City Council Roundup | Oct. 2, 2018
Posted on 10/05/2018

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 Oct. 2 meeting here and view the meeting agenda packet here. View past City Council roundups at newcastlewa.gov/councilrecaps.

CITY LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES FOR 2019

The Newcastle City Council had its first discussion regarding the city’s 2019 legislative priorities. The city annually adopts a legislative agenda as a way to communicate the city’s policy priorities and goals to state representatives. The council didn’t take any formal action, but they did express some initial support for some of the priorities suggested by the Association of Washington Cities (AWC):

Keep the Public Works Trust Fund (PWTF) in working order: Cities support ongoing investment in the various infrastructure funding programs sponsored by the state. In particular, the PWTF is a crucial funding partner in efforts to provide the necessary infrastructure for communities. 

Fund a systems approach to correct fish-blocking culverts: AWC and state agency partners are focused on developing and funding a comprehensive statewide approach to fix salmon-blocking culverts. In order to achieve meaningful salmon and orca recovery, cities need ongoing and significant funding to upgrade city culverts.

Provide responsive funding for the Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC): Cities need a responsive funding model for the CJTC to ensure that newly-hired law enforcement officers and corrections officers have timely access to basic training. 

There was also support to include efforts to fund the first phase of the Lake Boren Park Master Plan improvements as the first priority, and the May Creek Trail bridge connection on the 2019 legislative agenda.

WASTE MANAGEMENT BILLING

The City Council chose not to request Waste Management display the new street/administrative fee as a line item on future Waste Management bills when the new contract takes effect next year. Some councilmembers were in favor of showing the street/administrative fee on the bill, while others felt the line-item listing wouldn't provide enough information about the fee and the reasons for its implementation.

After a thorough review, the Newcastle City Council approved a new 10-year solid waste collection contract with Waste Management at the July 17 meeting. Under the new contract, the majority of customers will see a decrease in their rates, while all Newcastle residents and businesses will receive an improved level of service.

During that process, the council also approved an 8.49 percent street/administrative fee that will be added to base collection rates and serve as an additional city revenue source to offset costs associated with the weekly wear and tear the collection trucks put on Newcastle streets. The fee will generate about $150,000 in new revenue annually. Even with the fee, the majority of residential customers will see a decrease in their rates.

Learn more about the solid waste collection contract in the July 17 council meeting roundup here.

GENERAL UPDATES

— The City Council offered additional guidance as the city continues discussing franchise agreement details with Puget Sound Energy. Councilmembers indicated they wanted the following issues addressed during negotiations: Reporting on reliability and safety, shared trench coordination, undergrounding utilities for Comprehensive Plan consistency, and vegetation removal and disposal. A franchise is a contract between the city and a provider (typically a utility, such as water, sewer, cable and/or telecommunications) that regulates the provider’s use of the right of way. Learn more about franchise agreements here.

— The City Council approved a financial policy change that targets the required minimum fund balances at 25 percent of the fund’s ensuing year budgeted expenditures. The updated policy is a Government Finance Officers Association recommended best practice. Learn more here.

— The City Council also approved a salary compensation policy with the intent to offer consistency when it comes to paying employees. The city has used and explored various methods over the past 24 years, but the new policy aims to implement a clear and concise method to assist in budgeting. Learn more here.

— As noted in the City Manager’s report, the city has officially welcomed Officers Stephanie Strack and Brittany Burtner to the Newcastle Police Department. Chief Jason Houck reports that Deputy Strack wrote 12 school zone speeding tickets in her first four days on the job, and noted that the department, as a whole, has been issuing more tickets. You can view traffic statistics, including the number of citations issued, in the city’s police blotter.

— In response to a resident concern during the evening’s first public comment period, the City Council directed the city attorney to investigate a possible conflict of interest. The city attorney will report back with findings, when available.

The Newcastle City Council wants to hear from you! Members of the public are invited to share thoughts during public hearings or two open public comment periods at meetings. Regular meetings of the City Council occur on the first and third Tuesdays of each month at City Hall, starting at 7 p.m. You can also email your thoughts to councilmembers. To send a message to the entire council, email the city clerk at saram@newcastlewa.gov. You can also email them individually (view all councilmember emails here).

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