  • Prospect St
  • Price St
  • Central St
  • Commercial St and 8th St by the river, behind the mini golf course
We also talked about different types of sidewalks and walking area options. For example, creating a buffer vegetated area and then an asphalted walking area rather than an elevated sidewalk. This may make it easier to plow in the winter, rather than be the collector of the winter snow, making it unusable. I particularly like the idea of elevated sidewalks. I believe children are more likely to use them, and residents are less likely to park on them, as they do on walking areas that are level with the streets right now (ie. Cascade St).

Traffic calming/Speed control
Speeding is of concern in certain areas of our community, so we discussed options for calming and slowing traffic. Here are the ideas we came up with:
  • additional stop signs or yield signs
  • cross walks with overhead blinking lights
  • traffic circles or bulb outs
  • speed trailer from the Sheriff's Dept to collect speed data
  • lower speed limits
Intersections needing improvement
  • Front St/Division St/Commercial St
  • Evans St/Benton St
We had a long discussion about the Evans/Benton intersection due to its irregular shape and the need to slow drivers as they are driving on Benton toward Evans to the yield sign. It is of concern that many do not yield at this intersection and simply drive through. This can be very dangerous for those driving east on Evans and the children at the school yard across the street. We discussed the option of reconfiguring the intersection so that drivers are more likely to slow as they approach Evans.

The City is requesting funding for reconstructing and repaving Pine St. This project would include adding a sidewalk on the south side of the street, the side that the City owns. The County owns the north side of the street. The City is hoping that this project is shovel ready by the Spring of 2011.

Road funding options
We discussed the need for funding in order to be able to take on the projects we have identified. Here are those options we discussed:
  • Real estate excise tax, a small portion of our sales tax, and gasoline tax (per capita basis) are dedicated to road repairs right now. This is not enough to cover our city's needs.
  • Property tax can't be used for roads. This tax doesn't even cover the cost of the Sheriff and fire contract the City has. The city is $100,000 to $150,000 short with the property taxes we have.
  • Local Improvement District (LID) has been used in the past, but can be quite complicated. They require assessment of properties.
  • Sales tax is the money the money that is left to use for every other city expense. We discussed raising the sales tax in town by .02%, through a referendum. Most of the tax burden would be on our visitors, and the additional money acquired would be specifically dedicated to city road improvements. This options would be the easiest and least intrusive on the community.
  • Create a Transportation Improvement District (TID). This would be much like a LID.
Dave Torgler let us all know that the improvements and repavements done this Fall are temporary patches, meant to last for 3 to 5 years while the city can look for major construction money. Most of the residential streets have never been properly designed and engineered for the long term. Most are asphalt right over dirt, rather than the needed gravel, engineered base. The City has identified $31 Million in road infrastructural needs.

Elmer announced that the Trails Plan, the Downtown Master Plan, and the Transportation Plan are going to be up for adoption at the next City Council meeting on Tuesday, October 27th at 6pm. These three plans are available for view on the city's website.

The city's Park Plan update will start Spring 2010. The city is encouraging a lot of public input. This plan has not been updated since 1999.

The neighborhood/community citizen patrol (volunteers), sponsored by the Sheriff's Dept, is starting up. The don't have a facility to operate out of yet. The Sheriff's Dept has donated a vehicle to the patrol. The patrol may offer 2nd home owners and night/weekly rental owner the option to sign up for the patrol to monitor their homes when they are empty.

The RAC is going to try to meet quarterly. There is not a set date for the next meeting yet.

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