Cheney council finds county weed proposal noxious
Cost to city for control would increase by over 700 percent
Deciding whether or not to save the former Northern Pacific train station wasn’t the only thing Cheney’s City Council did at their April 8 meeting. They also discussed what to do about noxious weeds.
Or more specifically what Spokane County’s Noxious Weed Control Board seeks to do, which is place a noxious weed assessment on all parcels in the county. In a March 28 letter to the city, board chairman Paul Puhek said the board is considering a minimum $2 per parcel assessment on all land in the county, with an additional 6 cent or 12 cent assessment per acre depending upon the type of soil.
Currently the only lands assessed are unincorporated parts of the county along with the cities of Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake, which are charged $3 per parcel minimum along with the additional per acre amount. Establishing a countywide assessment would make the service more “equitable.”
“For quite some time, only a portion of the county has been paying for a service that is available to all the citizens of the county,” Puhek wrote.
Cheney Public Works Director Todd Ableman told the council the city currently pays $600 to the county for noxious weed service. With 2,567 parcels located within city limits, the city would pay a minimum of $5,134 yearly under the new proposal, an increase of well over 700 percent.
The board justified the increase by noting since the assessments began in the 1980s, they have discovered municipal areas have proven more of a problem when it comes to controlling noxious weeds. Vacant properties, planned unit developments and increased utility rates keeping landowners from maintaining their properties were just a few of the reasons cited.
Council members questioned whether the city even needed the county service. Councilman John Taves said when he called the city to complain about weeds in a vacant property next to his house near Golden Hills Estates, he was directed to call Cheney’s code enforcement department.
“I don’t know why we’re paying the six hundred, let alone fifty-one hundred,” Taves added.
City attorney Stanley Schwartz said state statute establishing the weed law allows municipalities to question what services they get in return for the money. Council directed city staff to make such an inquiry.
The council also approved several action items on its agenda. The council approved a $26,741 contract with Substation Technical Resources to reclaim the oil in the Four Lakes substation transformer. Light Department Director Joe Noland said the existing oil had deteriorated over the years, and reclaiming it would increase the life of the unit purchased in 1991 for $550,000.
Council also agreed to a contract with Jennifer Ziegler as the city’s consultant and representative for “legislative, regulatory and administrative” matters in Olympia. The $13,500 contract runs April 1 through Dec. 31, 2014.
Mayor Tom Trulove said Ziegler’s service has been beneficial to the city, helping on priorities such as widening SR 904, reclaiming lost liquor tax revenue and lobbying for portions of new taxes to be imposed on the sale of recreational marijuana. None of these efforts have proven successful yet, although Trulove said the SR 904 project has made it onto the Department of Transportation’s projects list.
Council also held the second readings of Ordinance W-22, amending and repealing sections of the city’s zoning code, municipal code chapter 21, and Ordinance W-33, adopting regulations on the citing of marijuana production, processing and retail facilities into the municipal code.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.