Newcastle to host open house at City Hall

May 3, 2012

The city of Newcastle will open its doors for an open house from 4-6 p.m. June 5 for the public to view the new City Hall and meet the City Council and staff members.

Visitors can learn more about city services and members of the Newcastle Police Department will be on hand to meet younger residents of the city.

City staff members will conduct a food drive and ask visitors to bring nonperishable food donations on behalf of Northwest Harvest.

City Hall is located at 12835 Newcastle Way, Suite 200. Learn more by calling Aleta Phillips at 649-4444.

City Hall limits staffing, road crews still working priority 1 and 2 streets

January 19, 2012

UPDATED — 1:55 p.m. Jan. 19, 2012

As most of Western Washington continues to dig out of hazardous conditions due to snow and ice, the city of Newcastle will again have limited staffing today.

The city is encouraging residents to call City Hall at 649-4444 to see if the services you need are available if you have questions.

The Public Works Department is working to plow priority 1 and priority 2 streets today.

Coal Creek Utility District’s business offices will close at 2 p.m. today due to inclement weather. CCUD will operate with limited emergency staff only. If you have a utility-related emergency, call 235-9200.

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City website shows who has door-to-door permits

July 1, 2011

City staff members recently added information about what businesses and individuals are permitted to sell items door to door in Newcastle.

See who is permitted at www.ci.newcastle.wa.us. Click “Peddlers/Solicitors Licenses Issued in Newcastle” under the “What’s New?” section.

Permits are free and valid for two weeks at a time, but applicants must have a city business license, which costs $45 per year. Applicants are also subject to a background check before receiving permits.

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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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City staff post-employment restrictions tightened

June 3, 2011

The City Council voted May 3 to create a new section of city code that — in some circumstances — restricts former city employees from working for companies with which they negotiated, supervised or approved contracts during their city employment.

If the employee takes a job at such a company, he or she would face a $10,000 fine for violating any of four restrictions.

According to the new code:

First, for one year after leaving the city, an employee cannot accept a job with a company if he or she approved large contracts for that company and would work on the same project as he or she did at the city. The contracts are considered large if they total more than $100,000 during the employee’s last two years at the city.

Second, an employee cannot have a financial interest in any contract that he or she played a role in negotiating, supervising or awarding while working at the city.

Third, an employee cannot accept a job offer from a company if he or she knows or has reason to believe the offer has been made as compensation for his or her work while working at the city.

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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 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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Police contract cheaper than expected for 2011

June 3, 2011

The city’s police contract with the King County Sheriff’s Office came in under budget for the year.

In late 2010, the sheriff’s office estimated that the contract for 2011 would cost the city about $1.46 million. The final contract cost came in $37,000 under budget.

There will be no changes to the level of service for the year.

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Newcastle city staff to see salary, benefits changes

April 1, 2011

The city’s 21 employees will soon see their salary ranges get a little larger, their merit pay changed, vacation time capped and cost-of-living raises scrapped.

Reductions in employees’ healthcare coverage, approved last fall, will also be permanent.

The Salary and Benefits Committee recommended the changes, and the City Council unanimously approved them Jan. 18.

The changes to salary ranges had been overdue, said Councilwoman Lisa Jensen, who chairs the committee. Previous policies dictated that the committee re-examine salary ranges every three years, but it had not done so for about five years.

By Dona Mokin

The committee compared Newcastle salaries to those in similar cities, averaging the high and low salaries elsewhere to make up Newcastle’s new salary ranges.

The new salary ranges — which widened on both the high and low ends — will shift to reflect trends in cost of living, and will take the place of annual cost-of-living adjustments that employees had received each year.

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