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Liberty Lake City Council/Mayoral Race: Currently 10 Candidates for 5 Positions

in Government and Politics
City Council Candidates Liberty Lake

As of 11:00 AM, Spokane County Elections’ website lists a total of 10 candidates for 5 positions.

Candidates who have filed are as follows:

  • Mayor
    • Steve Peterson
    • Shane Brickner
  • Council Position No. 1
    • Phil Folyer
    • Dg Garcia
  • Council Position No. 3
    • Holly Woodruff
    • Dan Dunne
  • Council Position No. 5
    • Bob Moore
    • Annie Kurtz
  • Council Position No. 7
    • Cris Kaminskas
    • Jeanette Nall

The filing deadline to declare candidacy for Liberty Lake City Council or Mayor is 4 PM Today (05-17-19).

If interested, here is the link to file: https://www.spokanecounty.org/315/Online-Candidate-Filing

LLPD Copes with Steady Decline in Applicants

in Featured/Government and Politics/Public Safety
Liberty Lake police car

Chief Brian Asmus can remember a time when as many as 70 hopefuls would apply for one officer position with the Liberty Lake Police Department (LLPD).

That was over a decade ago.

When two openings emerged recently at the agency, only five qualified applicants stepped up to the plate.

The scarcity of law enforcement recruits is not unique to Liberty Lake. According to the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), Seattle saw a 50-percent drop in applicants last year despite a starting officer salary of $79,000.

“There’s lots of thoughts about it,” said Asmus, who has overseen LLPD since late 2001, the year Liberty Lake was incorporated. “It’s a national issue, not just a local issue or a Washington issue. A lot of it has to do with the negative attention law enforcement has received.”

LLPD did bring on two officers earlier this year — Tuan Nguyen and Stephanie Scheurer. There will be 13 full-time staff after the latest pair of hires join the force.

Asmus said he would like to add one more officer by the fall. Within the past year, two Liberty Lake officers have left for the Cheney Police Department while a third resigned.

Early attrition continues to be a challenge for many agencies across the country, according to research by PERF. A survey of nearly 400 police departments nationwide last year found that 29 percent of officers who left their jobs had been employed less than a year while nearly 40 percent had been on the job less than five years.

Asmus is not ignoring the trends as he works to keep his team stable and emotionally well. He has implemented new programs providing mental health sick leave and conducting regular check-ins with awareness of issues like PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

Asmus stepped up to fill gaps after several departures in 2018, covering 12-hour patrol shifts himself. In 2002, the first full year of LLPD, Asmus and three officers patrolled the streets. The city’s population was around 3,500 at the time. It’s now closer to 11,000.

As for the drop-off in resumes, Asmus said he has decided against offering signing bonuses like a number of agencies on the west side of the state.

“You get people just chasing the dollar and we don’t want that,” Asmus said. “I’m looking for people who want to serve this community and be here for the right reasons.”

Asmus notes that recruiting worthy officer candidates these days resembles the work a college coach might do to sign a top recruit.

“Law enforcement is different from when I started back in the 90s,” Asmus said. “Now, you’re not only recruiting the officer, you’re recruiting their family.”

Former City Council Member Judi Owens remembers the discussions about enhancing public safety leading up to the successful incorporation vote in November 2000. She and her husband Charlie have called the community home since 1992.

“Before incorporation, there was just one county patrol car covering this area,” Owens recalls. “They were spread pretty thin. I think people realized we needed more public services, not just law enforcement, but our own road maintenance, library and more. It was a matter of keeping our tax dollars at home and funding those services.”

Owens said the inaugural City Council quickly recognized the importance of funding law enforcement and making public safety a top priority.

“We talked to Spokane County about contracting but it didn’t pan out,” she said. “I’m glad we went the way we did starting our own department. Brian has done a tremendous job and I think we have an outstanding police department.”

Asmus said he has always felt fully supported by the city when it comes to keeping his agency sufficiently staffed and equipped.

“The support has always been there,” he said.

As for the future of LLPD, Owens said there is one eventual vacancy that will be difficult to fill.

“I don’t really want to think about Brian retiring,” she said. “When you think about hiring a chief that fits in and has the community’s respect like he does – it’s going to be challenging.”

City Council Discusses Interstate 90 Improvements through Liberty Lake

in Featured/Government and Politics/Traffic and Roads
Featured Video Play Icon

Last week, we reported that the Washington state legislature approved $20.7 million for I-90 improvements through Liberty Lake.

“Awesome! When will they get started?”

Not so fast. The road to project kick-off is still under construction.

First, the governor needs to sign the bill into law. As of today, HB 1160 is on the governor’s desk awaiting signature.  If Governor Inslee fails to sign and does not veto the bill, it may still become law.

Next, the City of Liberty Lake and Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) have some work ahead of them before breaking ground.

Here is what is known and what the City of Liberty Lake is working to define.

Known:

  • Improvements are needed at Barker Road, Henry Road, and Harvard Road.
  • A year ago, City of Liberty Lake retained lobbyist to get these projects funded.
  • The project includes:
    • Harvard Road Northbound Bridge Widening
    • Harvard Road Westbound Ramp Extension
    • Barker Road at Cataldo Roundabout
    • Henry Road Overpass from Country Vista to Mission (no on/off ramps)
  • The project will be managed by WSDOT. They will control timeline, budget, and construction management.
  • WSDOT considers this one project and has yet to complete the project plan and contract.
  • According to WSDOT, I-90/Barker to Harvard – Improve Interchanges project is estimated at $26.9 million.
  • Per HB 1160, the City of Liberty lake is responsible to pay any amount over $20.7 million
    • The connecting Washington account appropriation for the improvements that fall within the city of Liberty Lake may only be expended if the city of Liberty Lake agrees to cover any project costs above the $20,900,000 of state appropriation provided for the total project in LEAP Transportation Document 2019-1 as developed April 27, 2019, Program – Highway Improvements (I).
  • Current estimated cost to Liberty Lake is $6.2 million.
  • There is no cap on overages and Liberty Lake has no say in the final amount besides managing the scope.
  • Supporters included: City of Spokane Valley, Spokane Valley Fire Department, Central Valley School District, Spokane Transit, Spokane Regional Transportation Council

Unknown:

  • Will the Liberty Lake City Council approve the WSDOT contract without knowing the total project cost?
  • Will Liberty Lake be able to find savings to reduce costs?
  • What will the financial strategy be to pay for this expenditure?
  • Will Spokane Valley contribute to the project since a portion of the project is located within Spokane Valley limits?
  • Will any of the other supporters contribute to the cost?
  • Will a project of this scope require Liberty Lake to put other planned projects on hold?

This week, City Council touched on some of these questions. It will take further discussions and discovery before they can answer all the questions.

Click here to watch the council discuss the I-90/Barker to Harvard – Improve Interchanges project.

Watch Liberty Lake City Council Meeting and Workshop Live on Facebook

in Featured/Government and Politics/Video
Facebook live May 2019

Tuesday, May 7, 2019 at 6 p.m., Liberty Lake Gazette will broadcast the Liberty Lake City Council meeting and workshop live on Facebook.

Visit https://www.facebook.com/libertylakenews/ any time after 6 p.m., Tuesday.

Here are a few of the key issues:

  • Salary Commission and Other City/Public Agency Reports
  • Land Transaction with CVSD
  • Food Truck Proposed Ordinance
  • Acceptance of Donations Ordinance

Full agenda: http://www.libertylakewa.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_05072019-514

What Happened to the $1.5 Million Trailhead Driving Range Net Replacement?

in Featured/Government and Politics
Trailhead golf course open

Background

In October 2017, the City of Liberty Lake received a risk assessment summary which stated, “The city has a high liability exposure for this driving range with the number of golf balls being hit over/through the fencing.” The report also indicated that there would be a follow-up within 45 (forty-five) days to verify that the issue had been remedied.

Limiting liability by raising the nets around the course and range was estimated at around $1.5 million. In addition, the City was also considering an upgrade to the golf course irrigation system. The irrigation system was upgraded at a total cost of about $1.3 million, but the nets remain the same height.

At the time, there was some urgency to the issue, but seems that the insurance provider is willing to accept the risk while the community figures out a solution.

Current Status

City Council is exploring options for additional improvements to the driving range, course, and facility. Last month, they spent about 40 minutes discussing a need vs. want list and contemplating how they would proceed with this process.

Here is a rough summary of that meeting broken down by participant:

Scott Bernhard, City Engineer

Scott presented a list of the “must have” vs. “nice to have” options. Here is a rough outline of that list:

Must Have

  • Pro shop
  • Parking
  • Restaurant
  • Banquet/Meeting Room
  • Office
  • Putting Green
  • Driving Range
  • Storage
  • Business Plan

Nice to Have

  • Deck or outside eating area
  • View restaurant
  • Reconfigure course to have signature hole (example: tee pad on property on other side of Liberty Lake Rd)
  • New driving range net
  • Golf cart charging station
  • Replace with course Top Golf building
  • New facility or fix up old
  • Golf cart repair shop
  • More putting – Putting Course
  • Indoor Simulators

After this list has been refined, they would go out with an RFQ for a consultant who has experience with similar project requirements.

Some of the criteria will come from a citizen committee and the RFQ will be prepared from that.

Review of the current Trailhead building is underway, but not yet complete.
Some of the known issues are:

  • Some ADA issues
  • Nets not perfect
  • Deck structure issues
  • Banquet/meeting room is marginal
  • HVAC issues
  • Building is “tired”
  • Might need more parking

Cris Kaminskas, Council Member

  • Patio is closer to must have
  • New net is needed
  • New facility depends on evaluation

Dan Dunne, Council Member

  • Agrees outdoor seating must have
  • Putting course on natural grass for families would be nice (not mini golf)


Odin Langford, Council Member

  • Why isn’t the net a must have? Answer: it is functional, but might have some upcoming repairs
  • Need more info about costs to decide
  • What is Top Golf?
  • What is signature hole?
  • Many must haves cover the like to haves as the person you choose will have the skills to perform both
  • Doesn’t think charging station is needed
  • If anyone was looking to hire an expert, you would look for experienced person

Steve Peterson, Mayor

  • Top Golf defined for those who don’t know (Gazette provided link: https://topgolf.com/us/)
  • Who would run Top Golf? How would money flow?
  • Revenue from sales tax and developed by Top Golf – not in golf business
  • Would need a lot of parking
  • Nets – estimates net heights are 185 ft
  • $1.7 mil for netting estimate
  • Last 2 or 3 years talking about it and need to define why we are doing this
  • How much money do we want to put at this? We don’t know exactly.
  • Council can discuss, but is it market driven? What does the market want?
  • Council and Mayor want citizen input; trying to moving forward
  • Ask for RFPs to choose from
  • Ask the citizens what they want
  • Next action, need somebody to put this together


Mike Kennedy,  Council Member

  • Reminded that the net was reviewed last year and nets already were determined to be deteriorated
  • Jan presentation was made and committee interest list was formed and the volunteers have yet to be contacted.  Slow molasses movement.
  • Process is still open but need input during RFQ process
  • Scott agreed to follow-up but was waiting for more direction and  Harvard Rd has taken front row
  • Is project plan still valid?

Shane Brickner, Mayor Pro Tem

  • Agrees with Odin… premature as we need to assess the building first
  • Too early to weigh on like to haves
  • “The why” is on the must have list – That is the driving direction
  • Don’t know if a building is feasible


Katy Allen, City Administrator

  • Need to find clear direction before hiring a consultant so we can get best result from them. Premature on the building side and should get info in a couple weeks.
  • Need a business plan for operation associated with anything we do.

Bob Moore ,  Council Member

  • Boring course at Trailhead
  • Played many courses and signature hole and water feature would be nice since we have new irrigation system.
  • Don’t rule out someone else to develop the property – joint venture or selling of property if in the best interest of community
  • We already have a course, how to enhance the existing facilities. Is there a better way to develop that and do it more effectively?
  • Like Mayor, demand driven is important. Need expertise for options on how it should be developed.


Resources

Listen to the whole conversation in this video; for 40 minutes of excitement.
(estimated time 1:19:00 to 1:58:00)

 

Original coverage from Dec. 2017
(analysis and opinion)

$1.5 Million: Nothin’ But Net

Follow-up story from Dec. 2017
(mostly satirical)

Nothin’ But Net – Part 2: Things You Can Buy with $1.5 Million

State Legislature Approves Funding for I-90 Improvements through Liberty Lake

in Featured/Government and Politics/Traffic and Roads
I-90 road sign

Lawmakers in Olympia passed capital and transportation budgets Sunday. Among the transportation projects approved was up to $20.7 million over the next two years to improve I-90 from Barker Road to Harvard Road.

The project is intended to provide the following improvements for Liberty Lake:

  • Improve I-90 interchanges at Barker and Harvard
  • Construct an overpass at Henry Road
  • Improve local feeder streets

Additional costs for this project will be paid by the City of Liberty Lake.

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