March 7, 2013 | Vol. 116 -- No. 46

AH street fund would help repair rough roads

City streets in Airway Heights could see some improvement if a Transportation Benefit District is approved by the City Council.

The first of two public hearings was held at the Monday, March 4, City Council meeting where public works director Kelly Williquette outlined a preliminary plan for the project. After considering all the potential areas for tax revenues, the benefits district would pursue a .2 percent increase in sales tax, which amounts to 2 cents for every $10 spent in city limits.

The other potential areas that could have been visited included property taxes, annual vehicle fees and vehicle tolls. The City Council stated in previous discussions that increasing taxes solely on residents wasn’t something to be placed on the table.

Going the sales tax route allows for revenue from those passing through the city to enter into the mix.

“This wouldn’t be just Airway Heights residents, but visitors and those who pass through town,” Williquette said.

Estimated revenues from an annual vehicle fee, which would have impacted only city residents, would have totaled $45,880. Sales tax revenues, however, which would share the cost between residents and visitors could bring in $276,000 each year.

Airway Heights has 21.2 miles of paved roadway in the city limits, with .59 miles of chip seal roads. Over six years, between 2006 and 2012, Williquette said pavement condition ratings have decreased by an average of 25 percent.

In addition to paved roads, the city also has 6.6 miles of gravel roads, many of which are in poor condition and require more labor hours and materials to maintain.

State laws prohibit revenues collected from items like gas, prescription medication, rent and mortgage transactions.

It costs around $268,000 to build a block of paved roads in Airway Heights.

A second public hearing will take place at the next City Council meeting, Monday, March 18 at 5:30 p.m. in council chambers.

The transportation benefit district requires at least five residents for a citizen advisory committee. Those individuals can help to shape the process along the way. Interested residents can call the public works office at 244-5429 for more information.

Also at the City Council meeting, Jim Wavada from the Department of Ecology’s Eastern Regional Office spoke regarding the upcoming expiration of a solid waste disposal contract between the city and Spokane County. The decades-old document is set to end Nov. 17, 2014.

Wavada said Airway Heights, and other jurisdictions in the county, could pursue one of three potential options. The city could provide its own solid waste disposal plan, write a plan to be incorporated with the county’s plan or delegate the county the authority to devise a plan on the city’s behalf.

“It’s probably the most sensible way to go, financially,” Wavada said.

Ken Gimpel from Spokane Regional Solid Waste System said the county would be lowering its tipping fee by $9 per ton after assessing some cost-saving measures throughout the organization. The most notable difference would be the decrease of hours at the Northside landfill, which would cut its hours down to one day a week, being open for only half of the day. Gimpel said, however, that the facility wasn’t used enough to necessitate operating like a full-time location.

A 30 minute reduction of service time at a Waste to Energy Plant transfer station would also take effect.

The City Council approved a memorandum of agreement with Local 270-A regarding wages and benefits, the third reading of a salary ordinance creating the new Development Services Director position and the second read of an ordinance establishing the union workers’ salaries. Votes for each item were 6-1 in favor, with Councilman Doyle Inman dissenting.

Health benefits for the workers increased to $852 per year, paid by the city. Any unused amount at the end of the year would be returned to the city. It also addresses a 3 percent call-back in wages dating back to January of this year and 10 additional hours of vacation.

Mayor Patrick Rushing and City Manager Albert Tripp said their trip to Washington, D.C. was successful, where they met with several Air Force and Congressional representatives. Part of their discussions included the Fairchild Preservation and Community Empowerment project, which seeks to reduce the density in land leading up to the runway of Fairchild Air Force Base.

Rushing said Fairchild lost a couple of points in its bid to receive the KC-46A replacement tanker due to mobile homes in the area. Officials were pleased, he said, to know the city and community were proactive in an attempt to resolve any potential problems.

James Eik can be reached at james@cheneyfreepress.com.

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