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Three Snoqualmie incumbents face challengers
SNOQUALMIE - Three positions on the five-member Snoqualmie City Council are up for election this year, and all three incumbents - Colleen Johnson, Frank Lonergan and Cathy Reed - face opposing candidates.
Matt Larson is running against Johnson for the Position 1 seat; Greg Fullington is vying for the Position 3 seat against Lonergan; and Reed faces Jay Rodne for the Position 5 spot on the council.
Council Position 1
Living away from Snoqualmie for 10 years gave Colleen Johnson some perspective on how special the city is.
A 16-year member of the City Council, she said it was while she was living in a city between Atlanta and Athens, Ga., that she began to understand the need for growth management. She watched as sprawl encroached on the city and traffic congestion worsened.
"I thought it was just a crying shame. It was enough to make you weep," she said.
Johnson works as a freelance court reporter from her Snoqualmie home. She was raised in the city, and raised three children of her own here. Upon moving back to Snoqualmie, she vowed not let what happened in Georgia occur again in her hometown.
"Development is coming; it's how we handle it that's important," Johnson said, adding that Snoqualmie Ridge is proof that it can be done properly.
"I think that the Ridge speaks for itself. ... I think we did a good job. I was part of that, and I'm proud of that," she said.
With the potential for expanding to Phase II on the Ridge, Johnson said Snoqualmie would have the benefit of looking at Phase I to see where it could improve its growth management policies.
"I've heard suggestions that it should be the gateway to the city, and I agree with that to a certain extent," she said of Phase II. "I think that we've probably learned from what some people would consider mistakes with the Ridge in the initial development. And I'd like to think - I'd hate to use the word 'smarter' - I think we might be more intelligent about additional growth."
After living through the 1990 flood, which deluged her yard with 51/2 feet of water, Johnson said it is critical that the city finish the Army Corps of Engineers food reduction project, called the 205 project.
"I think for Snoqualmie to keep the downtown viable and be a place that people will want to live and work in, we have to continue pressing toward a 205 project," she said, adding that the city also deserves credit for aggressively working to elevate houses in the floodplain.
As someone who grew up frequenting the YMCA community center in Snoqualmie Falls, Johnson knows the benefits such a facility could bring to Snoqualmie. She supports building a combined community center and pool near Meadow Park.
"I think it's obvious that King County no longer wants to be in the recreational pool business," she said. "And I think if there's a way that we can do that, it should be done. I can see being part of the school system, which used to happen here."
She's in favor of keeping police and fire services within the city of Snoqualmie, adding that when residents pick up the phone to report a crime or fire, they deserve a quick response. She added that its partly because the city has its own Department of Public Safety that people continue to move to Snoqualmie.
"We're growing, and I think we're growing the right way. And I think it's because Snoqualmie is a very safe city to live in," she said.
Council Position 1
As a member of the Planning Commission, Matt Larson had a front-row seat to the debate over whether to develop the Falls Crossing land owned by Puget Western Inc.
When Snoqualmie, King County, Puget Western and Weyerhaeuser officials signed the Snoqualmie Preservation Initiative earlier this year, he was pleased with the outcome.
"To me, [the initiative] is a model of how I'd approach things in general," he said.
A husband and father of three, Larson has his own business designing houses. While he supports the Snoqualmie Preservation Initiative, he thinks the city should carefully examine plans to expand to Phase II on the Ridge.
"I think we still have to hold everybody's feet to the fire and make sure we have a very thorough process," he said.
Larson was encouraged to hear that the city is looking to build a community center and pool together in one facility, but he added Snoqualmie shouldn't jump into the venture blindly.
"My only fundamental concern and fear is knowing the costs of [operating] pools," he said. But he agreed with keeping everything under one roof, saying building two separate structures wasn't efficient.
"It was sort of a duplication of all the those areas that unnecessarily increased costs," Larson said. He would also like to explore the possibility of the Snoqualmie Ridge Residential Owners Association renting part of the community center as office space, which would help provide revenue for the facility.
Other issues confronting Snoqualmie, Larson said, include maintaining city parks, using the information that will be contained in the State Route 202 corridor to help improve the downtown area, completing the 205 project to reduce flooding and addressing traffic concerns at the Interstate 90-State Route 18 interchange. He also supports the city becoming part of the Main Street Program, which he said would help organize revitalization efforts.
As for police and fire services, he would like to see both kept under local control, adding that with Snoqualmie's large, yearly increases in assessed valuation, it would be more economical for the city to fund its own fire department, rather than contract with Eastside Fire and Rescue as it has in the past.
"It doesn't make any sense to take the police department and fire department out of town with assessed valuation going up the way it is," he said.
Building an administrative campus on city-owned land at Falls Crossing could help bring together the Ridge and historic Snoqualmie, Larson said.
"Symbolically, I think it's a great location. It's a meeting of the old and new," he said.
Council Position 3
Police and fire services lie at the heart of Frank Lonergan's election campaign. Nearing the end of his first four-year term in office, he said he hasn't accomplished everything he set out to do when he was originally elected.
"We've got a good start on a public safety program with the new police department and fire department, and I'd like to get that strengthened up a little bit," he said.
Lonergan, who was tasked with helping oversee the creation of a city fire department upon being elected to the City Council, believes a new station on the Ridge is needed for the Fire Division, as well as more personnel.
"We need to get the new fire department building constructed. And we need to move up to a true three-man fire department," he said.
By creating three-man fire crews, the Fire Division could be more aggressive in battling blazes. Currently when only two firefighters are on duty, they must try to control and contain a fire until backup personnel arrive.
Lonergan would also like to increase the number of officers within the Police Division by one. He said of the 14 officers on the force, two are used as school resource officers and spend much of their time at local elementary, middle and high schools.
"Although it seems like we have a lot of police right now, we really don't," he said.
A retired member of the Air Force Reserves, Lonergan is the sole proprietor of Snoqualmie Locksmith, which he started in 1997. That experience, he said, helps him understand the issues facing business owners in the city.
Another important undertaking for the city is widening the Snoqualmie River to reduce flooding, which would be accomplished through the 205 project, Lonergan said. And he knows Snoqualmie will continue to see growth in the coming years, and his experience on the council will help him address that issue.
"I've got four year's worth of experience dealing with the growth, dealing w