At a meeting set aside for the final calibrations to the municipal budget, a document addressing streets, buildings and boilers emerged as the chief topic of discussion at Millwood City Hall on Monday night.
In a unanimous 5-0 vote, the Millwood City Council approved an update to the capital facilities plan, a roadmap for citywide improvements that includes everything from road resurfacing to a backup generator for City Hall. The latest document addresses projects from 2012 through 2018.
The 2012 municipal budget, meanwhile, will require another special meeting later this month for council passage. Mayor Dan Mork said on Monday that the final numbers on insurance benefits for city employees were still being determined. As of presstime, no date or time had been set for the next meeting to address the budget. Cities have until Dec. 31 to approve their budgets for 2012.
City Clerk Tom Richardson noted that the latest rendition of the capital facilities plan will feature revenue from the Real Estate Excise Tax installed earlier this year. The tax applies a toll on every real estate transaction, usually representing between .25 to .50 percent of each sale. Millwood had been one of fewer than a dozen cities in Washington state to not have a REET in place.
An industrial lawn mower has been mentioned as the first purchase item for REET funds. Richardson said earlier this year that the tax is estimated to generate around $12,000 in annual revenue.
Other priorities in the capital facilities plan include a new boiler for City Hall, a $30,000 purchase that is expected to improve energy efficiency in the long run, and a backup generator ($15,000) – also to be installed at city offices. Millwood Park, a greenspace just east of City Hall, is also slated for future improvements, including upgrades to conform with standards in the Americans with Disabilities Act, resurfacing of tennis courts and a 1K fitness trail.
Elements of the city’s transportation improvement plan were also discussed at the Dec. 5 meeting. The document maps out street projects over the next 20 years and features a series of scheduled pedestrian facilities including a bike path along Empire Way and sidewalks on streets that branch off from Trent Avenue and Argonne Road.
Richardson said constructing the pedestrian paths on residential roads – around half of the neighborhood streets do not currently have sidewalks – will be crucial in promoting the city as “a walkable community.”
“People aren’t going to walk unless they feel safe,” Richardson said.
The safety of side roads has been an issue in the city of just over 1,700 residents for several years now. Mike Ellis, a candidate for City Council in last month’s general election, has spoken out on the issue of vehicles cutting across roads like Fowler after exiting from Trent and Argonne. Ellis and other residents have campaigned for street lighting, land markings and sidewalks as ways to improve safety conditions.
This fall, the city did install a raised intersection at the junction of Fowler and Empire as well as speed bumps on South Riverway and Bridgeport.
On Monday, the City Council unanimously approved Ordinance 426, a new 2-percent tax on brokered natural gas that should add approximately $13,000 a year to city coffers. Since 1991, the city has taxed wholesale natural gas at the same rate, a toll that has applied solely to the Inland Empire Paper Mill, the only entity in town utilizing the fuel source on a wholesale level.
City Attorney Brian Werst said Monday that future rates for brokered and wholesale natural gas would be adjusted equally “out of fairness.” The tax includes a 60-day waiting period with funds likely to reach the city by early to mid-February.
While the REET and natural gas taxes will be new to the city next year, the property tax rate in Millwood will remain at the 2011 rate of $1.60 per assessed $1,000 of property valuation. Richardson said the city will reserve or “bank” the allowable 1-percent increase for the time being.
In other council news:
- Shirene Young of Inland Empire Paper Co. gave a report on Millwood’s annual Christmas Tree Lighting held Dec. 2 on the paper mill’s front lawn. Over 400 people attended the free event which included music from the West Valley High School Marching Band and an original poem by Mayor Mork.
- Richard Schoen was appointed as mayor pro-tem for 2012, replacing Ellingson.
- Richardson provided an update on a corridor improvement project being led by the city of Spokane Valley that would involve Millwood from Empire Way to Knox. Richardson will serve on a search committee that will decide on an engineer for the project, spurred by a design grant of nearly $181,000.
- Maintenance Director Cleve McCoul reported that the city hauled away 100 truckloads of leaves this fall, up from 87 last year. Leaf removal ended on Nov. 17 in anticipation of snow.