January 29, 2009 in Washington Voices

Cheney takes a look back at accomplishments

City administrator says getting to know staff great highlight
By The Spokesman-Review
 

The city of Cheney saw a lot of changes in 2008.

The past year saw the introduction of sector policing, new hires throughout the city, the introduction of Youth Court, construction on the wastewater treatment plant expansion and two major snowstorms.

Arlene Fisher, the city administrator who just completed her first year, said that getting to know the city staff was a great highlight for her in 2008.

“There’s a lot of heart here in Cheney,” she said.

Other highlights included hiring a new light director, city attorney and community development director. The city also remodeled the finance department and the municipal court, completed a design for the research and industrial park, constructed a light department substation, upgraded software for city computers, continued with the residential street program and completed a master plan for the proposed Betz Park. Fisher feels the drilling of Well 8 will help the city reduce its dependency on older wells.

Mayor Allan Gainer said that one of the big accomplishments of 2008 was getting the city through two major snowstorms.

“As a city, during the snowstorms, this city came together really well,” he said.

Gainer said the city tried to hold off as long as possible in declaring a state of emergency, but finally relented for the sake of the crews.

“The guys needed a break,” he said. Crews had been working 12-hour shifts, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Cmdr. Rick Campbell of the Cheney Police Department had a long list of accomplishments for 2008.

Sector policing was a new program introduced to the city, in which each officer was assigned a section of the city to find out what residents were concerned about.

During the program’s infancy, Cmdr. Zeb Campbell met with residents, members of public works, Fisher and a Realtor to discuss concerns about cars speeding through the neighborhood.

After meeting with the neighbors, the city agreed to conduct a traffic study. The results suggested to the city that a change was needed on the street, and since the street was scheduled for restriping this spring anyway, crews will remove the center turn lane from Al Ogdon to Sixth Street. They will also increase the size of the bike lane and add some parking spaces in that area, giving the street a narrower appearance to slow traffic.

“They got the answers they wanted,” Campbell said. “That is as a result of the sector-based policing.”

Campbell added that the program is still in its infancy and hopes that this year the program will take off and reach maturity in three years. The police also received new computers for their vehicles that allow them to communicate more effectively with dispatch and run names and license plates through the system quicker. The roof on the department’s building was fixed, the school resource officer increased his contacts at each of the schools and after a year of being over-budget in overtime pay, the department came in almost $1,000 under budget by the end of December.

“The guys just did an outstanding job of managing overtime,” Campbell said. “We just started clamping down, totally clamping down.”

The city has a long list of accomplishments in the last year and is now looking toward projects for 2009.

Updating the comprehensive plan is at the top of the city’s list of priorities.

“You need a plan of action,” Gainer said.

The city also plans on implementing business license fees — something business owners face at a state level, but not in the city. “It’s our link to ensuring that the city of Cheney is receiving sales tax,” Fisher said. She also feels that the licenses will help the city organize better when new businesses want to open in the area, to make sure that each business is different from the ones around it. It will also provide the city with a collective listing of all businesses in Cheney.

Rebuilding and replacing the Wren Pierson building, which is slated for partial demolition this week after last month’s snowstorms caused the roof to collapse, is another priority.

“Obviously that was an unplanned event,” Fisher said. She said there has been a conceptual plan in the background for the building since before its demise, which will make the process of rebuilding that much easier.

The city is also looking into improving wayfinding signage in Cheney to make it easier for visitors and residents to find their way around town and will make the signs more uniform. Gainer said the city is working with Eastern Washington University in this project and looking for funding.

There also will be an upgrade to the north entrance of the city around the Cheney sign. The city will enhance the landscaping, add brick paving and lighting.

Fisher also said the city is looking into giving residents the option of paying their utility bills online, the police department is looking into e-ticketing to speed traffic stops, and the Parks and Recreation Department will be getting a new 24-seat wheelchair-accessible van – something the department has been raising funds to purchase for some time.

At the police department, Campbell said employees are going through succession training to make sure everyone knows how to do all jobs in the department. The department is also hoping to expand its student resource officer program and take a look at the investigations department to reduce the detective’s case load by about half.

Chief Jeff Sale has also received a $69,000 grant to install cameras along First Street – a decision that is still being discussed in the City Council.

“I think we’ve got our hands full this year,” Campbell said.

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

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