City Council race gets more competition

July 1, 2011

Candidates file for August primary

Resident Frank Irigon and former City Councilman Gordon Bisset have filed to run for City Council Position 4 in this year’s election.

Gordon Bisset

Frank Irigon

Frank Irigon

Bisset — who served as a member of the council from 2002-2005 — and Irigon will face off against Parks Commission Chair Andrew Shelton in a primary election in August.

The top two finishers will advance to the general election in November.

Councilman Sonny Putter, who holds Position 4, announced in April he would retire from the council at the end of the year.

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New trails plan distinguishes between horse, non-horse trails

July 1, 2011

The City Council June 7 approved a usage plan for which trails in the city should allow horses. The Parks Commission recommended the plan, and the council only made changes to plans for future trails, changing sections of would-be horse trails to pedestrian-only trails.

The trails the council changed were the Sylvan Creek Trail, the segment of the East Cross Town Trail east of the Terrace Trail, and two sections of the Horse Trail. The portions of the Horse Trail the council changed were the segment north of the West Cross Town Trail and the segment south of the 84th Street Trail.

Also, the segment of the Waterline Trail to be built south of the connection with the Olympus Trail will first be built to pedestrian standards, but it will later be built to equestrian standards. A trail to accommodate horses will also likely be built parallel to the Terrace Trail.

Newcastle Trails asked the council to approve the trails map so it could build trails to the appropriate standards when it holds work parties.

City Council adopts policy for memorials on city property

July 1, 2011

The City Council in June adopted a policy detailing how residents can purchase memorial trees and benches for city parks. Per the policy, residents can also donate larger items — such as statues or fountains — or name parks on a case-by-case basis.

The new policy replaces the city’s prior, informal donation practices, and City Manager Rob Wyman said that donating a tree or bench can be a great way to remember a loved one.

“If you had a family member or loved one who like to hang out at the park, every time you go to the park it kind of evokes the memory of that person,” he said. “I think it’s kind of a neat thing for people to be able to do.”

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Two city employees get promoted

July 1, 2011

The City Council unanimously approved promotions for administrative assistant Sarah Jacobs and accountant Melyssa Lynch.

The position titles for each employee changed last month, and each was given a raise.

The promotions will cost the city $4,200 more this year, but no budget amendments were needed, as the operating budget will be able to absorb the cost increase.

The administrative assistant title changed to executive assistant/human resources analyst. The change came with a 10 percent raise, increasing Jacob’s salary from $52,000 per year to $57,000 per year.

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Two more candidates emerge in City Council race

June 14, 2011

NEW — 4 p.m. June 14, 2011

Resident Frank Irigon and former City Councilman Gordon Bisset filed to run for City Council Position 4 in this year’s election. Bisset — who served on the council from 2002-2005 — and Irigon will face off against Parks Commission Chair Andrew Shelton in a primary election in August.

The top two finishers will advance to the general election in November.

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City moves forward with Lake Boren flooding mitigation plan

June 3, 2011

The City Council has directed city staff members to move forward with a plan aimed at mitigating flooding from Lake Boren.

The lake’s water level rises in winter, flooding residents’ basements and yards on the north end of the lake.

China Creek roared into the north end of Lake Boren in December 2010 with heavy rain, flooding residents’ properties and dumping a slew of gravel and sediment on their lawns. By Tim Pfarr

City staff members presented a draft scope of work at the May 13 council meeting, seeking feedback regarding how to proceed with the project. The staff members proposed collecting data from the lake and identifying ways to mitigate the lake level.

In addition to addressing flooding on the north end of the lake, the draft said the project would also include exploring ways to make the north end of the lake more accessible.

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Carol Simpson will seek re-election to council seat

June 3, 2011

Councilwoman Carol Simpson announced in May that she will seek re-election this fall. Simpson — who has Position 2 on the council — joins Deputy Mayor Steve Buri, Councilwoman Lisa Jensen and Parks Commission Chair Andrew Shelton on the November ballot.

None of the candidates who are slated to be on the ballot have yet picked up opponents, although candidates have until June 10 to file for election.

Carol Simpson

Members serve at large and represent the entire city, rather than specific neighborhoods or defined geographic areas.

Simpson has lived in Newcastle since 1998. She is a retired architect — although still a licensed one — and she began her work on the council in 2008. Prior to being elected as a councilwoman, she spent eight years as a member of the planning commission.

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Ethics ordinance a positive step forward

June 3, 2011

The City Council’s recent ethics ordinance — which most notably aims to keep employees from signing off on contracts in return for jobs — is a fantastic step forward. However, this ordinance should also apply to members of the Newcastle City Council.

The existing code of ethics was too broad and did not hold employees accountable, whereas the new ordinance does — through fines. This new degree of accountability should give residents a higher level of confidence in their government.

The ordinance — which applies to employees for one year after they leave the city — should also discourage suspicious situations from originating, such as the departure of former Public Works Director Maiya Andrews. After resigning in February 2010, Andrews took a job with contractor CH2M Hill, which she worked with on the Coal Creek Parkway and Newcastle Transit Improvement projects.

There is no evidence that Andrews used her power at the city to obtain a job with the company. In fact, City Manager Rob Wyman said it would be reasonable to assume she would not have been subject to the new regulations had they been in place when she left the city and joined CH2M Hill.

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City drive-thru ban is likely to be overturned

June 3, 2011

Drive-thrus will likely be welcome again in the city’s downtown, as the City Council has begun reviewing several sections of code relating to the area.

Drive-thrus were banned from the downtown area in 2007 after the city conducted a study and found that drive-thrus were contradictory to the city’s vision of having a pedestrian-friendly downtown. Drive-thrus already in use were exempt from the ban.

The council has not yet finalized overturning the ban — which was recommended by the Planning Commission — as it will review several other sections of city code and make its alterations in one motion.

The other sections of code the council will review concern floor-area-ratio requirements, distances between storefronts and right of ways, and maximum building heights. The Planning Commission will review each section of code first and then recommend changes to the council.

If the council approves the draft of the new drive-thru code, a drive-thru can be built if it is not on the side of a building facing the right of way, if it has a landscaping screen to conceal it and if its car queue area is not adjacent to pedestrian walkways.

Also, drive- thrus must meet several criteria regarding safety, traffic impacts, public service impacts and impacts to future development.

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City finalizes its deal with Teamsters Union

June 3, 2011

The City Council unanimously approved in May its agreement with the Teamsters Union, which now represents the city’s maintenance crew and the parks program manager.

Negotiations took 14 months.

City Manager Rob Wyman said the city’s priority was to maintain internal equity among the maintenance crew and the city’s other, nonunion employees.

The negotiations did not result in changes to the employees’ scopes of work or their salaries. Minor changes were made to how overtime is calculated, and changes were made to working conditions when employees are called in for emergencies. For example, when an employee is called back in to work, he or she must work a minimum of three hours.

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