Make it Your Town

The Comprehensive Plan defines the way we will use our land into the next 20 years. When you participate in this planning, you help build our future!

I had no idea what land use planning was. Maybe because I was young, but really I think because who does actually know what land use planning (I call it Planning, with a capital P) is besides those who work in the field?

I discovered Planning in the most round about way possible. My path went from art school to trade school to community college to the architecture department at university to, finally the land use department where I found my home and graduated with a BA.

The hidden gem that is Planning won my heart because it is simultaneously the art and science of building Community.

When people come together, physical proximity matters. Whether we meet because of cultural ideals, common interests or being neighbors, streets and buildings cause us to interact in certain ways, which impacts our relationships.

Planning is the process of designing the physical elements of the world around us (the science) to get the social result we want for our community (the art) - at the long term scale. And it is also the development permitting, or making sure we follow those plans - at the short term scale.

Washington State was forward thinking enough to realize that we needed to collaborate regionally to make sure these plans could meet all layers of community goals, from transportation to agriculture to housing. So every city is required by state law to develop a Comprehensive Plan that coordinates with their County (the science) and meets their community’s goals (the art).

The City of Leavenworth created our Comprehensive Plan through a long process of citizen involvement and study. It includes chapters (aka ‘elements’) about Capital Facilities, Economic Development, Housing, Land Use, Parks and Recreation, Transportation, Utilities - all the elements of a town! This is a living community document that changes and evolves over time as we do. It helps us define our goals (the art) and how to achieve them (the science).

Now through the end of 2018 the city is accepting amendments to our Comprehensive Plan. If there is something you don’t think defines our community the way you think it should, submit your proposal!

This is YOUR plan, this is our plan for the future, so help us plan together.

Repairing the Road

Thank you! Voters, past city council & ciy staff, you are the ones that were planning ahead in 2010 when you approved a Transportation Benefit District (TBD) for Leavenworth, funded through a 0.02% sales tax.

I am thanking you now as it is on my mind with the assumption of the TBD into the City. In order to cut down on administrative time and costs, the City of Leavenworth would like to ‘assume’ the special district.  We are having a public hearing on the assumption at our December 11th, 2018 regular Council Meeting.

I’m sure you won’t come, no one ever comes to our TBD board meetings. They are rather uneventful in that we see numbers and talk about street projects. It means we are doing our job to see to it that the streets are kept up and the money is dilgetntly utilized.

The thing is, when the streets are falling apart, everyone cares! But running the TBD is so simple and easy. Look at what it has accomplished every year since it’s inception: 

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All of these projects cost a total of about $10.8 million.

The TBD contributed about $1.4 million, meaning we were able to take that ‘seed’ money and use it as a contribution/match to get large transportation grants.

So, thank you! Thank you for creatively thinking about how to activate a little bit of ‘tourist’ money to bring in lots of other money. Thank you for taking care of and improving our town. And, frankly, thank you to our visitors who help us pay for our city maintence!

I’ll always encourage you to come down and check out a council meeting. If you make it to our Public Hearing on December 11th, you will get to hear about this amazing, though quiet district and how we are working to make it even more efficient and effective for Leavenworth.

What's in a Community?

You are! And I am! And our next door neighbors!

It takes all of us to be a ‘community.’ The ones who raise kids, the ones who run businesses, the ones who volunteer, the ones who build buildings, the ones who go for walks around town. Yes, even simply walking through your neighborhood builds up our community! When streets are empty, crime rises. When streets are full of neighbors, gardeners, dog walkers, crime drops.

So, in all our uniqueness, we each make up important, integral parts of our greater Leavenworth community.

I received my ballot in the mail today. On it is our Upper Valley Parks and Rec Levy. This levy is a renewal levy that we see every six years to support maintenance and operations of our Community Pool.

This is a wonderful opportunity to support your community - because even if you’re not a swimmer, you know we all play our unique roles to make us all strong. The swimmers are an important part of our community, as our walkers and our business owners. I encourage you to look at this community asset for the important role it plays.

By supporting the Community Pool, you support our youth’s swimming lessons so we don’t see drownings in the river and lake. You support people who are recovering from injuries or surgery who get to use the pool for rehab. You support our elderly and those who benefit from low-impact exercise.

And more than anything, you support the human diversity that is critical to the success of our town and thus, you build up our community.

Vote Yes on our community pool renewal levy*. See below for data on the pool.

 
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Community Pool Data

  • The taxing district is officially called the ‘Upper Valley Parks and Recreation Service Area’ (PRSA). It is a special tax district as defined under Washington State code.

  • Founded by the voters in the Parks & Rec District in the year 2000

  • Parks & Rec District is about the size of the Cascade School District. If it’s on your ballot, you are in the district!

  • The Parks & Rec District is run by a Board of Directors (not the Leavenworth City Council) who represent the different areas of the district:

    • City of Leavenworth

    • Chelan County

    • Cascade School District

    • Peshastin Community

    • Chumstick Community

  • The Pool is the only activity under the PRSA

  • Pool construction was paid for by a bond that expires in 2020

  • Pool is operated by entry fees (40%) and maintenance and operations levies, that must be renewed every 6 years (60%)

  • The current budget does not account for long term maintenance and several projects have persisted, unfunded. For example, the pool needs to be resurfaced (about $150,000 project).

  • August 2018 levy renewal on the ballot asked to increase the levy rate from the current rate by $0.03 per thousand in order to more accurately cover the maintenance cost of the pool. The pool could have been resurfaced at this level. The levy failed by less than 1%

  • The November 2018 levy renewal on the ballot is asking to renew the levy at the same rate we have been paying, or about $16.50 per $100,000 of property value. Maybe $50/year for many home owners!

  • Many community members have asked if our Lodging Tax could help pay for the pool. The answer is yes it is possible, but not right now, and likely not the entire amount of the levy. The Leavenworth City Council determines how the Lodging Tax is used, under the guidelines of WA State. It would take time and reallocation of funds to make this work. In the meantime, in order to operate the pool the levy needs to pass. There would need to be collaboration between the City and the Parks & Rec District to achieve this (which takes time).

  • The levy needs 60% approval to pass

  • If the levy fails, the pool will likely not operate in 2019

*The Leavenworth City Council passed a resolution in favor of this levy

Where’s the Parking?!

When I hear all the frustrations around town about the lack of parking, I think boy, the time has come to deal with this already! But I was surprised to learn that our City staff and council have been working to improve it for a long time. 

Not that long ago (5 years) the City bought the old fruit warehouse and turned it into a lot right in the heart of town. They have painted lots and streets to fit more cars. They have improved pay booths to make it simpler for visitors to pay. Lots of work has been done. But for as much as things have improved over the years, there are many needs that are not being met.

That’s why the City Economic Development Committee asked to conduct a study of parking, to get a clearer sense of what the issues are so we can target improvement.

Rick Williams Consulting just finished a study with a ‘toolbox’ of solutions to our current issues. At the September 2018 City Council Study Session the council agreed to take that study and move forward with adopting the principals and forming a working committee to start implementing those solutions.

Parking Solutions

The first step in building solutions is actually NOT building parking lots - its building partnerships. Finding places to park in a small area of land is all about efficiently using the land we have. So we set goals for building parking. We call them our Guiding Principals:

  1. Coordination: with the City as a leader in providing parking for visitors, employees and residents we will encourage business involvement, set up clear signage and communication, and develop and support a stakeholder committee that will direct projects.

  2. Priority users: prioritize user types in various locations, like on-street downtown versus parking lots; lots that require shuttles or walks; and residential neighborhoods.

  3. Active capacity management: encourage shared parking in areas where parking is underutilized and implement new strategies when parking capacity is at or above 85% in areas.

  4. Information systems: 1.) continuously measure performance to inform decision making and 2.) create and improve signage, maps, way finding, website, apps and branding of parking system.

  5. Integration with other modes: use alternative modes of transportation to reduce car parking needs, emphasizing employee opportunities.

  6. Future supply planning: continue planning for the future.

  7. Fiscal management: the parking system must be financially sustainable.

These principals are the framework for all projects on our to do list which we will start working on right away!

Make it Happen

Planning is a boring, time consuming process, but we want solutions that will last. We are taking this project seriously. This year, in 2018, parking stakeholders will be invited to join the new advisory committee to begin implementing these projects. Next year in 2019, you will start to see additions, changes and improvements in our downtown parking system.

Many changes you will not SEE because they will be in partnerships - like off site employee parking programs, shuttling and parking lot sharing. All of these will reduce the demand on our downtown spots and lighten the load.

Short term, long term, lots of projects on the list will get us there. Parking will not be solved. As we manage being a tourist town, we will continually manage the parking needs that come with it.

As always, send me a comment or a note with your thoughts!

 

Living in Leavenworth

It's happening! Slow as public process can be, you have diligent representatives working for you.

The City of Leavenworth staff, mayor and council have all heard our community's struggles to find housing, let alone something you can afford. So we just started a NEW Housing Committee to work on this issue!

Last year in 2017 Mayor Farivar ran a Housing Task Force who dove into the challenges of renting and buying homes in Leavenworth, to look for attainable solutions. Though our small city government has a limit to what can be accomplished (quickly), we did determine a strong list of recommendations to, at a minimum, increase the supply and diversity of housing units.

Following up with that work the City Council has formed a new Housing Committee that just started in April! We have met twice now and will continue working through the next several months to define our work. We will focus on 3 areas (as defined by Council Resolution 04-2018):

  • Initiating a discussion regarding the collaboration on regional housing issues and potential regional housing solutions.
  • Exploring possible funding options for assistance of work force level housing.
  • Reviewing and monitoring the implementations of municipal code language as it is developed and approved via the City Council and Planning Commission. The Committee shall evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation of the code language.

The good news is that over time with this work, Leavenworth will become a well balanced city with a continued vibrant, residential community - that our current residents and interested new residents will not get priced out, but be able to find housing that works for their diverse needs.

The bad news is that local government does not built to help you rent an apartment or buy a house next month. Our work will be ongoing, medium to long term work. The results will not be quick, but our goal is to retain and improve livability in Leavenworth for our future. We will not become a tourist hole where the whole town is like one resort - we will keep honing our development to retain our live-work-play balance.

We have an amazing community! I aim to not only keep, but improve life for our residents through promoting housing as diverse as we are and an economy to support our livelihoods.

Half Way Through

Happy New Year! January 2018 and I am halfway through my first term as your council representative. It's hard to believe it has only been two years because we have done so much, but at the same time it's really flying by.

I have heard from you through emails, conversations, phone calls, and through the survey I sent out during my campaign, asking what your goals are for Leavenworth and how you hope to improve our town.  From all of this I heard you say these were the most important issues to you:

  • More housing options
  • Less expensive residential development standards
  • More access for residents parking in town
  • Employee parking in town
  • Public recreation/Community center/community services
  • More economic diversity
  • Improved infrastructure

I went to work right away learning about how our city system works so we can improve these areas. The first thing I learned is our council does its work through committee, so I joined the committees that focus on these issues. All of these issues are easily divided into three categories and that is where I have focused my work.

1. Affordable Housing

This is a big topic that is complicated to define and complicated to solve. Thankfully our Mayor is also on board for working on this issue and started the Affordable Housing Task Force in 2016. Serving on this committee I worked with a diverse group of people to make a recommendation to the City for ways to diversify housing and create lower cost options. The committee lasted until June 2017 when we made our recommendation.

The City Council has now directed our Planning Commission to study housing and these recommendations as their top priority for this year. They will give us their recommendations for code changes and additions focused on meeting the goals from the Task Force. This work will also address some of the issues with challenging/expensive residential development standards.

There were a few recommendations that the Planning Commission is not able to work on - like regional partnerships and new financing options. I asked the Mayor to create a new committee that will work on these longer term, more complicated issues. I expect we will start this work in the next month or so.

Lastly, in 2016 we took a look at our short term rental code. This was a big project with lots of community input. Short term rentals bring in significant income for landlords, more like hotels and create a commercial enterprise in our residential neighborhoods. In order to maintain home prices and our community culture, we reaffirmed our Bed and Breakfast Permit rule. This gives homeowners an option for additional income through short term rentals, but keeps big money out of the neighborhoods. We also instituted enforcement and cleaned up the poachers.

2. Parking

Parking is a beast of an issue in our town. We just don't have that much square footage and we have a lot of people coming through, throughout the year.

Right away at our first Council Retreat in 2016 I asked if we could put it on our agenda, so we brought it to the Economic Development Committee. In committee we decided we needed to get some definitions about the subject and some recommendations for ways we can improve in the short and long term. So we hired a parking consultant who started working with us in the spring of 2017.

We are in the middle of the process with our consultant right now. Part of their role is to work with our community to better define both the issues and the solutions - so look forward to more information coming out from them, including a community meeting!

We will take the work done with the community and make improvements right away! And the longer term projects we will be able to start laying the groundwork for future development.

3. Recreation

In the Economic Development Committee I have also focused on promoting diverse industries. The next big industry that is gaining traction in Leavenworth is Recreation. Since recreation is more of a regional industry that has specific benefit to Leavenworth, it takes lots of collaboration. I am working toward opening those doors for Leavenworth!

On the Parks and Recreation Service Area (PRSA) board I am working to investigate if we can provide more public recreation than just the pool. Since the City of Leavenworth serves only 2000 people, it is not easy to afford many recreation amenities. But the PRSA serves the larger upper valley and would be a great venue to open that door for more. Look forward to more community outreach and a public meeting coming this spring so you can let us know what you want!

In terms of improved infrastructure I was pleased to discover past council members and our staff have already been working diligently on this. We have a street repair and replacement program so that each year one or two streets are improved and we have a capital facilities replacement schedule. Currently our water and sewer plants are going through an upgrade plan, as is our public works facilities. Additionally, through community projects and a new bond you passed this year our parks have seen a new pump track and skate park and will see Enchantment Field upgrades and a new play structure in Waterfront Park. I am on both the Public Works and Parks committees so I can continue to help these projects along.

It's been a wonderful two years working to keep Leavenworth growing beautiful and strong! I am so thankful for you and this whole community. Thank you for all your involvement in making Leavenworth amazing, from coaching youth sports, to serving on non-profits, to your volunteerism! We are a loving community full of fun and adventurous people.

Please keep letting me know how to serve you better:

Have a coffee with me at my office hours: Thursdays 8:30a at Good Mood Food

Send me an email: mbretz@cityofleavenworth.com

Give me a call: 509-888-1596

Cheers to the next two years!

Mia

We Are Traffic

Traffic.

Congestion.

Waiting for a light to change. Waiting for a parking spot. Waiting for your road to clear. Waiting for a left turn. Waiting.

What is traffic? Is it waiting? The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has a system of categorizing roads by the "Level of Service" (LOS) they provide, rated A through F, from 'free flow' to 'at capacity.' They aim for roads to rate B or C in most scenarios and often recommend infrastructure improvements for roads rated E or F.

But discussing traffic like this makes it sounds like we are discussing the weather. This morning is sunny with clouds expected this afternoon.  This morning the roads are clear with traffic delays expected this afternoon.

The thing is, traffic is not like the weather.  It does not happen to us.  We create it.  Traffic is people.  Without people there would be no traffic.  With people behaving differently, we would have different traffic. We are traffic.

There is a whole discipline of psychology dedicated to the study of behavior in traffic because of the serious community impact driving behaviors have on society. That's why we have laws like seat belts and no cell phone use.

Consider this list:

  • how long we are willing to wait
  • how quickly we drive
  • how distracted we are (phone, food, kids)
  • how confident we drive
  • how defensively or aggressively we drive
  • how often we drive
  • how many errands we combine vs. taking individual trips

These are behaviors, characteristics and choices of each driver on the road.  Each has consequences for how many cars are on the road, how fast they are going and how carefully and respectfully they are considering other drivers - which in turn has consequences for congestion and accidents.

If we are traffic then we need to look no farther than our own nose for solutions to traffic.  While million dollar projects may offer some opportunities for transporting ourselves from one place to another, thinking about how and when we move ourselves as a community may have a far greater impact.

One WSDOT engineer said that as soon as they build another road or another lane, it is full of cars.  People change their behavior to fill up the new road because they see it as an opportunity to drive more often. When they may have avoided the road or combined trips, they now have no incentive to do so. Traffic is no better off than it was before the new road.

I traveled to Bogota, Colombia in 2007 to study transportation and water issues.  A professor turned politician, Antanas Mockus, had been mayor a few years before. He implemented a series of often hilarious strategies to change the behavior of drivers in his city, reducing traffic fatalities by 50%. The tactics used were specific to Bogota, but the idea that traffic can change through behavior modifications alone is well understood.

One modification we can consider is how we think about traffic.  Traffic is pretty specific to cars on the road, but there are many diverse ways to think about travel.  If we re-frame our conversation from "traffic" to "transportation" we can talk about freely moving to where we need to go the most effectively.  We can talk about buses, bikes, walking, trip patterns, and systems to organize these. When we just talk about traffic, we stick ourselves in a box with much fewer solutions.

Our own Link Transit is paving the way, (re)defining travel.  They 'Connect Communities' by thinking about how people want and need to move around the area. Their definition has nothing to do with cars (if you have them or don't or use them or don't). They are providing transportation options and hope to serve as many diverse groups as possible.  These efforts relieve traffic, reduce carbon emissions, provide opportunity to move all people, and reduce costs to individuals.

We Are Leavenworth

The City of Leavenworth is working on two big tranportation projects this year:

I hope through both of these projects we can work with our community to determine ways to move ourselves and think about transportation that is outside of what we are used to.  Perhaps we can define new modes, better flows and more effective habits to improve our experience moving in and around Leavenworth.

This will be hard.  It is difficult to change habits and think about structures (like how you drive through town) in new ways.  But it will be worth it and I know working together, we can do it.  And when we do, we will have easier travel and better experiences for our whole community from visitors to school children.

How can you be heard at the City?

It is so frustrating to send emails or make phone calls and feel ignored and unheard.  There are a few things that are usually happening if you don't hear back when you send an email:

  • You contacted the wrong person and your thoughts didn't get forwarded
  • Your concerns are making headway, just slowly and in a way that you can't see
  • Your comments are part of a large receipt of public comments and it is not feasible to respond to them all

In an effort to help our citizens be heard and feel heard our staff created the cool graphic below that shows different ways citizens might give input and where it will go. 

There are 4 basic ways to connect:

  1. Send in information (email, Facebook, etc)
  2. Talk with Mayor or staff
  3. Talk with a Council member
  4. Attend a meeting and submit or stand up and comment

Once a comment is received it has a few different potential paths:

  1. City staff may be able to deal with the issue directly
  2. The issue may be brought to a committee or the Council Study Session for discussion
  3. The issue might be able to go straight to a Council Meeting for a vote
  4. The issue may get dropped for lack of support

It is challenging to follow up with every citizen on every issue, so we encourage you to check in and connect again!  The City Administrator, Mayor and Council contact information is on the city website.

City process is slow on purpose.  Deliberation based on community input is the whole point of local government.  When we take the time to hear all the voices, go through all the procedures ensuring consistency, and to thoroughly study options, we are closer to community represented decisions.  It can be frustrating and arduous but we build the city we want by working together.

So stay informed and keep in touch and we will keep in touch with you. The whole point is how we get to the end. And we are never done until we are dead!

I'm There for You - NEW Office Hours

This month I am starting office hours, so if you want to pop in and see me, chat about current issues in town or get updates on projects, I can be there for you!  I will host a rotating coffee hour and lunch hour every Thursday.

Starting November 3rd I will be available during the lunch hour (11:30a - 12:30p)  at Good Mood Food.  This will continue every other week.

Starting November 10th I will be available for a coffee hour (8:30a - 9:30a) at Good Mood Food.  This will continue every other week.

As a working mom, it is hard for me to find meeting times in my weeks.  I know these times aren't good for everyone, so always feel free to email me, give me a call (509-888-1596), or connect on Facebook.

We have a tight, involved community and I want to support your ideas and visions for Leavenworth!

Check out my new CALENDAR to make it easy to see when my meetings are!

Thank you!!!

This week I am so proud of our staff! They received 2 valuable recognitions for performance: Our waste treatment facility received the Wastewater Treatment Plant Outstanding Performance award and our administrative team received a "clean report" for our special audit of 2015!

The treatment plant achieved full compliance with it's pollutants discharge system permit, which is not easy to do year round, all day, through the weather.  The award was given by the WA State Department of Ecology who works for the citizens to ensure safe, clean water.  The team of staff at our plant deserve high praise for a job so well done!

Did you know that WA state auditors work for you, the citizens as well? They check our finances and policies every other year to make sure our operation is healthy, the flow of money is accountable and we are following the rules (including our own). 

This year we had a special audit because we received over $750,000 in federal grant money last year, which triggers a special audit.  This is the first time in recent history we have needed this special audit, but we came out of it with a "clean" report and no recommendations from the WA State Auditor's Office. This is thanks to our finance team who was diligent in record keeping and to our Public Works team in holding preconstruction meetings and ensuring the granted projects were executed well.

You can feel proud that your city is being managed very well compared to others around the state. If you see any of them around, give a big thank you to Herb Amick and his crew, Chantelle Steiner and her team, Joel Walinski and the wastewater treatment team!!

Skate Park Development

Since all the hype this spring and the demo of our old skate park, the City Council Parks Committee has formed a sub-committee for developing a NEW skate park.  The Cascade School District and the City have formalized an agreement for paying for a replacement and will work together in the process, though it will be driven by the city.   Additionally, local skateboarders have formed their own committee that is working in tandem with the City Skate Park Sub-committee on each step through the process.

The first step for our sub-committee was to determine a site.  We developed a list of sites we thought might be good options then put them to the community for their thoughts.  After discussion with locals and local skateboarders in particular, we found the top sites were two different options in Enchantment Park. 

Our second step was to put together a Request For Quotes (often called an RFQ) that describes our desires and requirements for designing and building the park.  The City Council approved the RFQ and the City is currently accepting quotes from skate park design firms! An important part of our requirements is to have beginner, intermediate and advanced levels of features built into the design.

Our hope is to determine a design-build firm by October and begin working with them on design though the fall.  We will continue to outreach to the public, and local skateboarders in particular, through the design process.  In working through the design we expect one of the two top sites will become clear which will work better.

I am thrilled we are taking quick strides to see a new park soon!

March Council Meeting Recap

Here are the notable Council discussions and decisions in March.  Also, are some community highlights of things that happened this month.

Discussion Topics

  • MEADOWLARK - At the study session we discussed the Meadowlark Development at length.  Even though after this meeting MEND determined they would stop the Meadowlark Development project, this was a notable conversation because of the discussion of communication between the city and developers.  MEND submitted a letter to the council of frustration with communication even after a work group was formed.  I am committed to working on better communication for our citizens and developers and take this example as one that we do not want to let happen again.
  • ADU CODE CHANGE - At the study session we discussed Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) code changes.  This was one of a series of conversations over ADU's and how we can change our code to help diversify housing in Leavenworth.
  • COUNCIL RETREAT - At the study session we recapped where we are with goal setting from our retreat.  We enjoyed long conversations at the retreat in goal setting so we did not have time to finish.  We will finish our Goal Sheet in study sessions over the next couple months.  The big projects the council brought forward are:
    • more recycling downtown
    • developing a comprehensive transportation circulation plan for the city
    • researching parking downtown and the long term plan for parking lots P1 and P2.
  • COMMUNICATION - At the March 22 meeting, I presented a communication issue with the Mayor.  I asked for it to be discussed by the Council at an executive session and the Mayor required it be discussed publicly. I am sure to some it came across as a strange thing to bring to a public meeting, and I fully agree.  I would have much preferred to keep it between the Council and they Mayor; however, I am optimistic we will find a path forward with improved process, even if it is bumpy.  Essentially, I wanted to discuss with the Council the Mayor's management of Council and committee meetings.  The discussion was covered in the April 6 issue of the Echo and will be in the Meeting Minutes.

Decisions

  • GRANTS - At the March 8 meeting, we awarded five groups funding for advertising for new events/festivals through our annual Lodging Tax Grant program.  It was a total of $10,000.
  • AUTUMN LEAF - At the March 22 meeting, we approved $15,000 for festival operations funded by the Lodging Tax fund.
  • PLANNING COMMISSION - At the March 22 meeting, we approved the Mayor's reappointment of Andy Lane.
  • ADU's - At the March 22 meeting, we approved amendments to the code to expand options for housing through Accessory Dwelling Units.  This is the first step in a long process of amending our code to offer more housing options.  Changes include:
    • allowing parking spaces from an alley
    • increased unit size to collaborate with the county (up to 1,200 sq ft depending on lot size)
    • no longer necessary for owner to occupy one of the units
  • WASTE TREATMENT FACILITY PLANNING - At the March 22 meeting, we approved an amended contract with Varela & Associates for a Facility Plan and a General Sewer Plan for a new waste treatment facility.  Our facility is old and will need replacing in about five years.  The contract is not to exceed $193,988.
  • HIGHWAY SIGN - At the March 22 meeting, we approved a maintenance agreement with the WA State Dept of Transportation (WA DOT).  WA DOT is putting in an electronic sign on our highway on the west end of town.  They were good enough to follow our Bavarian design code, but ask the City to maintain the Bavarian part of the structure.

Community Highlights

  • Ribbon cutting of Commercial street was on March 17. View the Downtown Master Plan.
  • Our longest standing council member Michael Molohon resigned this month.  The council will select a new member to take his place.  If you would like to be the next council member, you can send in a letter of interest to the City by April 12!
  • City paid for the insurance for the annual event Bike n Juice

If you have questions about any of these projects, please let me know!  As always, the minutes are available for your perusal.

mbretz@cityofleavenworth.com

Good Communication. . .

"Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after." - Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I haven't posted an article here in a while, so I thought I would break the silence.  I have been doing a lot of processing lately - not something easy to write about.  Talking with people with projects in town, working with other city officials and staff, and researching on my own have preoccupied my last few weeks.

After a couple months in my new position, the need to build relationships has risen to the top.  I want to not only better know the people I am working with, but know how to work together better.  Being an elected official is complicated because of the specific legal processes that must always be followed.

I am taking some internal time to work on my relationships with our council, mayor and staff.  It is challenging and inspiring.  I think the quote by Anne Morrow Lindbergh says, communication is emotional, but rewarding.  That is the process of being in a new team and figuring out how to make it work, and that's how I feel now.

As new council members we were thrown into action.  We are making decisions and determining priorities from day 1.  That's the job. But it's impossible to do a great job and feel really good about your work without knowing your team and being able to work well together.  Through all the unique people and all the rules guiding us, we have to find our way to work together - to trust each other.

"Trust is the glue of life. It's the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It's the foundational principal that holds all relationships." - Stephen Covey

February Council Meeting Recap

I know it is hard to make council meetings and, let me tell you, I get it.  The nitty gritty details can get a little arduous and finding the time in your day to sit through it is not a top priority.  If you ever do get a chance, though, it is great to see your democracy in action!

In the meantime, I plan on publishing my monthly recaps of notable action and discussion before the council here on my blog, so here is my report on February. . .

Discussion Topics

  • We discussed the engineering to upgrade the lighting and fencing at the city parking lots near the fest hall this year. Yes, we are obeying our own design standards in for the fence and light fixtures!  We'll have some great new electrical potential in the lots as well.  Estimated project date of 2017.
  • At our study session we had a wonderful, thorough discussion on communication and the flow between citizens, council/mayor and staff.  The staff is creating a visual flow chart to both help the elected officials and citizens better understand how to bring new ideas.
  • We discussed some parking regulation amendments so that our private security company can take over enforcement and relieve the Sheriff's department of the task.  This will appear as a resolution and an ordinance at a March meeting.
  • Our Annual Budget Retreat is March 4th.  We will be meeting to discuss priorities, goals and finance for the next year and beyond.  Each council member is challenged with bringing one NEW idea to the table for discussion.  Let me know if you have A BIG IDEA!

Decisions

  • We approved a new, updated contract with the Humane Society for animal control.  Citizens can now call the Humane Society if there is an issue with an animal in town.  They will continue to receive animals at the facility and will help with our feral cat problem.
  • We annexed the new school district property into the city.
  • We changed our fence code so that fence permits are no longer required.  There are still legal guidelines that must be followed, but without permit review.  Make sure you know the rules before you build and feel free to come in and ask questions!
  • We proclaimed February 23, 2016 as World Spay Day along with many other cities across the world to help promote animal care.  Get your cat or dog spayed or neutered!
  • We amended our Rate and Fee schedule - a few house cleaning issues and one relevant one: we approved the Parks and Recreation Service Area Board's recommendation of a $0.25 cent increase to daily rates at the pool.  For you pass holders, there is no change in the rates, so enjoy and support your pool all summer long with a season pass!

Community Highlights

  • We are giving grants!  Due March 1st is the Group Funding Grant given to new festivals and events to aid in their advertising.  We give up to $10,000 out of our Lodging Tax income, so apply!
  • We heard your concerns about employee parking downtown.  What a great community conversation on Facebook this month!  The Economic Development Committee took up the issue and will be working on some solutions for resident access to crowded downtown and employee parking.
  • Subscribe to our list serve and stay up to date on what's going on in your city government.

If you have questions about any of these projects, please let me know!  As always, the minutes are available for your perusal.

mbretz@cityofleavenworth.com

Doing Businessness is All Pleasure

At the Chamber of Commerce annual dinner and auction tonight, we shmoozed.  There's no other way to say it, but does it matter? That's the point!  Getting to know each other.

It is amazing to go to an event like this and get to know the people running businesses around us in Leavenworth.  What diversity of interest and skill!  We are such a cool community that people of such divergent life views can come together and do business. 

Everyone I met tonight was passionate about their product, not their bottom line.  It looks to me like Leavenworth is trying to give something to the world that makes an impact, and as a side allows us to prosper in one of the best places on the planet.

That is definitely something to come see.

The community that plays together, stays together

Today I had my first meeting of the Parks and Recreation Service Area Board of Directors.  For those who don't know, currently this area is a public service area that is nearly the same size as the Cascade School District.  It is solely responsible for the community pool in Leavenworth and all of the land owners within the service area contribute a property tax to support the pool.  The service area was created in the late 1990's.

I love the PRSA because of its potential.  It is an established special district that can work for its community - that is much larger than the City of Leavenworth proper.  The good news is the pool is supported by the community and with the new levy (as of 3 years ago) is stable.  We are ready for more.

If our community is interested in a true Parks and Recreation department, the PRSA is where that will happen!  Today we heard from a community member encouraging us to consider Ski Hill and after school activities in our work.  And there are dozens of other opportunities out there that are begging for attention.

At our next meeting this board will look at strategic planning as a next step to defining the future of bolstering our greater Leavenworth community's recreation!

Let me know if you have thoughts on this issue by commenting below or connecting with me:

mbretz@cityofleavenworth.com

I'm a Fire Fighter . . . Are You?

What a lesson I learned today in fire fighting from our Chelan County Fire District 3 Chief Kelly O'Brian and new Assistant Chief Glenn Brautesett today.  They graciously showed me around our fire station and chatted about their goals for fire fighting in Leavenworth.

And you know what? It turns out our best efforts in this field are NOT in fighting fires - they are in preventing fires!  So much for those sexy Hollywood shots of huge ladders rescuing children out of top stories.  By the time the ladder gets there, the building is usually toast.  They're just working to keep the fire from spreading.

I know a little about fire prevention, you know, from Smokey the Bear.  Like never leave a camp fire unattended and follow burn bans and Stop, Drop and Roll.  More recently I've been informed by the Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition about how to keep my roof fire-safe from wildfire embers.

But what a great lesson that urban fire prevention is at least as relevant.  There are more people to save than in the forest and more activity that creates fire.  We need to make sure our buildings help prevent fires from starting and spreading.  Especially here in Leavenworth where we depend on a volunteer fire crew and we live in HOT, DRY country for half our year.  Our Fire Department will do its best to put out fires, but what if there were a fire fighter on the scene when the fire started rather than 10 or 20 minutes later?  That's what a sprinkler system is! A fire fighter on the scene at every fire.

So today I decided as a city council member, I am one of our town's newest fire fighters!  I will be fighting fire through prevention, working with our fire department to educate and outreach to residents and businesses how to keep your buildings fire safe.  I will work with the Planning Commission and Council to develop our building code to promote and incentivize for fire safe buildings.  I am not on our Council Public Safety Committee this year, but I look forward to the recommendations they make to the council in collaboration with the Fire Department as well.

Fire fighting is a community effort that I hope you will all join in with me.  We will keep our town safe every day and if worse comes to worse, we know we can count on Fire District 3 to come through for us.

Check out the Chumstick Wildfire website for great information on how residents; businesses; and forest land owners can prevent fires!

Working For You at the State Level

This week new council members Margaret Neighbors, Gretchen Wearne and I went together to our state Capitol to participate in the current legislative session. A nonprofit group called the Association of WA Cities hosted a conference that brought elected city officials and state legislators together to both learn about process as well as specific issues in front of us right now.

In Washington State we have 49 legislative districts which each have three legislators: one senator and two representatives. We are in district 12 which is huge. It includes all of Chelan and Douglas counties and part of Okanogan and Grant counties. Our senator is Linda Parlette. Our representatives are Cary Condotta and Brad Hawkins.

The conference was a fascinating looking at how I can work at the state level for our issues in Leavenworth.  As elected city officials, we can lobby our legislators to develop, endorse and vote for bills that will improve our local issues. For example, this session Senator Parlette is pushing SB 6513 that will expand our water rights in Leavenworth while Representative Hawkings is pushing HB 2348 that will give cities the authority to create an emergency ban on fireworks to prevent fires. We are here supporting our legislators and these bills, and testifying to committees on how these issues impact us in Leavenworth!

We were able to meet all three of our District 12 legislators during our time in Olympia.  It was fascinating to see what they are working on this session.  I now realize how important the state level work is for our city.  I am looking forward to developing my relationship with each of our legislators.

Link Transit Board of Directors

This week I joined the Link Transit Board of Directors as the Leavenworth representative.  We reviewed 2015 operations and set performance goals for 2016; we clarified the policy for weapons on our vehicles: no visible weapons are allowed; we confirmed the award for a consultant who will lead a community outreach and strategic planning process for Link this year; and we heard a positive update on the new transit station that will be part of the new development behind Safeway in Leavenworth.

A little about Link Transit - "Connecting Our Communities"

The legal name of the system is The Chelan Douglas Public Transportation Benefit Area, nicknamed Link Transit. The mission of Link is to provide safe, reliable, and cost effective public transportation services that promote citizen access to work, recreation, commerce and public services.  It serves the 110,000 residents living within the Chelan-Douglas Transportation Benefit Area as well as visitors. Link also prides itself on its exploration and use of alternative technologies.

The Board of Directors consists of twelve voting members who are local elected officials and one non-voting member who is a labor representative. The elected officials are representatives from each city within our district: Wenatchee, East Wenatchee, Chelan, Entiat, Waterville, Rock Island, Leavenworth, and Cashmere; and two representatives from both Douglas County, and Chelan County. The Board reviews operations and approves the budget and policies.

For more information on Link visit their website.

I am looking forward to the collaborative, regional work of providing innovative and reliable public transportation to our local communities!

 

Down to Business

Committees are where the work gets done.  I am so looking forward to my new committees so I can get some of my goals accomplished! While the Mayor Pro Tem (Carolyn Wilson) will officially assign us our committees at the next Council Meeting, we all discussed committee assignments today.

My Council committees:

  • Economic Development: works on our local economy, businesses and jobs.  I will be working on a project developing an incentive program for our local businesses who participate in our themed events and festivals.
  • Public Works: works on city infrastructure.  Right now there is a lot of work for a few big projects like the MEND development and the School District builds/remodels.
  • Parks: works on city parks.  We have an exciting opportunity to create a new wetland park near Pine Street!  I am also excited to work toward strong collaborations with local recreation and sports groups.

My Ad Hoc committees:

  • Residential Advisory Committee (RAC): a group of Leavenworth citizens who share their thoughts and ideas on topics and bring new things to the council.  This is one way I am working to connect with our citizens.
  • Parks and Recreation Service Area Committee (PRSA): a regional area that currently funds and manages the pool. I am excited to see if this committee will grow into a true Parks and Recreation Committee for our area, not only the pool.
  • LINK transit committee: regional transit.  I will get to collaborate regionally on transportation for our area.

If you have any questions about committees or any thoughts on my committee work, let me know!