By Nancy Covert
The first Tuesday council meeting of the New Year in Steilacoom ran longer than usual.
The Jan. 7 council meeting recessed around 10:20 p.m., but there was a lot accomplished that night, from inducting its newest member to dealing with town issues.
Paul Loveless, Steilacoom’s Town Administrator, read the Oath of Office to the newest councilmember Pete Franklin, who replaced Lowell Bier. Mr. Loveless also administered the Oath to returning councilmembers Steve Stovall, (2nd term), and Marion Smith (4th term). Mayor Ron Lucas also took the oath of office, marking the start of his fifth term in that role.
Town Hall was filled with interested citizens on hand for the evening’s business. Half a dozen high school students were part of the audience as a requirement for their Civics Class. Students benefited from Mayor Lucas’ explanation about how the council conducts town business.
Foremost on the minds of several residents was concern about whether or not to pave a small section of roadway (Wilkes Street) that accesses Sequalish St. After hearing comments from residents who live in the impacted area, council approved a change order on the in-progress Sequalish St. project. That includes replacing a water main and paving a section of Wilkes’ roadway instead of allowing it to remain graveled.
The status of the still-shuttered Saltar’s Beach pedestrian overpass also drew a lot of attention. Several residents complained about their inability to access the picturesque graveled beach on the southwest side of town, with its CCC-constructed rock picnic shelter.
It has been more than a year since the overpass was damaged when a low-hanging cable was snagged by a double-deck freight car, weakening the over-the-tracks structure.
Mayor Lucas explained the process and status of negotiations with the Railroad (Burlington Northern/Santa Fe) in order to restore access to the beach because of potential liability. He stressed that the bridge would not be re-opened until a new walkway was in place.
The Town received a detailed 11-page report from BNSF, saying that a steel overpass bridge would be installed, although there was no date had been set for its replacement. Matters with the Railroad progress slowly, but the Mayor is optimistic that it will be resolved. In the meantime residents are reminded that Sunnyside Beach is available for any beach-type recreation.
Finally, Doug Fortner, Town Planner, presented Town Code changes regarding any marijuana distribution businesses in the historic community. Of two alternatives available, the council approved the first option prohibiting its sale within the town’s limits. While the Town cannot control a citizen’s private, personal use, it can and has blocked any commercial distribution within the community.
Any available site for doing so is within the 1,000 ft. boundary guidelines established by the State. Because of the community’s small size—2.3 square miles—any potential retail site would be prohibited because of proximity to any of Steilacoom’s parks, schools or library.
Note: 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the first train to travel through Steilacoom. An 80th Anniversary gathering was held at the Steilacoom Depot in 1994 to mark the occasion.
When Steilacoom celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2004, a group of townspeople boarded Amtrak for a re-creation of that historic ride to Centralia. A detailed account about the train’s 1914 arrival in Steilacoom can be read in Town on the Sound, available at the Steilacoom Historical Museum.