Check this page for updates on rumors, chatter heard about town to get the facts and real scoop straight from the source.  

Rumor: “The City took the bus service away.”

From time to time we hear this when people ask what happened to the bus in Sumner.  No, we did not take bus service away.  That was done for us many years ago when the local transit agency announced in 2012 that they were removing regular service throughout our community and limiting service only to the train station, while still collecting approximately $2M in taxes.  We asked them to reconsider, but they moved ahead anyway.  As a result of their decision, we removed ourselves from being in the transit district.  Per their plan, a bus would have come from Puyallup into the Sumner Sounder Station and gone right back out again. There would not have been a bus throughout the city, and they would also have cancelled the shuttle to the Bonney Lake Park & Ride that hundreds of commuters need daily.  Worse, their Shuttle service for disabled riders would have left significant low-income and senior residential areas in most of our City without any service at all.

When the City of Sumner withdrew from the transit agency, it lowered our sales tax rate from 9.3% to 8.8%.  This was not money collected by the City and used elsewhere.  It was a savings to citizens, particularly helping low-income populations that are hardest hit by sales taxes. (Please note that the sales tax rate has since gone back up to 9.3% with ST3 and would have been 9.8% if we were also still in the transit district.)

Plus, by removing ourselves from a transit district, we were eligible to bring in other transit service, notably two key services. First, Beyond the Borders service provides free bus service throughout the entire city for youth, disabled, senior and low-income citizens.  They have a fixed route that runs weekdays and service the YMCA, the library, grocery stores and the senior center as well as offering direct rides in certain instances.  Second, after extensive lobbying by the City of Sumner and Pierce County, Sound Transit agreed to pick up the vital Bonney Lake Park and Ride Shuttle. Had we remained in the transit district, we would have had neither service nor been able to seek them from other agencies.

A few citizens have said they have called the transit agency who said the City of Sumner cancelled buses. While that’s partially true, it’s not the whole story.  What really happened is that the City canceled being in the transit agency only because the transit agency had already canceled virtually all of our bus service, hurting those who needed it most.  Today, the city actually has wider service, and we hope citizens use these vital services as that’s the only way of retaining them.

Question: why do you have to remove two trees at Loyalty Park?

We’ve recently been informed that two big-leaf maples in Sumner’s Loyalty Park have reached the end of their life and need to come down.  After years of efforts to preserve them, at 100 years old, they now pose a high risk of failure.

These trees were part of a 1996 Assessment that listed both as being in fair to poor condition with decay problems. The City followed the recommendations of crown cleaning and thinning as well as cabling the dominant leaders. That “bought” us another 22 years to enjoy the trees, but they are now at a high risk of failure that cannot be ignored. Last winter, one of the trees’ large limbs fell on a picnic table. Thankfully, no one was present. The lost limb revealed extensive decay and cavities within the remaining tree.

Both the City arborist and an outside arborist confirmed the initial assessment. The City’s Forestry and Parks Commission also agreed that the time had come when the two trees need to be removed. A third tree, a horse chestnut was also evaluated and, with some special care, was deemed safe to remain. The City will follow several recommendations to ensure it maintains the highest level of health for its remaining years.

The City does not take removal of trees lightly. The Arbor Day Foundation designated us a Tree City USA for over 20 years. However, part of an overall urban forestry program is understanding that as living things, even trees reach the end of their life. For that reason, the City used grant funding to start its own nursery last year so that in the future, when mature trees have to be removed, they are not replaced with saplings but with more mature trees that the City has been cultivating already.

Question: do I need a permit or reservation to hold a party in one of Sumner’s parks?

All park spaces, including the gazebo, picnic shelters, tables, barbecues, etc. are available on a first-come, first-serve basis only at no cost. Please note if it is a busy weekend of graduation parties or Father’s Day, for example, other people may have the same idea. Normal uses, such as birthday parties, family picnics, etc. do not require any kind of permit. Click here for a list of Sumner’s parks and their amenities.
If your event is larger and changes the normal, everyday use of the park, you should obtain a Special Event Permit. This situation occurs if your event includes major components such as structures (tents, special tables, inflatable bounce toys, etc.) or a band or amplified music. Click here for more information about holding special events.

Question: why are the flashing school lights/20 mph signs for Daffodil Valley Elementary activated during odd hours, especially during commute time?

The schools themselves control and activate those lights to slow down traffic when there are children present, not for just traditional school hours. Daffodil Valley has evening programs that serve children weeknights until 6:45 pm. Especially with commute traffic, we need cars to slow down and drivers to remain extra alert for children’s safety.

Question: why don’t you just remove Traffic Avenue from the truck route? Wouldn’t that solve the congestion?

No, it wouldn’t; in a way, it would make it worse. The Traffic Avenue interchange and its lights are failing due to all sorts of increased congestion, not just truck traffic. Although this interchange is owned by WSDOT, the City of Sumner can’t wait any longer and is raising money to build a second bridge with two more travel lanes and pedestrian access as well as upgrade both intersections. This takes $18-20 million in funding. To qualify for grants, the City has to show the need, including the need to move freight. Already $2.5 million has gone to the project from Freight Mobility board as well as further funding from the Port of Tacoma. Removing the truck route would significantly impact the City’s ability to get  funding and delay the building of the second bridge that will bring relief.

Question: why are the traffic delays on 142nd Avenue repaving so bad this morning (April 26)?

Sorry about that. No, it should not be that bad through the next six weeks of the project. This morning, the signal at the Costco intersection was not operating properly.  The City of Sumner traffic signals foreman was out there this morning with the contractor, and the situation has improved.  We expect that traffic will improve for tomorrow’s AM commute.  As with construction, there will always be challenges and inconveniences.  However, we are very excited about construction and looking forward to a great new roadway surface.

Rumor: just use the main ball field at the Heath Sports Complex if you’d like.

Actually, you can, but there are a couple steps to take first. If you’d like to use the main ball field, please contact Northwest Prospects Academy, who manage scheduling of the baseball field. You can reach them at (253) 301-0491 or via www.nwprospects.com to check the schedule/answer questions. You will also need to fill out a Facility Use Agreement (pdf) and return completed form to  Derek Barry before your use can be scheduled.  Enjoy playing ball in Sumner!

Rumor: the City doesn’t charge industrial businesses for their water use in order to attract business.

Wow! This one is really not true. In fact, the opposite is true. EVERYONE pays for their water use. Many of our industrial businesses pay utility bills that are between $1000 and $2000 per month. In fact, because water rates are set based on use and meter size, the large industrial businesses are the ones with larger meters, who are thus heavily supporting the water utility infrastructure that everyone enjoys using, including residents.

By the way, the City does not offer any financial incentive to attract industrial businesses. We rely on good customer service, good infrastructure and the old real estate adage of location, location, location.

Question: Why did the City reset its tax rate when so much else was going on already?

The Council had long deliberations about this through meetings held last fall, because they don’t take taxes lightly. However, the City is getting “squeezed” from both sides, facing both the loss of revenue and mandates that take a toll on our budget.

At the same time, demand for city services increases each year. This is the funding that helps build or replace sidewalks, that is used as matching dollars to get grants to repave/expand horribly clogged roads, that is used for police protection, parks and planning the future of Sumner. Plus, new laws are currently being debated in Olympia that would pass more laws that require the cities (and thus you) to spend more money.

The City has worked hard to reduce costs and implement efficiencies, but faced with this loss in revenue, the Council considered this an important step toward maintaining the quality of life of our community and the services our citizen value.

Click here for more information about this year’s property taxes in Sumner.

Rumor: the old Red Apple building was torn down for a Sound Transit garage.

The Real Info: While that location was considered three years ago as one of four possible locations for a Sound Transit garage, both commuters and residents overwhelmingly asked for the garage to go on the existing open-air commuter lot instead, so that is where it will go, not on the Red Apple site.  Sound Transit is building the garage with funding from ST2, not ST3, and the continues to progress with support from the City.

In the meantime, the Red Apple building was a derelict eyesore full of asbestos and mold. The eventual plan is redevelopment into mixed-use with housing on upper floors and retail/service on the ground floor. Your participation in the Town Center Plan update helps shape how high future building(s) could go and what style they should have.

To make redevelopment happen, the City has to clean up the soil underneath that was contaminated by an old gas station. During that 2-3 year process, the Council determined it was worth tearing down the  building to offer more commuter parking spaces to fill a need for parking. In exchange for offering more off-street parking in the lot, the Council chose to extend restricted parking zones (RPZs) to  return street parking to residents. Like any compromise, some commuters and residents are happy with the exchange, and some are really not.