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Council rakes over issues at retreat

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Sunnyside City Manager Bob Stockwell goes over a list of issues the City Council wants to address in the upcoming year. This was part of the discussion held by Council members during its retreat last week at Whistlin' Jack Lodge.

What to leave off the plate and what to go after head-on was a point of major discussion by the Sunnyside City Council at its retreat last Thursday at Whistlin' Jack Lodge.

The Council went over a list of about 30 items of concern to address in the upcoming year with City Manager Bob Stockwell

One of the first issues on the list was the Monson feedlot matter. Council has been trying to figure a way to buy the feedlot in Outlook for the past couple of years, citing several different concerns ranging from curbing odor problems to clean air. Stockwell said he will be coming back shortly to Council with a report on the matter.

Council also wants to further expand on a new landscaping ordinance the city adopted for commercial developments. Stockwell said it is also important for the city to be consistent in its residential requirements for landscaping. Currently, R-1 zones require new homes to install lawn and sprinkler systems within the first year. But no such requirements exists for new homes constructed in R-2 zones. Council also wants to give the planning commission the opportunity to expand the landscaping ordinance to industrial and residential locations.

A significant discussion that took place at the meeting had to deal with the matter of privatizing wastewater and EMS services.

Councilwoman Bengie Aguilar immediately expressed her opposition to the proposal, but the rest of the Council thought privatization was at least worth a look.

"I think we should pursue anything to make the organization more efficient," said Mayor Ed Prilucik.

Stockwell offered Council a suggestion to pursue the privatization matter. Stockwell said Council should put out a request for proposals from various firms, while asking at the same time that city staff from the different departments issue a similar RFP. Stockwell said the Council would get a good idea of what can be offered from both sides under this process. Stockwell said similar approaches have worked in such cities as Phoenix, AZ.

Another discussion dealt with how the city should approach the possibility of tax guru Tim Eyman reintroducing Initiative 864 to rollback property tax fees. The matter failed to make it on this year's November ballot because it didn't gain enough signatures, but Stockwell said Eyman will more than likely be rewriting the issues for next year.

Stockwell said he felt it is important for the city to prepare itself for any money shortages caused by the possibility of residents passing the issue next year.

"We have to have a more balanced approach," said Stockwell.

Councilman Bruce Ricks felt it was important for the city to take that step while educating citizens on where their tax dollars are spent. Prilucik added that residents need to realize the city actually receives a very small portion of their tax dollars. He added the figure could be even smaller with a sales tax streamline issue that will be coming to a head soon. Under this issue, money from sales tax will be sent from the east side of the state to the west.

Councilman Don Vlieger was against the idea of raising taxes, as Stockwell suggested as a possible solution to help build a nest egg in reserves in case any Eyman initiatives do pass. Stockwell said Council will be able to discuss the matter more as budget time nears.

Downtown parking was another discussion. Stockwell urged the Council to be sure that the fines being issued for violating downtown parking regulations cover the cost of enforcement.

The Council also discussed the idea of drafting ordinance requirements that would limit what sort of manufactured homes could be placed in the community. This is an issue that the planning commission will be discussing in the near future.

Stockwell also discussed with the Council members the advantages of owning city vehicles compared to leasing. However, he said it is important to leave the equipment reserve fund untouched to ensure the city has enough money to properly replace its vehicles when needed.

Other discussion items included installing some sort of sound buffer for residents along South First Street once the reconstruction project is completed. The city leaders also want to look at expanding the fire department facility and improving the entryways into the community.

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