City Council reviews public library’s annual report, hears aquifer update

Library utilizes online services; city continuing to explore aquifer alternatives

MOLLY WILK, Evergreen reporter

Joanna Bailey, Neill Public Library director, presented the 2020 annual report at the City Council meeting Tuesday night. 

The presentation was delayed two years as a result of the pandemic and its effects on the library, Bailey said. 

During shutdowns, libraries were not considered essential businesses, and the library transitioned to serving customers virtually, she said. 

Bailey said after years of creating a place for individuals to gather, trying to restructure the library to serve the community remotely was difficult. 

To better serve patrons during COVID-19 restrictions, the library extended their Wi-Fi to their parking lot, learned to start library accounts remotely and created online services such as storytimes on Youtube, she said. 

Online services like the streaming service, Kanopy, allowed 352 patrons to stream almost 7,000 movies while curbside service facilitated 6,339 transactions and the borrowing of 43,086 items, she said. 

“It lifted our hearts because we would come out to deliver these Ziploc bags of materials to people and everyone was just smizing through all of our masks,” she said. “We were all just smiling with our eyes at each other.”

Bailey emphasized the importance of screen-free time during quarantine and how the library focused on creating “grab-n-go” activity bags for different age groups, such as children, tweens, teens and adults. 

Bailey accepted a donation of $47,639 from an ordinance on behalf of Neill Public Library during the meeting. 

The library staff recommended the funds be used to construct two employee offices and complete other renovations to the library, Bailey said.

Council moved to adopt the ordinance. 

Paul Kimmell, Latah County representative for the Palouse Basin Aquifer Committee, gave a presentation on the PBAC community survey. 

PBAC organized a community awareness poll in fall 2021 to gain a better understanding of the public’s knowledge of aquifers, he said. Three hundred and six polls were collected. 

The poll asked individuals where they gained their knowledge about aquifers and their water usage, Kimmell said.

PBAC is currently working on a water modeling project with WSU that will provide better research regarding the wells in the area, Kimmell said. 

The committee is continuing to look at new water supplies that will be needed in the future and working to determine the best alternative for the area, he said. 

City Attorney Laura McAloon presented an ordinance that was previously discussed in fall 2021. The ordinance recommends the formalization of the existing Lodging Tax Advisory Committee and updates to existing city codes relating to lodging taxes. 

The council moved to adopt the ordinance. 

Clayton Forsmann, deputy public works director, presented a resolution to decrease the maximum speed limit on a section of State Route 27. 

The resolution was inspired by the development of Aspen Heights, Forsmann said. The resolution would reduce the maximum speed limit from 55 mph to 45 mph.

The council moved to adopt the resolution. 

Forsmann also discussed the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Highway Safety Improvement Program, which supplies funds to increase safety on city streets to reduce serious accidents. 

Approximately $35 million are available in funding this year, and the program is expected to be extremely competitive, he said. 

Traffic consultants are currently working on a road safety plan and making Pullman’s application more competitive to increase the chance of a larger award, he said.

The finalized grant approval will be discussed at the next council meeting and submitted by March 4, he said. 

Forsmann brought up the possibility of building a drive-thru coffee shop in place of Oasis Teriyaki & Pho at 530 E. Main St.

Currently, there is a 12.5-foot wide section of the property that is owned by Pullman. Forsmann presented three options that include selling, leasing or retaining the space. 

Jace Bankhead from Forza Development LLC spoke to the council about their plans for the property and discussed the possibility of purchasing the remnant property owned by the city. 

Ann Parks, Ward 1 council member, emphasized that the council is not legally able to make statements on the type of business that is opened in this location. The decisions made were regarding the handling of the land and were not meant to ignore the public’s concerns. 

Mayor Glenn Johnson broke the tie vote and council moved to negotiate a ground lease for the property.