April 16, 2009 in Washington Voices

Officials present Cheney city projects

Town-hall meeting updates residents
By The Spokesman-Review
 

For anyone wondering what the city of Cheney has been working on lately, Mayor Allan Gainer has been holding town hall meetings.

Gainer said he has been very proud of his city when he discusses it with other mayors.

“Cheney is one of the few cities that are maintaining,” Gainer said. He said the city is keeping to its budget and many of the bids for projects needed around town are starting to come in lower than expected due to the weak economy.

Gainer said some big events coming up should bring tourists to Cheney, such as the Jason Crawford Youth Wrestling Tournament and the 2009 Washington State Masters Criterium Championships, a bike race that will go through Cheney June 27.

“Hotels are booked,” Gainer said.

Other events coming to Cheney include Cheney Pride Day, May 9, when residents will band together to clean up the city, and Mayfest on May 30.

City administrator Arlene Fisher moderated the meeting April 9 and talked about many of the city departments. She said someone recently asked her if the city staff ever has a slow season, and she said no. She added spring is probably the busiest for the staff.

The Parks and Recreation Department moved into its new location last week and has also been working to publish its summer brochure, which was released Wednesday.

Centennial Park received new playground equipment, which Fisher said was an example of park impact fees at work. The department’s new ADA-accessible bus has been purchased and was picked up Monday after a couple of years of fundraising. She said the bus cost about $35,000.

“He just has the funnest job,” Fisher said of Paul Simmons, the parks and recreation director.

Fisher then moved on to the human resources department, which has been working with the city’s insurance company to deal with the loss of the Wren Pierson building in January.

Human resources recently won the “Well City Award” from the Association of Washington Cities. City employees have certain programs in place to keep themselves healthy to keep insurance costs down.

Fisher added that she has been doing her part by riding her bike around Cheney.

The finance department had expected to spend $723,000 from its reserve fund, but actually used only $347,167 and much of that was to purchase land for the new Cheney Research and Industrial Park.

She said the savings was accomplished through careful control of expenses by all departments, reduced legal expenses and delaying the hiring of vacant positions.

“That’s good budgeting on our part,” she said.

In the municipal court, mitigation for some traffic infractions can be handled online.

The resident can log into the city’s Web site and explain what happened. If they need to pay fines, residents can also do that online.

“It’s really a neat process,” said Terri Cooper, court commissioner and administrator.

The court’s probation office is also celebrating receiving the 2008 Misdemeanant Corrections Department of the Year from the Washington State Misdemeanant Corrections Association.

Fire Chief Mike Winters said the department responded to 1,288 calls for service in 2008, which was a 17 percent increase from 2007 and a 55 percent increase from 10 years ago. He said the average response time was 3 minutes, 37 seconds for emergency medical service calls and 4 minutes, 46 seconds for fire calls. The longer response times for fire were because firefighters must put on turnout suits before getting to the scene.

Winters also said that in 2008 the total fire loss was $162,580 when the potential loss was $1,686,500.

“(When we get) the fire out, we start trying to save people’s belongings,” Winter said.

Police Chief Jeff Sale discussed the increased crime rates in January and February of this year. Compared to a year ago, the department is experiencing a 74 percent increase. Sale expects that number to drop to about 50 percent by the end of March.

Assaults are up 271 percent, domestic violence reports are up 90 percent, thefts are up 82 percent and burglary is up 150 percent.

Sale said it is due in part to hard economic times and a long winter when residents have been cooped up inside too long.

The department is working to set up a policy for a camera positioned on First Street to record everything that is going on between the 300 and 500 blocks of that street.

The City Council will have more discussions about the cameras in upcoming meetings.

Brian Jennings, community development director, explained the new nuisance code, which was recently updated for language and simplified the process of making a complaint.

In the light department, Joe Noland explained the city will take part in a voluntary power outage on June 21 – the longest day of the year – from 2 a.m. to 8 a.m.

The outage is so the Bonneville Power Administration can perform maintenance on three switches at the Four Lakes substation.

“It hasn’t been done in forever,” Noland said. He added that the scheduled outage can help residents and city staff prepare for an actual power outage. To prepare, Noland recommends residents turn off and unplug any sensitive equipment until the power is restored. He also suggests checking flashlights for fresh batteries and to have charged all devices that run off a battery.

Todd Ableman in the public works department said that the city will begin street sweeping soon, as well as flushing water mains throughout Cheney.

The new Well 8 is scheduled to be completed in May and the wastewater treatment plant expansion should be finished by July or August.

Contact staff writer Lisa Leinberger at (509) 459-5449 or by e-mail at lisal@spokesman.com.


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