After years of planning, members of the Pierce County Council voted 4-3 on Feb. 17 to proceed with a major consolidation of county services into a new General Services Building.
Councilmembers Rick Talbert (District 5), Connie Ladenburg (District 4), Derek Young (District 7), and Joyce McDonald (District 2) voted for the plan. Council Chair Dan Roach (District 1) and Councilmembers Doug Richardson (District 6) and Jim McCune (District 3) voted against it.
The consolidation will bring together 19 departments and divisions currently scattered in 14 locations, including eight commercial leases covering 150,000 square feet.
"This business plan will save taxpayers millions of dollars in leases, staffing and maintenance costs," said Councilmember Talbert, who represents the area in Tacoma’s South End that will house the new campus. "We have carefully analyzed current and future costs, asset values, risk, and more. An independent consultant verified our staff savings through consolidation. This pencils out in the taxpayers' interest."
The 330,000-square-foot building will be constructed on the county-owned, 13-acre Pacific Avenue campus just up the hill from downtown. That site currently houses the former Puget Sound Hospital, which closed years ago. The county negotiated a "guaranteed maximum price" of $126.9 million with the developer, Wright Runstad & Company.
"This makes good business sense. We will redirect eight current lease payments to this new building, and the consolidation will enable us to cut 38 staff positions, saving another $4 million a year," said Councilmember Ladenburg. "No taxes will be raised to pay for this. We can pay for it with existing resources and the savings gained from consolidating our services, and the savings will grow over time."
The county made adjustments to the project based on feedback from the public, including four community meetings in January and February.
County Executive Pat McCarthy publicly introduced the proposal in 2013 after several years of studying the service delivery in all county facilities -- owned and leased. Under the plan adopted Tuesday, most general government services will be consolidated into one General Services Building in a lease-to-own agreement with a nonprofit corporation. Services will include building permits, business licenses, Health Department records, and property tax payments, among others.
The executive thanked the County Council majority for analyzing the cost difference between the status quo and the savings over the next 30 years.
"Taxpayers expect us to utilize public resources efficiently and effectively. This plan will save money while improving the delivery of services to the 820,000 residents we serve," she said. "My administration will now complete the planning for the staff changes and program improvements made possible by consolidating 19 departments and divisions into one location."
Chairman Roach, in explaining his position, said the reliance on staff savings was too risky.
"In order to make the mortgage payments, 38.1 jobs would have to stay eliminated for the duration of the mortgage, and we can't promise that future councils and executives would adhere to that," he said. "I sincerely hope I'm proven wrong and everything works out for the best, but I couldn't in good conscience ask our taxpayers to shoulder that risk. I wouldn't make that commitment with my own money, and I don't think we should make it with their money either."
The building will house approximately 1,300 employees, including about 250 from the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, an independent agency that is joining the county as a tenant in the new building. Other tenants will include the four departments in the Pierce County Annex, a 1950s-era building that originally housed a discount department store. The Annex site likely will be sold.
The county's existing downtown campus, anchored by the County-City Building, will continue to house about 1,000 employees from the law and justice sectors in what will be redeveloped with existing resources over time as the Pierce County Justice Center.
Source: Pierce County
On April 12, Key Pen Parks will host its 6th Annual Pet Easter Treat Hunt at Volunteer Park from 10 a.m. to noon.
Resource booths from the Humane Society, Olympic Bird Fanciers (with live birds) and Wags N Whiskers 4H group will provide information and experiences.
The 4H group will also be doing a presentation with their dogs and students together.
According to a Key Pen Parks press release, photos with the Easter Bunny will be available. The event ends with the costume contest winners.
A new feature this year is craft projects for the human and their pooch.
According to a recent press release, Peninsula Light Co. will be holding off a rate increase for a second consecutive year despite a hefty increase in wholesale electricity prices.
PenLight is a full-requirements utility of the Bonneville Power Administration and is subject to wholesale rate increases when a federal agency goes through its review process every two years. BPA raised its wholesale rates by 9.6 percent on Oct. 1, 2013, covering a period that will expire on Sept. 30, 2015.
The press release said PenLight, led by its Board of Directors and CEO Jafar Taghavi, fully absorbed the costs of the increase last year by continuing to find financial efficiencies. The company’s cost-containment strategy has been to refinance long-term debt, reduce outage costs due to improved reliability efforts and limit operating expenses to 1 percent growth year over year. It’s been successful for the past six years.
“My staff and our board of directors work very hard to minimize budget impacts,”Taghavi said. “We continue to look for ways to innovate, economize and invest in technology that will reduce expenses and support our ability to become more efficient.”
Taghavi said it’s been much more difficult to keep rates the same for the second year, but the board approved a budget for 2015 without a rate increase. In fact, PenLight has only raised rates three times since 2001, a trend that’s opposite from the industry nationwide.
“We anticipate we will again see a rate increase from BPA in October 2015, so we will work at keeping the costs we can control to a minimum,”Taghavi said.
PenLight is a member-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperative. Since 1925, the utility has served the Gig Harbor and Key peninsulas and Fox Island in western Pierce County. PenLight has grown to be the second largest cooperative in Washington state. It serves more than 31,000 meters with 977 miles of line in 112 square miles of service territory. The company also provides service to 3,230 water consumers.
For more information, visit penlight.org.
The second annual Mardi Gras Festival promises to be full of tradition.
Authentic music, libations, food and costumes will have attendees thinking the Key Peninsula Civic Center is in the middle of the French Quarter.
According to a civic center press release, organizers say this year’s Feb. 21 festival will feature Richard Allen & The Louisiana Experience along with the Kim Archer Band.
Murph’s BBQ will be dishing up ampleàla carte New Orleans fare to include Louisiana hot sausage, dirty rice (chicken/pork/vegetarian) and seafood gumbo ––topped off with cake.
Dinner and no-host beverage service begins at 6 p.m., music starts at 7 p.m, and the party goes until 11 p.m. This is a 21-plus age event.
Lavish costumes will again be the mode-o-day –– rented and homemade –– with a king and queen crowned for their best costumes between 8:30 and 9 p.m. They will receive an assortment of gifts before leading the traditional dancing parade throughout the venue, then proceed to the upper promenade and throw beads to their subjects.
For information, call (253) 884-3456.
Source: KP Civic Center
“One of the primary goals of the Key Peninsula Historical Society is to share the history of the Key with our community,”says current program coordinator Christine Anderson. “We are currently working on two such opportunities: the new display opening in February plus a special promotion in Key Center.”
The new exhibit is “The Story of the Key Peninsula –– Its Past –– Its People ––Its Places.”
According to Anderson, in the late 1800s the shoreline communities of the Key Peninsula began to grow. “The museum display willfocus on three institutionsthat sprang up in each area: schools, stores and community halls,”she said.
Where families settled, schools soon followed. By the 1890s most Key Peninsula students attended a one-room schoolhouse, although earlier ones included homes and a tent.
Mercantile stores were built close to community floats and docks, since all merchandise had to be transported by boat.
Anderson said as communities grew, residents looked for the opportunities to build permanent community gathering places, and halls were erected, often serving several functions.
The new exhibit is made possible through the support of Key Peninsula Parks Department and the Friends of the Key Peninsula Historical Society.
KPHS purchased banners and informational posters through a grant from the Pierce County Landmarks and Preservation Commission. The first ones told the story of the first hundred years of logging on the Key Peninsula. A new banner with this year’s theme has now been obtained.
Don Stolz, owner of the Food Market in Key Center, is sponsoring a storefront displayof these posters in the windows next to Figaro's Pizza in Key Center.
The museum has permanent displays relating to Key Peninsula history, many albums of photos and stories to browse through, as well as local history books, toys and other items for sale.
The museum opens on Tuesday, Feb. 3, 1-4 p.m., with the new exhibits on display.
Regular open hours are Tuesdays and Saturdays, 1-4 p.m., February through November. Free admission. For information, call 888-3246.
Members of the Pierce County Council's Community Development Committee have scheduled meetings to gather public input on changes to proposed shoreline development guidelines required by the state.
These meetings will address 18 amendments that resulted from a series of community hearings last spring. Now the committee wants to gather feedback on those changes before sending a final version to the full County Council.
• Monday, Feb. 2 - 5:30 p.m.
Peninsula High School, Auditorium
14105 Purdy Drive NW, Gig Harbor.
Washington State law requires that Pierce County update its shoreline development regulations, which were adopted in the early 1970s. This affects approximately 12,000 properties near marine waters, rivers and certain streams, lakes, wetlands, and floodplains. Participants can testify, provide written materials or both.
Typical examples of development that will be reviewed for compliance with the updated shoreline regulations include: residential development and associated accessory uses, docks, piers and floats, bulkheads and retaining walls, boat launching ramps, recreational development, marinas and aquaculture uses. The Community Development Committee, chaired by District 5 Councilmember Rick Talbert, made changes to such areas as aquaculture practices, shoreline buffer provisions, and development around Lake Tapps Reservoir.
More information, including a complete list of the 18 amendments to last year’s proposal, can be found at http://www.piercecountywa.org/shoreline.
The full County Council is scheduled to vote on the changes March 10. Then it goes to the state Department of Ecology for review.
• Thursday, Jan. 29 - 5:30 p.m.
North Lake Tapps Middle School
20029 12th Street East, Lake Tapps, WA 98391
• Monday, Feb. 9 - 5:30 p.m.
Pacific Lutheran University, Scandinavian Cultural Center
12180 Park Avenue South, Tacoma, WA 98447
- Monday, March 2 - 1:30 p.m.
- County-City Building, Room 1045
- 930 Tacoma Avenue South, Tacoma.
Source: Pierce County
As you recycle your wrapping paper, don’t forget to “treecycle" your Christmas tree.
Pierce County residents who subscribe to yard waste collection service can place their unflocked tree in their container. Flocked trees cannot be recycled and must be disposed of as garbage.
Residents may also recycle their tree free of charge at Pierce County’s transfer stations. For locations, visit piercecountywa.org/treecycle.
Program organizers want the public to remove the tree stand, tinsel, decorations and any nails or staples and to place the tree in your yard waste container for pick up on your regularly scheduled collection day.
The tree must fit into the closed container, so cut the tree into pieces if necessary. If your tree isn’t in the cart, you may be charged for the additional pick up, organizers said in a press release.
“All trees collected are composted into Cascade Compost, a beneficial soil amendment that is popular with home and commercial gardeners,”said Sheryl Rhinehart, Pierce County Public Works and Utilities outreach coordinator. “The compost created enhances soil quality, saves water, and reduces reliance on chemical fertilizers. Treecycling also helps save valuable landfill space.”
At the annual dinner on Feb. 9, the Key Peninsula Business Association will install a slate of officers for 2015, according to departing president Judd Morris.
The new officers include Tracey Olveira, owner of Serenity Salon –– president; Rosina Vertz, head librarian at KC library –– vice president; Todd Rosenbach and Jessica Wisberger co-secretaries and Brandy Ellzey of the KP Fair Association, treasurer.
KPBA’s mission is two-fold, Morris said.
“We support the businesses on the Key and promote their commercial enterprises, whatever they may be, and we bring benefit to the community itself,”he said.
In fact, he added, “In our bylaws the word ‘community’is actually mentioned more often than ‘business.’”
Supporting the community takes many forms.
“We support so many community organizations, from Backpacks4Kids to Children’s Home Society, the food bank, Red Barn, KP Fair, the Little League and the school district’s educational foundation,”Morris said.
When you think about it, we’re all linked together, he said. “All the businesses are part of the community, and the community are our customers.”
When Oliveira takes the gavel in February, she intends to keep up the good work that KPBA has done under Morris’leadership.
“I know this position (president) holds a lot of responsibility. I decided that this would be a fantastic way to better serve my community –– a community which I love and admire,”Olveira said.
“I am looking forward to being a bigger part of what makes the Key Peninsula a great place to live and run a business,”she added.
Key Peninsula Business Association is open to all local businesses. The group meets twice a month: the first Friday breakfast, 7:30 a.m. at LuLu’s restaurant and third Fridays for lunch at El Sombrero. The lunch meeting also features presentations by legislators and other dignitaries.
For information visit KPBA.org.
Pierce County is seeking applicants to fill vacancies on the nine-member Surface Water Management Advisory Board.
Advisory board members will be involved in such issues as storm drainage and surface water management, water quality storm drainage plans, rate structures, capital improvement projects, financing and annual program goals for the Surface Water Management division of Pierce County Public Works and Utilities.
The mission of Surface Water Management is to be a responsive service organization that efficiently addresses flood control, water quality and the preservation of natural drainage systems.
Meetings are held monthly. Advisory board members will be selected to represent each of the watersheds and preference will be given to candidates living in unincorporated Pierce County. These positions are uncompensated.
The application can be obtained by calling (253) 798-2725 or downloaded at piercecountywa.org/swab.
Completed applications should be submitted to Harold Smelt at Pierce County Public Works and Utilities, 2702 S. 42nd St., Suite 201, Tacoma, WA 98409-7322.
To ensure broad diversity of experience and opinion on the board when filling vacancies, consideration is given to those candidates that can best supplement the knowledge and perspectives of the current board members. All applications received will be placed on a roster for consideration when vacancies occur.
The state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) mobile community service office is coming to Lakebay on Jan. 8.
Workers with the department’s division of child support will be on a truck at the Key Peninsula Services facility from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
They will be there to help community members with application interviews for food and cash, as well as yearly reviews and to answer questions on active cases or any services offered.
KPCS is located at 17015 9th Street Court KP N, Lakebay.