Aroundthe City

Published on Thu, Oct 12, 2006
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Around the City

Quiet zones

Residents near the Hughes Road and Bell Road crossings could be one step closer to having more restful nights.

In a city council meeting Monday, Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic told council members the city has officially notified the state utility transportation commission, the Department of Highways (DOH) and the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe railroad (BNSF) and the Federal Rail Administration (FRA) about its intent to create a quiet zone for the area between the Hughes Road crossing and the Bell Road crossing, which would prevent trains from blowing their horns in those areas.

“We’re attempting to take advantage of federal legislation that allows cities to have a quiet zone in which the trains do not blow their whistle,” Tomsic said.

The legislation, which became active in September, was created in response to petition for a reconsideration of the FRA’s April 2005 rule that required that locomotive horns be sounded at all public train crossings. Tomsic said the letter was a first step in a series that need to be made in order to get the application process started.

Tomsic added that in order to receive quiet zone designation, federal law requires cities to form a diagnostic team including local law enforcement, state Department of Transportation officials (DOT) and public works officials to evaluate the safety of those crossings.

“So it’s likely we will have to put up some other warning system to replace the trains blowing their horns and that could be expensive but at least we’re exploring it,” he said. Tomsic said he expects a written response from those agencies within the next couple of months.

City acquires Plover title

The city must acquire ownership of the historic Plover ferry if it is to continue funding its operations, Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic said.

Tomsic told council members Monday that Washington state attorney general Rob McKenna gave an interpretation of the hotel/motel tax in February of 2006 that determined that cities are prevented from funding operations and maintenance costs of tourism-related facilities the city does not own.

“It also doesn’t allow us to give money to organizations such as the Drayton Maritime group,” Tomsic said. “The only way we can get around that and continue operating the Plover is if we own it.”
Tomsic said he has spoken with Richard Sturgill, member of the Drayton Maritime group, a non-profit organization that owns and operates the Plover and that he has agreed to transfer the title.

Tomsic said as part of the agreement, the city will contract the operation and maintenance of the boat to the organization at an annual cost of $25,000 to $30,000 to be paid out of the hotel/motel tax.

The ruling also found that a city or municipality is not legally permitted to spend lodging tax revenue on the operating expenses of special events and festivals designed to attract tourists when such events are operated by non-governmental entities, such as the city of Blaine’s annual Fourth of July festivities.

Other programs that are likely to be affected by the ruling include the Peace Arch sculpture exhibit, which is installed in Peace Arch Park during the spring and summer months, Tomsic said.

“Some of the funds we have given them in the past wouldn’t be possible now,” he said. “There are a number of things that are going to be affected by this.”

The city council on Monday voted to authorize the city manger to accept the title to the Plover to continue its summer-time operations between Blaine and Semiahmoo.

In the meantime, Tomsic said the city will continue to “fight this legislation very hard.”

“We hope there will be a bill in the upcoming legislative session that will allow us to be a little more liberal in these sort of interpretations,” he said.

Birch Bay Water and Sewer District wins award
The Birch Bay Water and Sewer District was awarded the Outstanding Performance 2005 award last week from the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) for the seventh year in a row.
The award is given for zero permit violations throughout the year.

Only one other state facility – the Manchester Wastewater Treatment Facility in Kitsap County – has won the award more consecutive years. “So they’re in select company,” said Dick Grout, manager of the Bellingham DOE office.

Sweet Road art tour this weekend

The Sweet Road Artisans Alliance is hosting their second ArtFest, a tour of six working studios in the Blaine area on Saturday and Sunday, October 14 and 15. Patrons who visit all six studios and get their passport (map) stamped will receive a prize.

New this year are Sharon Swanson’s Glass Studio at 628 Alder Street and Robert Hogan’s Studio at 1167 Renee Court where he produces watercolors, oils and wooden sculptures. Other stops include Northern Meadows gift and wine store, Wildwood Dream Alpacas at 3750 Sweet Road, Circle of Trees Studio at 3432 Sweet Road and Allie Ryser’s Glass Studio at 9375 Valley View. Maps are at Northern Meadows.