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Neon Alley one of many topics discussed at public works meeting

The Sunnyside City Council subcommittee on public works met last night and made short work of the agenda, but also touched on a variety of topics not formally scheduled to be addressed. Superintendent of Public Works Shane Fisher alerted the committee to a problem with the fecal counts in SVID ditches that have been traced to city pipes. The city will be lining sewer mains to prevent further leakages and has been working with SVID and the Department of Ecology on the project. Fisher told the subcommittee that the lining will cost approximately $20,000 and will come out of the unassigned construction project fund. When a contract is prepared, it will be brought before the council for approval. Moving on, the group discussed a conceptual drawing provided by Hulbregtse, Louman Associates, Inc. of how the city's proposed Neon Alley might fit into the downtown core. A plan is underway to showcase many of Sunnyside's former neon signs, which once lit up the downtown core. The committee was impressed by the design. Deputy Mayor and committee chair Don Vlieger described it as "pretty cool." Councilman Dean Broersma said the design blends in nicely with the other downtown improvements. The committee also discussed what sort of bonding levels are required for enterprise funds and determined more information was needed from the finance director to understand the issue. Fisher passed out a document outlining the status of projects Hulbregtse, Louman Associates, Inc. has been working on for the city, including the downtown revitalization project and a rate analysis project originally contracted to CH2M Hill. Asked about the status of getting a refund from CH2M Hill, Fisher said he had started drafting the letter after gathering all the evidence. He said the city paid CH2M Hill about $58,000 out of the $80,000 contract but has not yet received any deliverables as specified by the contract. The city hopes to receive a refund from the company without resorting to legal action, he said. Fisher also updated the subcommittee on the staff change at city hall. Fisher's new assistant, Jacqueline Renteria, has already improved the system by handling invoices with a new tracking spreadsheet, he said. However, city hall is still understaffed and particularly needs a permit tech to help catch up with logging permits and licenses. Fisher provided a handout that shows the city has already issued nearly double the amount of permits so far in July this year than July of 2012. The amount of fees for those permits is significantly higher than last year, as well. Committee members suggested hiring a temp worker or re-hiring someone retired who knows the system and would be willing to come back part-time to help catch up. Fisher also updated the subcommittee on the status of a project to cover the ditch along 16th Street from Edison Avenue to Yakima Valley Highway. SVID has agreed to do the work if the city will purchase the pipe, which will cost between $80,000 and $100,000. Fisher said stormwater funds may be available for the project. Members of the subcommittee also asked what would be done with the area over the pipe. Fisher said it could be used as an extension of the parking lots or as a walkway, but no buildings could be placed on it. Fisher also noted that a $50,000 reimbursement grant the city had received some time in the past and forgotten about was discovered by Fisher and Interim Finance Director David Layden. Fisher has applied recent projects to the grant and hopes to recover that money for the city. Lastly, Fisher also discussed some streetlights installed by Benton REA along Midvale Road. He said the lights are difficult to reach to replace and burn out quickly. The subcommittee asked Fisher to determine if replacing the lights with LEDs would be cost effective.

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