The West Richland City Council gave its approval this week to replace the aging public works maintenance facility on Van Giesen Street.
That news has helped put a spring in the step of city operations, maintenance and engineering staff, who are currently housed in two separate buildings several blocks apart.
They will be able to work together in a single building, and the operations and maintenance division will be able to keep all its vehicles and materials in one place instead of scattered throughout the city.
The new, larger facility would be built on 7.5 acres of a 34-acre land parcel the city already owns near Belmont Boulevard and Keene Road at a cost of just under $4.7 million.
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The proposal came from Jessica Platt, the city's finance director, and Roscoe C. Slade III, the city's public works director, who told the council Tuesday there's no room to expand the present facility.
"It's inefficient, and when the maintenance workers need parts, they have to run around town to get them," Slade said.
The main core of the present facility, at 5456 W. Van Giesen St., is a 40-foot-by-60-foot pole building built in 1980. An office on the west side and a covered sand storage area on the east have since been added.
But the last remodel took place 16 years ago.
"In that time the city has doubled in population, and so have the infrastructure, water and sewer mains," Slade said.
The remaining 26.5 acres that the city doesn't use for the new building would be available for commercial development, he said. The location also could be used for a new animal control shelter, though that's still in the idea stage.
Half of the cost of the new facility would be funded by either general or obligation bonds, with the rest coming from the city's cash reserves in the general fund, Slade said.
The city staff anticipates additional revenue for the general fund will come from selling the old maintenance facility for commercial development along Van Giesen Street. Moving the engineering division will give the city the ability to lease out the administration building on the commercially desirable corner of Van Giesen Street and 38th Avenue.
The next step is to hire an architect to come up with a conceptual drawing and put together actual budget estimates, Slade said. His hope is to have the two divisions of public works under one roof by the end of December 2015.
In other council business, city staff recommended increasing the base irrigation and potable (drinking) water rates and reducing sewage base rates as part of an annual review. The money goes into the general fund and the increase will cover costs of inflation, repairs and future capital projects.
Rates for irrigation water for the three city-owned irrigation systems -- Brotherhood, Luanne Estates and Flat Top -- have not changed since December 2006.
The rate increase on irrigation water will go into effect Dec. 22. Residents living on a lot of less than one acre will pay a minimum of $16.65 a month in 2015, an increase of $3.30 a month. Rates for the same lot will increase by $1 in 2016 and 50 cents per year after that, to $19.65 by 2020.
The current base rate for potable water, $34 for the first 3,000 gallons per month, has also remained steady since December 2006. That will increase for residential use by 50 cents per month to $34.50 beginning in 2018. Rates would then rise an additional 25 cents per month, to $34.75 in 2019 and $35 per month in 2020.
For a single parcel of property served by more than one meter, the minimum monthly charge will be applied to each meter.
The minimum monthly charge for disposal of residential sewage will be reduced by $2 beginning in 2016. Residents of single-family homes, mobile homes and trailers, and each unit of a duplex or multiple-family building, will continue to pay the base rate of $42 per month for 2014 and 2015. That rate will drop to $40 per month for the years 2016-2020.
Commercial customers, including recreational vehicle parks, will be charged at the residential rate in addition to a fee based on the number of gallons of potable water above 3,000 gallons delivered to the business.
The lower sewage rates resulted from paying off previous debts, bringing in projects under budget and operational efficiencies within the department, Slade said.
"It's fun to go to the council and ask them to lower rates or to maintain them. It's almost unheard of," he said.
-- Loretto J. Hulse: 509-582-1513; email@example.com