By Debbie Klosowski, Mayor, City of University Place
Welcome Applebee’s Restaurant! – After months of negotiations, the UP City Council approved an agreement with Apple Washington LLC to purchase land for a 200-seat Applebee’s Restaurant. Under the agreement, Applebee’s will pay $420,000 for a portion of a lot fronting Bridgeport and the Market Square Plaza. Major highlights of the agreement include:
* A 90-day due diligence period for Applebee’s to finalize site review, obtain a liquor license and finalize design
* City obligation to bring a gas line to the site
* Restaurant construction within six months of the due diligence period with an estimated opening by fall 2011.
The land sale is covered by a “Purchase and Development” agreement rather than a “Purchase and Sale” agreement to protect the City’s interests. Under the provisions, an Applebee’s restaurant must be built. No land banking is allowed so if construction doesn’t occur, the City has the opportunity to buy back the land and sell to another party.
Applause erupted in the Council chambers after the agreement was approved followed by a short celebration with sparkling cider. This is certainly a pivotal moment in the Town Center project. Several years ago, citizens and Council developed the Town Center concept to address several issues:
* Increase our sales tax base to pay for future services
* Provide more choices in retail, restaurants, office and housing
* Create a central downtown gathering place
Although the Town Center project has taken longer than anticipated, the City’s continuous work on the public components (such as sidewalks, streetlights, utilities and roads) resulted in “pad ready” parcels which are now extremely attractive to private sector interests.
We are pleased to welcome Applebee’s to our community and are confident this will lead to many more private sector projects in the near future.
Finalizing the Budget – Reduced Council salaries and benefits were among items discussed during Council deliberations of the proposed 2011-12 budget this week. Adds & drops approved this week included:
Council Salaries – Elimination of the 3% COLA for Council salaries beginning in 2012.
Since State law prohibits changes in Council salaries during Councilmembers’ terms, the fixed salaries would go into effect for three members in 2012 and the remaining four in 2014 after Council elections. Right now, the Mayor’s salary is $20,256, Mayor Pro Tem is $18,240 and Councilmembers receive $16,896.
Council Benefits – Reducing Council benefits to the same level as the least expensive employee health plan was also approved to go into effect in 2012 for three members and 2014 for the remaining members, again due to requirements in State law.
Right now, all Councilmembers get $1,356 per month benefits or a cash out if they choose to decline to participate in a medical plan. Under the proposal, the cash out option will go away in 2012 for three Councilmembers and 2014 for the remaining four. Council medical benefits will be mandatory at the least expensive employee option and Councilmembers will be eligible for benefits on the same terms as staff including a requirement that Councilmembers pay 25% of the cost to cover a spouse or dependent.
Although a proposal to eliminate benefits altogether lacked sufficient support at an earlier meeting, the majority of Council supported this compromise proposal which will result in $35,000 in cost savings in 2012 and $75,000 in 2014.
Due to differing opinions about the appropriate level of Council salaries and benefits, Council also agreed to schedule a study session next year to examine an independent Salary Commission to determine future salaries and benefits.
Other adds & drops included for consideration in the final budget were:
* Police Investigator
* Insurance for the Civic Building
* Support for the Volunteer Center ($5,000 per year) and Playground by the Sound ($10,000 contingent upon construction)
* Flower Baskets ($8,000 to supplement community donations)
Final approval of the 2011-12 Budget is scheduled for Monday, December 6, at 6:30 p.m. Public comment is welcome.
Winter Wind Storms – Lights flickered on and off while the wind hurled fir cones and branches at City Hall during our budget meeting on Monday. Branches were strewn throughout the community but luckily there was no widespread damage, save a downed tree across a feeder electrical line, affecting power to approximately 100 homes.
While street sweepers will continue making their way throughout the community, our limited crew does not have the capacity to pick up private debris from yards. Please do not pile debris on the curb. Instead, place branches in your yard waste toters or drop debris off at UP Refuse ($10 fee per cubic yard).
Citizen Crime Fighters – UP Police Chief Rusty Wilder recognized residents Lisa Morin and Raymond Kroeger for their efforts in assisting police with two arrests. After witnessing a vehicle prowl in the North Meadow parking lot of the Chambers Creek Properties, Ms. Morin dialed 911 and followed the suspects, providing officers with enough information leading to an arrest.
In another incident, Mr. Kroeger witnessed suspicious activity and contacted police leading to an arrest for burglary. Kudos to both Ms. Morin and Mr. Kroeger for their initiative and willingness to get involved to help combat crime. This is community oriented policing at its best!
Thanksgiving Dinner – Don’t have plans for Thanksgiving? Come join the UP Volunteer Center for a delicious meal on Thursday, November 25 from noon to 2 p.m. at the UP Primary School Cafeteria, 2708 Grandview Drive West. Please RSVP to UP Refuse at 564-3212. Volunteers and monetary donations are needed to help support this event. Please contact 223-0039 for more information.
UP Food Bank – The economic downturn has affected numerous people in our community. Please consider helping your neighbors through a donation to the UP Food Bank. Needed items include turkeys, hams, stuffing mix, cornbread mix, gravy mix, chicken broth, canned pumpkin or pie filling, evaporated milk, cranberry sauce, canned vegetables and fruits. You can drop off items at the UP Food Bank, 2510 Sunset Drive West or at the University Place Fire Department, 3631 Drexler Drive West.
UP Court – Taking care of traffic tickets will be a little more convenient for UP residents starting January 1. Earlier this year, the UP City Council approved an interlocal agreement with the City of Lakewood to provide municipal court services.
Since incorporation, the City of UP has contracted with Pierce County for these services; however, increasing contract costs and other issues led our Council to approve the agreement with Lakewood. An overview of court services will be presented on Tuesday, November 30, at 6:30 p.m. at the Lakewood City Hall, 6000 Main Street SW (Lakewood). Everyone is invited to attend.
Deck the Halls – Volunteers are needed to help decorate the City Hall complex on Tuesday, November 30 starting at 10 a.m. Come help spread holiday cheer in time for the annual Tree Lighting on December 4. For more information, contact Ken Grassi at 278-1946.
Happy Thankgiving – On behalf of the City Council, I want to wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving. I am grateful for so many things: an outstanding City staff and countless citizens who make a difference every day – whether it is volunteering, serving on commissions or just taking the time to make sure a neighbor or friend is doing alright.
I am proud to live in University Place and I deeply appreciate our community’s efforts to make this a wonderful place to live, work and play! As always, I appreciate your comments and questions. Please feel free to contact me at dklosowski@CityofUP.com