November 19, 2009 in Washington Voices

More cuts made to 2010 Liberty Lake budget

By The Spokesman-Review

Liberty Lake City Council members began a close examination of Mayor Wendy Van Orman’s proposed 2010 budget Tuesday night, asking questions about specific line items and making suggestions on where to make more cuts.

A suggestion to cut $55,000 in beautification money for a limited arboretum phase one seemed to find consensus on the council, but there was debate on whether to cut an additional $3,000 from recreation programs when the children and adult programs budgets already had been trimmed significantly in the mayor’s budget.

Councilman Dave Crump said the recreation programs need to be more self-sustaining. “We may have to charge a little extra fee,” he said. “Some of these are not essential services.”

Councilman Odin Langford cautioned against cutting the programs in the midst of an economic downturn, when people are looking for more free activities. He also questioned the amount of the suggested cut. “To my way of thinking, we’re just pulling numbers out of the air,” he said.

“I would not want to see it cut any further,” said Councilwoman Judi Owens. “I don’t want to go back to bare bones. People live in Liberty Lake for a reason.”

Several council members also questioned a $100,000 line item to pay for “wayfinding” signs that would point people toward local businesses. “This is just not the year,” Councilman Patrick Jenkins said.

It was suggested that the city only spend $50,000 on the program, but community development director Doug Smith said the project needs full funding. “It’s really going to be an all or nothing proposition in order to be viable,” he said.

A public hearing on the budget will be held at the next council meeting on Dec. 1. The budget must be approved by Dec. 31.

In other business, the council approved several proposed Comprehensive Plan and development code amendments. Most were considered housekeeping items and did little more than change a few words. The council did, however, decide to modify one development code amendment requested by Greenstone Corp. The proposed amendment would have allowed a “zero-foot” front yard setback in clustered housing areas.

“Why would we want to give a zero front setback on anything?” said Langford.

Greenstone representative Drew Benado said it was never his company’s intention to have a house right up against a sidewalk. “These are more for units that face a large open space, not a right of way,” he said.

The council voted to specify that a zero-foot front yard setback would only be allowed in cases where clustered housing faced an open space, though the last minute change was questioned by Jenkins. The planning commission spent a lot of time considering the proposed amendments, and the council shouldn’t “highjack” the process and make a change after a “quick look,” Jenkins said.

Council member Ryan Romney said it was his impression that the council was simply clarifying the intent of Greenstone and the commission. “I don’t understand,” he said of Jenkins’ reluctance. “It’s a sentence. We’re not changing all the words.”

The council also approved a zero-percent raise in the property tax rate for 2010 and a two-year contract renewal with Peplinski Construction for snow-plowing services. The city has worked with Peplinski since its inception and has always been pleased with its work, Smith said.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email