City gets pulse of its citizens at town hall

July 2, 2014

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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Feedback given on marijuana, work  at Lake Boren Park

About 130 residents armed with electronic voting clickers responded to poll questions at the city’s annual town hall meeting held June 3 at The Golf Club at Newcastle.

Unlike the town hall in October, this meeting was less presentation-based and more about soliciting resident feedback on a variety of topics, including marijuana and Lake Boren Park improvements.

The electronic voting devices allowed residents to offer real-time responses, and gave City Council members and staff a better idea of their citizens’ priorities.

At the town hall, the majority of residents polled expressed hesitancy about extra pay structures to fund Lake Boren Park and road improvements.

When asked if they would support a bond to upgrade or add improvements to Lake Boren Park, 54 percent of attendees responded no, while 62 percent said no to the establishment of a $20 car-tab fee to help maintain the city’s road system.

Sixty-five percent of those polled said they were not in favor of seeing marijuana processing, production or retail establishments in the city. The Newcastle City Council has considered a marijuana moratorium in the past, including shooting one down in December. The board took a look at it again in the May 6 meeting, but had tabled the discussion until July 1.

City staff considers the potential for any marijuana-related business activity in Newcastle very low due to state Liquor Control Board rules on where marijuana facilities can set up shop. Also, the state’s marijuana retail license lottery came and went without any impacts on Newcastle.

In what was the most one-sided response of the evening, 92 percent of those polled said they would be in favor of a distinct ZIP code for Newcastle.

“That result does not surprise me,” Mayor Steve Buri told the audience. “Since I’ve been on the council, and in many years prior, there have been various attempts to get Newcastle a ZIP code. We’ve obviously not been successful, but there are some new ideas that are being considered and it’s something we can continue to pursue.”

The city last petitioned for its own ZIP code in 2009, but the local U.S. Postal Service denied it. At the time, the city’s formal presentation to postal service managers cited delivery issues and a loss of sales tax based on improper coding as reasons a unique ZIP code was necessary.

Newcastle also applied for a ZIP code in 1994 and 2004. Cities must wait five years between ZIP code requests.

After the poll questions, residents had the opportunity to take to the microphone and ask questions and provide comments.

More than a few residents had concerns about speeding on their streets and asked the city to consider speed bumps in their neighborhoods.

Councilman Rich Crispo pointed out that the residential speed limit in the state of Washington is 25 mph, and encouraged citizens to make sure they adhere to it.

“It’s not a thoroughfare, it’s not a highway, and you only have a speed problem or a requirement of speed bumps because people in our own towns don’t recognize that this is for a safety reason,” he said. “We do not have a right to go five miles over the speed limit in a neighborhood. You just don’t.”




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