Pullman City Council members were urged to address “the big picture” of city services during their meeting Tuesday night.
In their first meeting of the new year, council members were updated on the costs needed to extend services to developing areas outside the city limits. The idea, said City Supervisor John Sherman, is that developing areas around the city will someday be annexed. Much of the land cannot develop without utilities.
Water is the key to development, said Public Works Director Mark Workman.
Development along the Pullman-Moscow Highway is of particular interest, as a new five-lane highway is expected to be completed next year. Workman said utility extensions would be installed in three key phases. The first phase would run water and sewer services to the Rolling Hills area — about halfway between Pullman and the Idaho border — with a price tag of about $3.4 million in 2004 dollars, when the estimates were received.
New water rights would need to be established, or a current city water right would have to be moved to access new development areas. Workman reminded the council that water rights from the Washington Department of Ecology can be difficult to obtain, noting that the application process can take years and the cost of merely drilling a well could be nearly $750,000.
“Where that gets us is a place in a line that’s not moving,” he said. “If we do (get a water right), it would be many years out.”
Sherman said Hawkins Companies’ proposed development, located just shy of the Idaho state line, likely will not receive city services. Because of its distance from Pullman, “that’s just not something that is potentially feasible” for the city, Sherman said. He noted that the cost to get water and sewer lines to the development is an estimated $14 million, in 2004 dollars.
He said the landowners would be better off developing their own system or working with the city of Moscow.
Pullman’s sewer services are currently working at capacity, Workman said. A new 500,000 gallon digester is being constructed, and should help eliminate some of the strain of growth. A new aeration basin also is in the works, which will double the city’s capacity. The target of the sewer constructions, said Workman, is to support a community population of 33,650.
Developing areas on the Airport Road corridor and on Albion Road also were discussed.
Councilwoman Ann Heath said the city must lay claim to water soon, before turf wars occur with Latah and Whitman counties and the city of Moscow.
“That’s all the more reason ... to set up wells, so we can grow the way we want to grow,” she said. “How do we want to spend our water? I think we have enough water to make good choices about.”
In other business, Workman urged council members to choose a tentative route for a proposed southern bypass around the city as soon as possible so the city could claim a right of way. Workman noted that construction of the bypass currently is not financially feasible for the city, but if not chosen quickly, the land could be developed by the county.
“If that right of way is allowed to be developed, the southern bypass will never be built,” he said.
Heath made a motion to move along with a route that would connect U.S. Highway 195 with the Pullman-Moscow Highway at the intersection of Airport Road. The route would circle the southern portion of the city and keep trucks and heavy traffic out of the downtown area. Conceptual cost estimates for the project — in 2004 dollars — would be in the neighborhood of $43 million.
Councilman Al Sorensen opposed the motion. He said he felt another route, which would wind the bypass through the developing Rolling Hills area, would be a smarter choice.
Workman noted that the route options are rough estimates of where the bypass eventually will be paved.
“It wasn’t looked at in any great detail,” he said. “The overriding factor is ... to connect to Airport Road. Certainly additional thought can be put into that route.” Thank God we have the city government that we do. In Moscow, water is the excuse for no development. In Pullman, water is the key to development.
Ann Heath has clearly seen the writing on the wall. She wants us to stake our claim now so Moscow can't bully us around the way they are doing with Whitman County. AS I have said many times before, annexing the Pullman/Moscow corridor is Pullman's manifest destiny. Time to start thinking in that regard and figure out a way to get services down that way.