Feb. 20, 2018 | Solid Waste Collection Contract, Sign Code Update and Commission Work Plans
Posted on 03/01/2018

The Newcastle City Council roundups offer a digest of notable items for those who can't make it to the regular meetings. Listen to the audio from the Feb. 20 meeting here and view the meeting agenda packet here

Council Directs Staff to Renegotiate Solid Waste Collection Contract

In an effort to bring faster rate relief to customers, the Newcastle City Council directed staff to negotiate a new solid waste collection contract with Waste Management. The move comes as the city’s 10-year contract with the hauler is set to expire in mid-2019.

Negotiations with Waste Management will begin immediately, with an eye toward implementing new rates and enhanced services by the end of the year, several months earlier than if the city elected to go with a new hauler. Newcastle’s current rates were established by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Committee, rather than being directly negotiated or competitively bid. Moving away from this structure under a new contract will likely result in lower rates for customers.

“The sooner we can agree to something, we can implement that and start saving not only ourselves, but the city residents money,” Councilmember Dave Mitchell said at the meeting.

Over the next few months, city staff will negotiate new contract language and collection rates with Waste Management. Staff members also plan to discuss a variety of service enhancements, including Waste Management-provided kitchen food scrap containers for residents, recycling and yard waste collection frequency, an expanded curbside recyclables list and embedded yard waste and recycling services for all single-family customers. View the staff PowerPoint presentation here for more information on planned service enhancements and alternatives.

Directing renegotiation was one of two viable options the council considered. The other avenue, procuring a new contract through request for proposals, would offer more uncertainty, delayed rate relief and significant staff time. Councilmembers noted the city could still turn to this alternative, should the need arise during negotiations with Waste Management.

Introduction to a Major Sign Code Update

Community Development Director Steve Osguthorpe is suggesting major updates to the city’s sign code in the wake of a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled an Arizona town’s content-based sign code unconstitutional.

In Reed v. Gilbert, the Supreme Court’s decision determined that a sign code that makes any distinctions based on the message of the speech is content based, therefore violating the guarantee of freedom of speech. This affirmed a “need to read” position, which holds that if the only way to determine if a sign is in conformance with sign regulations is to read the sign, the code is “on its face,” content based.

This position had the effect of making many sign codes across the United States unconstitutional because jurisdictions often regulate signs based upon broad categories that would require a reading of the sign. For example, in Newcastle’s current sign code, there are certain content-based regulations for real estate, political and garage sale signs.

Newcastle will have to change its sign code to comply with the Reed decision, but the update will also give the city an opportunity to address the effectiveness of current standards and to adopt new standards reflecting recent trends and changes in signage technology.

Staff is seeking input from the City Council on the current code, including the local values regarding signage and what’s working or not working. The discussion will continue at future council meetings, as well as at the Planning Commission level.

For more background on this sign code update, read the thorough agenda bill here or view Director Osguthorpe’s PowerPoint presentation from the meeting here.

Commission Work Plans Approved

The Newcastle City Council approved annual work plans for both the Community Activities and Planning commissions. View the CAC’s 2018 work plan here and the Planning Commission’s here.

Community Activities Commission: The Newcastle Community Activities Commission advises the City Council on park and trail development, recreation programs and city events. In 2018, the commission will assist in planning the city’s summer events, promote the trail system through guided hikes, recruit and honor city volunteers and much more.

Planning Commission: The Newcastle Planning Commission advises the City Council on the Comprehensive Plan, development codes and other matters related to development and land use. The commission’s high-priority 2018 items include discussion of the city’s parking standards and consideration of Comprehensive Plan amendments, such as an update that would allow for a boutique hotel at The Golf Club at Newcastle. During the meeting, the City Council also added a review of tree-related city codes to the work plan.

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