CORRECTION: An earlier version of this online incorrectly reported the price of the Buckley Hall construction project due to a typo. The story has been updated.
The Buckley City Council covered a union contract, the county’s slide back into Phase 2 and more during their roughly hour-long April 13 meeting.
Council member Lyn Rose was absent, and one of the council seats is currently vacant, so the seven-seat council was down to five members.
BACK TO PHASE 2
All of Pierce County is back to Phase 2 under Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 reopening plan, the governor announced April 12. That’s due to the county failing to meet certain metrics for controlling the coronavirus.
Among other limitations, that means indoor retail, dining and worship services are reduced to a maximum of 25 percent indoor capacity (Phase 3 is 50 percent). Indoor and outdoor sports are down to a maximum of 200 spectators (400 in Phase 3).
The council will discuss the issue in more depth at their next meeting, but at the very least, Mayor Pat Johnson said, the council chambers will likely have to limit occupancy at that and future meetings until the county moves up again.
“We’re limited in what we can do, and we’ll just have to work through it,” Johnson said. “What’s really going to be hard for our businesses, especially our restaurants: King County is level 3 still. All you have to do is get in your car and drive across the bridge, and you can eat in a restaurant, where here it’s going to be 25 percent capacity.”
City Administrator Paul Weed said he’d reached out to the Chamber of Commerce and discussed ways to safely get customers out shopping amid the reduction in indoor capacity. No immediate action was taken Tuesday, but council members discussed ideas like tents and outdoor eating spaces to alleviate the occupancy squeeze on businesses.
“Our cases are going up, and I don’t think we have a choice,” Johnson said after the meeting. “People have to wear the mask and get vaccinated. (But) it’s very frustrating.”
COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT
The council ultimately approved the City’s 2021-2023 collective bargaining agreement with IUOE Local 302, the engineering union, but not before hearing concern from Councilmember Marvin Sundstrom, who voted against the ordinance and called on the city to come back with a better contract.
Sundstrom raised concerns that Buckley “continues on cruise control” when it comes to managing city spending. He singled out costs for the sewer department in particular, and said city administration has “showered employees” with unnegotiated benefits.
“The city has not followed a process, other than seeing just how much they can provide to their employees,” Sundstrom said. “There is no thought of the taxpayer in here … other than just how much we can squeeze them before they start yelling.”
Council members Ron Smith and Luke Wilbanks said the wages were on the level with the quality of work the employees were doing, as well as the cost of living in Buckley.
“I think our employees are worth it,” Wilbanks said. “I don’t see how any of them can afford housing in the town they work in.”
City Manager Paul Weed called the contract “very fair and equitable.”
“This is one of the few contracts in a few years that we haven’t gone to arbitration,” Weed said.
Council members on April 13 officially declared a vacancy on the City Council due to Councilmember James Morem’s March resignation, and began the process of seeking his replacement.
Those interested have until May 2 to submit an application, which can be obtained at City Hall or downloaded from www.cityofbuckley.com.
Here’s what else they should know:
Council members receive $250 per month and must attend two council meetings, a study session and at least one committee meeting per month.
Applicants must be at least 18, have lived in the Buckley city limits for at least a full year by the date they would be appointed, and be registered voters.
The chosen applicant would serve through Dec. 31. Since this is an election year, they would have to run in the November election to hold the seat after then. Filing dates for the coming election are May 17 through May 21.
ALSO, THE COUNCIL:
• Unanimously approved an ordinance updating the city building code with recent changes to state law.
• Unanimously approved an ordinance updating the city fire code with recent changes to state law.
• Unanimously approved an ordinance rezoning a small, 0.23 acre section of city property from “Neighborhood Mixed Use” to “Public” status, making it possible to adjust the boundary between that property and an adjacent one which is also zoned “Public.”
• Unanimously awarded the bid for construction on Buckley Hall to Trinity Remodel and Excavating LLC, which was the only one of five bidders to respond by the city’s deadline. Their price comes in about $5,000 below the $90,000 set aside for the project.
• Unanimously approved an agreement with Systems Design West LLC, a company with which the fire department has contracted for ambulance billing services since 2015. The new agreement streamlines the payment process, according to the fire department.
• Voted 4-1 to appoint Interim Finance Director Sandi Hines as the city’s official finance director. Councilmember Connie Bender voted against the appointment.
• Unanimously approved an agreement wherein the state Department of Social and Health Services will lease a roughly 66 acre parcel of land in the 2100 block of Ryan Road to the city. The city intends to use the property to provide recreational opportunities and to preserve forest and natural habitat, according to the agreement.