County may appeal judgement

July 24th, 2014 by Ken

Thurston County Commissioners are seriously considering an appeal of a $12 million dollar judgement against them from a losing court battle with the Port of Tacoma.

Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney Jon Tunheim said it was “highly likely” the county would appeal.   He said that his office was talking with the commissioners and with the insurance carrier’s attorney and would make a decision shortly.

Tunheim made those remarks on “Coffee With Ken” which will air Tuesday on KGY Radio 95.3 FM.

While Tunheim was not in office in 2010, when the county made the decision to delay Maytown Sand and Gravel’s mining permit, there are unconfirmed reports that previous prosecuting attorney Ed Holm had warned the commissioners that they might be in violation of the law.

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Time to change county commissioners

July 22nd, 2014 by Ken

Thurston County Commissioners seemed to have put politics over the law when they delayed a legitimate business from operating – - even though it had a legal permit to do so.

The cost for this bad judgement – - $12 million dollars in fines from the court.

About four years ago, Thurston County Commissioners delayed granting an operating permit to Maytown Sand and Gravel to mine gravel from a site in Maytown, owned by the Port of Tacoma,  even though a 2005 permit allowed them to do so.

Over and over and over again county staff required the company to do additional study, after study, after study, all for the purpose of delaying the operation.  The result, was the company had to turn the property back over to the Port of Tacoma.

This a a perfect example of how NIMBY’s, can cause significant damage to legitimate businesses.

There was opposition from some landowners in the area.  They brought pressure on the county commissioners, who bowed to that pressure by delaying the project.

It happens time and time again.   Delay after delay after delay until the business owner runs out of money or gives up in disgust.

This time, the county came up against the big boys – - the Port of Tacoma, which owned the property, had the valid permit and sued Thurston County in court.

The jury ruled for the Port of Tacoma and awarded it $8 million in damages.   It also awarded Maytown Sand and Gravel $4 million in damages.

The fine will be paid by Thurston County’s insurance company, but that doesn’t absolve the county commissioners from flaunting the law for a political purpose.

I think its time for us to reconsider who’s in charge of Thurston County government.

We’ve still got a brand new jail sitting empty.

 

 

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Thuston County loses $12 million dollar lawsuit

July 18th, 2014 by Ken

A jury Wednesday awarded the Port of Tacoma $8 million in damages suffered because of actions by Thurston County to delay a gravel permit on property owned by the port in Maytown.

The Lewis County jury also ordered Thurston County to pay $4 million in damages to Maytown Sand and Gravel, the company that bought the gravel mining site from the port in 2010 and was forced to return it to the port in 2013 because of the county’s actions to delay granting a permit for operations as required under a 2005 agreement.

Property owners in the area had put significant pressure on the county not to allow gravel mining at the site despite an operating agreement in place.

The result – - Thurston County now has to pay $12 million dollars.

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Cities have same problems statewide

July 17th, 2014 by Ken

A recent survey of state chambers of commerce show that the major issues affecting business in cities – large and small – - can be boiled down to a handful.

The first issue affecting business was transportation.  No matter the size of the city or business  – - transportation needs were at the top of the list.  How to provide for roadways, maintenance of existing roads, construction of new roads and all issues affecting transportation was the greatest concern of business.

Nearly 80 percent of all products arrive in cities and towns by way of trucks.   Trucks use the freeway system to get goods to market and local the chambers surveyed thought government wasn’t doing enough to relieve congestion.

Whether its Boeing which has complained about the crowded freeways, or the local storefront business – - concerned that his customers can’t get to his store because of congestion – - transportation was the biggest issue facing business in this state.

The second issue of concern was homelessness and panhandlers on the street.   Whether it’s Olympia, Spokane, Centralia or Seattle, the issue of street people and panhandlers were second on the list of business concerns.

And the third issue facing business was onerous government rules and regulations.  Be it a plastic bag ban, an increase in the minimum wage or new fire protection regulations, business wanted something done.  And, they wanted a stop to new government regulations.

Anyone who has owned and operated a business can relate to these issues as stated by local chambers of commerce.

The question then becomes – - what can be done about it?

Panhandlers were creating a problem in Centralia.  The city council passed a law forbidding panhandling within 100 feet of an intersection or freeway off ramp in the city.   The police issued warnings to all panhandlers – - not tickets.

Panhandling has almost disappeared from Centralia.

Local government can take the lead.  They just have to have the will to do so.

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The Future of Olympia’s Isthmus

July 14th, 2014 by Ken

By Jefferson Shorelander

It occurred to me at a recent meeting of a group of property owners, “concerned citizens,” bureaucrats and politicians that it could serve as great source material for a TV situation comedy. The script would be populated with characters like … the fuss-budget mayor who governs a city with severe budget shortfalls and proposes a new $20,000,000+ library at a time when new technologies are rapidly replacing old, heavy carbon footprint forms of communication such as newspapers, magazines and books … the attorney who, in a career-long pursuit to get elected to high office (like a judgeship or the city council) belongs to every committee the febrile imaginations of city bureaucrats and community activists can come up with, and whose grand idea for the revitalization of a city suffering from an advanced case of urban rot is a merry-go-round spinning next to the mayor’s library (who secretly fancies it’ll be named after him) … the bulky, plain-talking general contractor arguing for more buildings and less park, labeling the pie-in-the-sky ideas that keep cropping up around him as having “stink” on them, or cynically telling articulate bureaucrats that he wouldn’t even consider “jumping in that boat” … the busy-body ex-mayor turned community watch-dog hustling from table to table to keep tabs on everything and everybody just in case he needs to do something about it, which, of course, he will … the well-connected activists who just might keep quiet if they’re included … the smooth-talking city planner who manipulates the process by determining the who, what and why of meetings and committees … and the politicians who have virtually no business experience but feel their superior intelligence makes their presence indispensable.

Who did this brain trust leave out? The financiers who can speak to the funding possibilities, or improbabilities, of the various ideas … the entrepreneurs, like successful restaurateurs or retailers or barkeeps … the real estate developers … property owners with sites within three hundred feet of the isthmus … and, of course, the homeless who’d love to see a bigger and better library to hang-out in.

What will come of all these meetings and all of the money spent on them? I suspect they’ll end up in the city’s archives, right next to similar tomes from each and every decade that preceded this one. It’s tragic because I love Olympia and want good things to happen to downtown. If I sound cynical, it’s simply because after about thirty years of serving on and observing committees such as this, I think the fellow had it right who said, “To get something done a committee should consist of no more than three people, two of whom are absent.”

I don’t mean to impugn the motives or intentions of those serving on the committee. I believe they feel they’re doing the right thing for downtown. However, it’s hard to ignore the reality that such groups make politicians, bureaucrats and consultants look like they’re doing something, in spite of decades of evidence to the contrary.

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Food inflation hits back yard barbeque

July 8th, 2014 by Ken

Like many people, this past weekend I took advantage of the good weather and invited family and friends to a backyard barbeque.

While they provided many of the side dishes, I provided the meat and other items to be roasted over hot coals and served with generous helpings of barbeque sauce.

It cost me a lot more money than I had anticipated.   The cost of the hamburger and brats was more expensive than  last year.   The salmon, that my wife loves, cost more than the steaks I cooked for special people – - and the steaks were expensive.

Even the drinks were expensive now that the state has taxed the hell out of liquor.

Topping it off was the coffee I served to people before they left.   It too was more expensive than last year.

This has been a bad year for food inflation.

There are a number of reasons that the cost of steak and hamburger is high.  Droughts in Texas and Oklahoma a couple of years ago forced many ranchers to sell all of their stock.  They are just now getting around to replenishing their herds but there are less cattle around and that means higher beef costs.

A virus has been killing off baby pigs by the millions in the south and my cost for sausage and brats has skyrocketed.

My wive loves salmon – the wild kind – those with bright, red, firm meat.   Due to global demand and declining stocks the cost of salmon exceeds that of steak.

As for liquor, the state levies such a high tax on alcohol that the cost of the margaritas I served could fund a small country.

And then, even the coffee was expensive.  Not only is there an increasing demand for coffee around the world, but a drought in Brazil has caused a large increase in the cost of coffee beans.

Overall, inflation in the United States is running below two percent, but the cost of food has increased far beyond that two percent rate.

We have to face facts.  We live in a global economy and weather in Chili or increased demand in China sends ripples through our local supermarket.

Then, to top it off, I had to pay five cents a paper bag just to pack my food out of the store.  Where’s the justice in that?

Thank goodness I enjoyed the people at my party.   They were worth the cost.

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Quote of the day

July 7th, 2014 by Ken

“We don’t have time for rules – - we’re trying to get something done.” – Thomas Edison

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Evergreen has retention problems

July 1st, 2014 by Ken

Social, cultural and physical isolation is causing student retention problems at The Evergreen State College.   That’s the assessment of Evergreen trustee Dave Nicandri.

Nicandri said that Evergreen’s location coupled with a lack of social activities is causing the college to have a drop-out rate among first and second year students double that of other state colleges.    He made those remarks on Coffee With Ken, my radio show on KGY FM airing every Tuesday morning.

While most college drop out rates are around 10 percent,  Evergreen’s is around 20 percent.

Nicandri said there’s a lack of things for students to do on the college campus, and its physical isolation causes even more problems.   “There’s no place for a student to buy an aspirin or visit a laundromat or buy other needed items without leaving the campus,” he said.

While touting the great academic component of the college, Nicandri said its time to re-look at the campus and perhaps allow some commercial activities.   This has to be coupled with renovating the existing dorms and constructing additional housing facilities.

“Perhaps its time to talk about requiring students to live on campus,” he said.

Nicandri pointed out that Evergreen was originally founded as a live-in college, but currently more than 80 percent of the students commute to the campus.

He also thought that the college should have more sports programs to build a better sense of college community.

The college trustee said there is talk among his colleagues about changing the culture of campus life, but so far it’s just talk.

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Joan Baez has long history

June 27th, 2014 by Ken

Joan Baez, the queen of American folk singers is coming to Olympia at the Washington Center on July 22 for one performance.  Don’t try getting tickets – - they were sold out in two days.

I was one of the lucky ones – - I think.   I was able to get the last four seats together – - but I’m not so certain it was a good buy.   I saw Joan Thursday night in concert in Troutdale, Oregon and it wasn’t the Joan I’ve coveted for half a century.

I first saw Joan Baez in concert in Seattle on April 24, 1964.  Bob Dylan was her warm-up act.   The young woman with the large voice and gentle means left the crowd cheering and stomping.  For most, Dylan was an after-thought – - if thought of at all.

I saw her live again at the Washington Center on October 17, 1989, the date of the Oakland earthquake.   She was concerned that her son was in that area and during the concert and let the crowd know he was alright when she found out.  I truly enjoyed that concert with the experience of several decades under my belt.   I was hoping the Washington Center would bring her back soon.

It took another quarter of a century before she was scheduled back in Olympia.   In the meantime, friends of mine purchased tickets for her Oregon concert last night.

Joan’s  opening act was the Indigo Girls.  About half of the nearly 3000 in attendance were there for them.  They played for an hour and a half before Joan came on.   She performed 14 songs in an hour.   Her voice – - while still powerful and majestic – - didn’t have the range.  Now in her 70′s, she tried but had to back off of the high notes.

Her choice of songs was odd.   She sang four religious songs, two songs in Spanish and a number of new ones.   She did manage to keep the audience engaged when she sang a couple of the old ones and ended her set with “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”

While I enjoyed the concert, I yearned for the young Joan who sang folk songs and made us proud to be “Folkies.”

I hope her solo performance at the Washington Center in July will contain more of her old stuff and less of her new stuff.  But, no matter what, I’ll be there.

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Plastic bags just first step for environmental fanatics

June 18th, 2014 by Ken

In less than two weeks, every plastic grocery shopping bag will disappear from every grocery store and supermarket in Thurston County.

And, unless you bring your own bag, you’ll have to pay five cents for every paper bag you use.

Thanks to a handful of environmental fanatics, on July 1, Thurston County will become the only county in the state – - and maybe the country – - to ban plastic shopping bags.

The City of Seattle banned plastic bags, but not King County.   Here, in Thurston County – - with the exception of Yelm and Tenino – -  we will soon be free of that evil product.

You are encouraged to bring your own reusable bags, but if you don’t you will be charged five cents for every paper bag.

It’s not a choice, the law, as written, requires grocery and supermarkets to charge the fee.   Most stores would prefer not to do so, but the law is adapted – - word for word – - from the Seattle ordinance – - and requires markets to charge the fee.   The purpose is to further encourage you to use reusable bags.

The next move by these environmental fanatics is to require mandatory composting.   They’re even received a state grant to do so.

Don’t think it can’t happen.   It’s already happening in Seattle and that’s the environmental throne our local fanatics worship at.

So, in a couple of weeks, be prepared to pay more for your groceries and keep a close eye on your kitchen.  These fanatics are now lurking by the garbage can watching what you throw away.

UPDATE – County staff say the current state grant has nothing to do with mandatory composting and is just designed to educate us on how much food we waste.

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Lacey gets earfull over signs

June 16th, 2014 by Ken

A public meeting on proposed changes to Lacey’s Sign Ordinance brought out nearly a dozen Lacey business owners Monday evenng.   And were they ever vocal.

With the most restrictive sign ordinance in the state – - and maybe the entire country – - business owners have been stymied time and again over sign restrictions in Lacey.   And, they voiced their frustrations over those restrictions.

Thanks to efforts by several Lacey councilmembers, the city is re-looking at its sign ordinance to make it more business friendly.   Monday’s meeting was the second in a series.   Recommendations for changes will be made to the Lacey Planning Commission which will then forward its recommendations to the Lacey City Council for final approval.

Any changes should be in place by September.

The large turnout of business owners was directed by the Lacey Chamber of Commerce which sent out notices of the meeting to all members.

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Thought of the day

June 13th, 2014 by Ken

Any legislator that can be bought for the price of a meal – - isn’t worth buying.

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Where are the fathers on Father’s Day?

June 12th, 2014 by Ken

Father’s Day is this weekend,  and unlike Mother’s Day, it doesn’t get much attention.

The merchandisers will try to sell you ties, power tools and barbeque grills, but it doesn’t compare in any sense of the word with Mother’s Day.

There’s something special about a mother, particularly when she’s holding a new baby.   As a child grows up, he or she becomes attached to the mother, but that is not always the case with the father.

There’s an estimated 70 million fathers in the United States, but something like 55 percent of all children born in this country are not born to married couples.   A large proportion of those births are to mothers who have no father of their baby in sight.

And, while a large number of those missing fathers are born to women of color, white fathers also abandon their children at an enormous rate as well.   That has been going on now for more than 30 years, bringing up the idea advanced by many feminists that a father is not needed for the raising of a child.

As a father, step-father and grandfather, I feel loved and appreciated by my children and grandchildren all year long.   I don’t need additional appreciation on Father’s Day – - although I do enjoy it.

But, I feel sorry for those children with no fathers and I feel sorry for all of those fathers who have conceived a child and then walked away.

There has to be a special kind of guilt for such men.

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First woman stories should end in 2016

June 11th, 2014 by Ken

When California Chrome failed to win the Belmont Stakes this past weekend and become the first Triple Crown winner in more than three decades, the national news media looked around for another story.

And they found it, in the trumpet blowers who call the horses to the track.   It was the first woman to blow the trumpet at Belmont.

The first woman to blow a trumpet at Belmont.  What a stupid story.   When is the media going to stop writing stories about the first woman.

The feminist movement started more than 40 years ago and since then we’ve had hundreds – - no thousands of stories about the first woman.   The first woman to climb Mt. Everest, the first woman to head the Federal Reserve, the first woman to go into space, the first woman to lead a major television news cast, the first woman to graduate from West Point – - the list is endless and now worthless.

It’s become the first woman to win a hot dog eating contest, the first woman win a big truck rally, the first woman to blow a trumpet at Belmont.

Women head multinational corporations, women lead major universities, women make up a majority of all college students, women win gold medals in Olympic team competitions – - women are in leadership positions everywhere.

Well – - almost everywhere.   They haven’t been president of the United States, but that will all end in 2016.

Maybe then, we’ll stop having first woman stories.    It can’t come too soon for me.

 

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Government doesn’t work

May 30th, 2014 by Ken

Government doesn’t work.   That’s the feeling of the American public according to Kimberley Strassel, a columnist for “The Wall Street Journal.”

She made those remarks last night at the Washington Research Council’s annual meeting.  The guest speaker said that American’s have lost faith in their government’s ability to solve problems.  “They feel that nothing government does will alleviate the problem, but make it worse,” she said.

Strassel said that the Affordable Care Act,  the IRS scandal, the VA debacle and the alternative energy efforts are examples of government programs that reinforce those negative feelings.

Because of the public’s lack of faith in government, the Republican party may pick up many of the 14 Democratic Senate seats up for election this year.

But, she warned the Republicans against over-reaching. The backlash against government doesn’t mean that the American public wants smaller government.   “Someone has to make the case for smaller government, and there’s no Ronald Reagan on the horizon,” she said.

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God’s off the hook

May 28th, 2014 by Ken

Droughts in California, forest fires in Colorado, tornadoes and storms in the midwest, and torrents of rain in the Southeast.

What do all of these have in common?   They’re all caused by Global Warming – - Global Climate Change, if you will.

We know that’s true, because some scientists say so.  They say that Global Warming is causing significant changes in our weather patterns.

Sink holes in Florida are caused because the increased warmth is drying up the water which supported the land and just recently we were told that an increase in rat poop is also the result of Global Warming.

No – really.  Higher temperatures in Arizona have caused rats to seek shelter in houses with air conditioning and that of course leads to more rat poop.

I’m not making this stuff up.

Before we were aware of Global Warming I wonder who was responsible for all of the variances in climate around the world.

They were usually chalked up to “Acts of God.”

If lightening hit your house, it was an Act of God.   If floods washed your house off of its foundation  – it was an Act of God.

I think the only person who’s happy that the Earth is undergoing a period of Global Warming is – - God.

We’ve let him off the hook.   Now we’ve found something else to blame.

God doesn’t like being the bad guy.

 

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Business news you won’t read anywhere else

May 20th, 2014 by Ken

Union organizers in Seattle have sent a letter to all registered lobbyists in Washington State, asking them to refrain from doing business with two hotels in Seattle.   The letter carries an implied threat, particularly to Democrats and naming names of those who have already agreed to boycott the Hyatt at Olive 8 and the Grand Hyatt in Seattle.   Among those mentioned agreeing to the boycott are 21 state legislators and Washington Insurance Commission Mike Kreidler.

For more than three decades, the City of Lacey had the most restrictive sign ordinance in the entire state.   Now, bowing to economic conditions and technology, the city is planning a workshop and public forum to re-look at the ordinance.  Assisting is a community-based committee which will take input and make recommendations to the Lacey Planning Commission.  That workshop is set for Thursday, May 29 at city hall beginning at 7 p.m.

Some 360 minority-owned businesses in Seattle have sent a letter to the Seattle City Council explaining how an increase in the minimum wage would negatively impact their businesses.   These minority business owners say they provide the first avenue of employment for immigrants coming from other countries and provide employment opportunities that government doesn’t provide.   They are asking that the council consider a smaller minimum wage of $10.35 instead of the $15 currently under consideration.

 

 

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Initiative process works well

May 19th, 2014 by Ken

One of the advantages of living here in Washington state is the ability of the people to make new laws and overturn existing laws.   It’s tool is the initiative and referendum.

In a nutshell – - the initiative allows us to make law by getting  signatures of enough registered voters on a petition.   The number of signatures is based on election turnout.  Currently about 246,000 valid signatures are needed.   If the number of valid signatures is certified by the Secretary of State’s office then the measure will go on the fall ballot.

A referendum overturns an existing state law.   The number of signatures needed is currently around 123,000.

There are other types of initiatives and referendums, but these are the basic facts.

The governor and members of the state legislature don’t like initiatives or referendums.   They don’t want the unwashed masses making laws.   That’s what they’re for and they don’t want citizens messing around with their jobs.

However, there are often problems with initiatives written by the people.   Most often they concern legalities.  Many initiatives are overturned by the Washington State Supreme Court on a legal technicality.   Most often it’s because the initiative addressed more than one issue – - a no no.

An initiative must address only one specific action.

Then, there’s the case of competing initiatives.  Sometimes we have two initiatives on the ballot that address the same subject from two different points of view.

We have that this year with the issue of gun control.  Two initiatives will be on the ballot – - one favoring more gun control and one restricting the state’s right to mandate new control rules.

If both pass, the issue will be taken up by the Supreme Court.

These failures of citizen drafted initiatives perplex our elected officials who want some controls on the process or some filtering mechanism to make certain that only technical legal initiatives make the ballot.

That shouldn’t be their concern.   Restrictions on our rights to petition the government shouldn’t be decided by the government.

Don’t let your elected officials  restrict your right to the initiative process.

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Compassion or the public good

May 13th, 2014 by Ken

Seems the City of Olympia is serious about cleaning up downtown.   A number of recent actions lead us to that conclusion.

The city has increased its walking patrol and undergone a program to spruce up and light the city’s alleyways.  Olympia has spent a good amount of money to re-build the artesian well site into family-friendly place complete with running water and food vans.  They’ve also approved a number of parking stall parks – - eliminating some parking spaces and allowing adjacent business owners to put in benches, seats and tables.

And, downtown business owners have two full crews of clean-up workers devoting their time and effort into sprucing up and keeping the city sidewalks free from litter and used drug needles.

Those are some of the activities undertaken to make the downtown safer and more welcoming for shoppers and visitors.

However – - a couple of things are missing.  First, the streets still have a large number of wayward youths, who with their dogs, make the city streets seem unsafe.

Then, homeless people, with their back packs and plastic shopping bags, still roam downtown looking for warm places to sit and sleep when the library isn’t open.

And, drugs are still sold openly on city street corners and alleys.

These are problems that all urban cities have, but Olympia seems to have them in greater number than the size of the city would suggest.

It’s good to have compassion for your fellow man.   It’s good to help out those who need a hand up once in a while.   It’s good to see the positive in people.

But, sometime, the City of Olympia is going to have to take a hard stand on those who seem to make downtown unsafe and dangerous.

Picking up used needles, lighting the alley ways and putting in urban parks – - can’t make up for city policy which puts compassion over the public good.

Lets hope city mothers and fathers figure this out before it’s too late.

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College Street project begins

May 8th, 2014 by Ken

Well – Almost.

The City of Lacey has scheduled an open house to inform residents of Lacey about the most significant and congestion-building street project, since the city closed down Sleater-Kinney for a full rebuild in the 1980′s.

In the plans since 2004, the College Street Improvement Project is about to get underway, with an Open House on Thursday, May 15, to explain the initial phase – - the construction of a roundabout on 22nd Avenue and College Street.

College Street is the major North South arterial for the City of Lacey.   It carries nearly 33,000 cars each day with traffic extremely high during peak travel hours.

There are 130 driveways and 24 T intersections from Lacey Boulevard to 37th Avenue, making left turn stops which not only slow down traffic behind them, but is also dangerous.

The open house is primarily designed to inform the public about the 22nd Avenue Roundabout.   The city is currently in the right-of-way acquisition phase, with 14 pieces of property needed, including three houses.  The total cost of the 22nd Avenue Roundabout is estimated to be about $3.3 million.

That project is scheduled to begin construction in 2016.

 

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