Randy’s Recap, April 27 Richland council meeting; 4000 utility customers behind on their payments

Correction: The city attorney is Heather Kintzley.

Delinquent Utility Bills

Administrative Services Director Cathleen Koch reported to the Richland City Council Tuesday that the city had finished 2020 with expenses under budget. However, it wasn’t all good news.

Despite receiving $500,000 in Covid relief to help customers with utility bills, about 4000 have unpaid bills and a little more than $2 million is owed. That’s 10 times the $200,000 that was delinquent in 2019.

Koch said that the amount seems to have stabilized and the $2 million was not growing;

Councilman Terry Christiansen asked Finance Director Brandon Allen, “How does the city plan to handle the shortage.”

Allen replied that without the ability to shut off the utilities because of Covid restrictions, it was difficult to know who might be taking advantage of the situation. He added that shutoff wasn’t an option until at least July or August. He explained that the department was notifying people by mail and also making phone calls to explain to them their options .

Residents who are still struggling are directed to the county’s relief program.

Washington vs. Blake

Richland City Council continues to struggle with the Washington Supreme Court decision, Washington vs. Blake. The court’s decision that a person couldn’t be charged with possession of an illegal drug that they had unknowingly effectively gutted the state’s drug laws.

The Washington State Legislature’s fix, SB 5476, that recently passed, re-criminalizes the possession of illegal drugs as a gross misdemeanor instead of a felony. The bill requires that police divert people to treatment for their first two arrests. Only on their third or later arrests for possession can they actually be referred to the prosecutor for charges.

City Attorney Heather Kintzley pointed out that even State Representative Brad Klippert voted yes on SB 5476. She said that Klippert explained, “It is better than the supreme court gave us.”

According to Kintzley, the city never had an ordinance criminalizing drug use because the crime was a felony and the city had no jurisdiction over felony crime. For that reason, she said, the city had two options – do nothing and leave enforcement to the county or write a local ordinance that adopts the state’s new law. She pointed out that the new law expires July 1, 2023.

Councilmembers decided to wait and see what other local jurisdictions do before picking an option.

With that decision Mayor Ryan Lukson said, “We probably ended this discussion 30 minutes earlier because Bob [Councilmember Bob Thompson] is in Seattle.”

Changes to zoning

Councilmembers reviewed five proposed changes to zoning. Two of them would change commercial zoning to residential zoning.

Councilmembers expressed the most concern with changing the zoning from commercial to residential at the intersection of Meadow Drive South and Center Parkway. That change would mean that there was no commercial development at the busy intersection.

Meadow Drive South and Center Parkway could rezoned from commercial to medium density residential.

Residents will have an opportunity to comment on the changes listed before there is a final decision.

Automated External Defibrillators

Richland Fire Chief Thomas Huntington and Captain Michael Van Beek described to councilmembers how the department continues to improve its cardiac survival program.

Soon the fire department will be able to provide automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to some new construction, some large gatherings and city properties like parks. Van Beek assured the council that the AEDs themselves would instruct users on how to use the device.

A program that alerts off-duty firefighters with AEDs to a cardiac emergency near them is also being developed. Van Beek showed a table (below) that gives the statistics on how likely a heart attack victim will survive an attack at home and in a public location.

In conclusion, if you have a heart attack, try to have it at a restaurant and not your own home.

Randy’s Rundown: Richland Council’s April 27 agenda explained

Developers rush to cash in on the demand for housing in the Tri-Cities. This new development is in Horn Rapids.

Correction: Two developers have asked to change their commercial zoning to residential zoning. Two others have applied to increase the number of residential units on their parcels.

At this workshop meeting the Richland City Council will discuss law, financing, development and safety. The packet of information that accompanies the agenda only has 30 pages so maybe the councilmembers will actually read it.

The first item of business will see Councilmembers, along with city attorney Heather Kintzley, moaning and groaning about the new Washington State Supreme Court decision, Washington vs. Blake. At the last meeting Kintzley described the differences in drug laws nationally as “anarchy.”

Blake, as it is known, declared the state laws on the simple possession of illegal drugs unconstitutional. It all goes back to a woman wearing someone else’s pants. People cannot be prosecuted if they “unknowingly” possess drugs.

The city must amend their drug laws to reflect the Blake decision.

The second discussion will be led by Development Services Director Kerwin Jensen who will present the 2021 Review of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. It is a draft until approved by state auditors.

The Richland City Council will consider changing the zoning on two parcels from commercial to residential, one from low density residential to high density residential, one from public use to high density residential.  Usually, developers clamor to change their residential zoning to commercial zoning but the demand for housing in the Tri-Cities has changed the equation.

C&M Nursery, the owner of a fifth parcel on Van Geisen, wants the zoning for the agricultural back part of their property changed to match the commercial front part.

The proposed changes won’t have a vote until later, after it has gone through the planning committee process. Residents will have an opportunity to comment.

A 1.82 acre parcel off of N. Bermuda Road could be rezoned from commercial to medium density residential.
This area in North Horn Rapids along Highway 240 was designated for a school and a fire station. The Richland School Board has decided that it doesn’t need the site so it could become high density zoning for apartments.
This parcel on Center Parkway at the end of Meadow Drive South could be rezoned from commercial to medium density residential.
The owner of this property on the corner of Thayer Road and Duportail Road wants this parcel rezoned from low density residential to high density residential.
This C&M Nursery property along Van Giesen Street and the Hwy 240 bypass is zoned commercial in the front and agricultural in the back.. The owners would like all of the parcel to be zoned commercial.

Fire Chief Tom Huntington will wrap up this meeting with an update on the HeartSafe Richland Community AED (Automated External Defibrillator) Program. He gave council a review of the program last September.

Randy’s Recap April 20: Richland councilmembers prove once again that they don’t do their homework

The brown spot adjacent to Goethal Park will soon be home to another mini-storage business.

Richland city councilmembers proved Tuesday night what many residents have known for a long time – they do not read the packet of information given to them before the meetings.

In response to citizen questions that came up about a mini-storage development planned on Wellsian Way, Public Works Director Pete Rogalsky read the information to the councilmembers that he had included in their pre-meeting packet. 

Councilmembers laughably gushed over Rogalsky’s presentation of material that they received last week but obviously never looked at.

Councilmember Terry Christensen praised Rogalsky for answering all of his questions.

After Rogalsky finished his reading, Councilmember Bob Thompson asked, “What is the project?”

The first sentence of the one-page project summary on page 32 of the packet clearly says, “ABC Wellsian Way, LLC intends to construct a commercial mini-storage development at 302 Wellsian Way…..”

The city will give the Spokane mini-storage developer an easement that was intended as an extension of Davenport Street to Wellsian Way, because, according to Rogalsky, it is the policy of the city to create taxable use for property that is not economically productive. Rogalsky said that the developer will make road improvements elsewhere that will make the easement donation worthwhile.

School children currently use the easement as a path to walk to Carmichael Middle School and Richland High School.

According to Rogalsky, a 30-foot-wide section will remain as an undeveloped pathway because a water pipe lies under it.

Rogalsky used a sharpie to show where a stormwater pipe that drains the Davenport and Comstock Streets area runs though the developer’s property. Since the city doesn’t have an easement for the pipe that has been there for about 60 years, it must be moved.

Rogalsky claimed the pipe was of little use but plans to give the developer $20,000 to relocate it.  Apparently, his sharpie ran out of ink before he could mark the relocation site.

After the packet reading, the council voted to approve the item.

Richland city staff response to questions about Wellsian Way development

A Spokane developer plans to pave over the two-acre brown area for a storage unit facility. The city will donate the road right-of-way at the top to the developer. Staff provided no drawings to show the location of a stormwater pipe or where it would be moved to.
Is this part of the “pipe” that will be moved? Richland staff did not include any drawings about the location or re-location of the pipe.

Received April 19, 2021 via email

Good morning Randy,

Jon is out over the weekend, through today, and asked me to get you some information in response to your questions about the surplus process. I spoke with Pete Rogalsky on this and we have put together the following information for you:

How does a citizen know that a city property is considered “surplus?” 

Property is declared surplus by Council action as an agenda item in a regular business meeting.

I notice that ABC Wellsian Way LLC somehow knew that the right-of-way for Davenport was “no longer needed”. How was that determined?

ABC Wellsian Way, LLC did not know before they proposed development on their property adjacent to that right of way that the City considered the Davenport right-of-way excess to its needs.  Public Works engineering staff are the stewards of public street rights-of-way dedicated in the City, and that same group is responsible, at a staff level, to conduct analysis and planning for the street system.  The Davenport and Comstock rights-of-way between Goethals Drive and Wellsian Way were dedicated in the original plat of Richland, but never developed or improved; this is a very unusual circumstance and was brought to staff’s attention through  ABC Wellsian Way’s development proposal. The engineering staff in Public Works evaluated the connectivity needs for the area and came to the conclusion that one more connection between Wellsian Way and Goethals Drive was desirable, but two was more than needed. 

An additional consideration for this project is the proportionality standard for development impact mitigation required by RMC 12.10.  The storage project proposed for the site is not a large traffic or pedestrian generator, so obtaining improvements to two street rights-of-way from that development would not be justified.  Staff’s analysis is that the solution proposed in the agreement before Council is in the City’s best interest.  The staff analysis has been prepared and recommended to Council, however the final decisions have not been made.  There will be multiple opportunities for Council to weigh in on this recommendation, first with the consideration of this agreement and later when they are presented with the ordinance to vacate the Davenport right-of-way.    

The packet information indicates that it was a staff decision. Who is going to make sure that the stormwater conveyance that is built by the developer meets regulation requirements??  

Staff only recommends an action for vacation of right-of-way; the decision and action to do so rests solely with the City Council. Public Works regulates construction of stormwater systems for compliance with applicable regulations.  Public Works also accepts ‘donated’ stormwater infrastructure for operations and maintenance and thus has a direct and vested interest in receiving good infrastructure.  As an existing conveyance facility, the City’s recommended approach to this pipeline is a simple replacement.  Compliance with current stormwater regulations will apply to the development independently of this pipeline relocation.  The City will retain responsibility for the compliance implications of this pipeline, which are very minor.

Have a wonderful day!

Tom

RFDTom HuntingtonFire Chief625 Swift Blvd., MS-16 | Richland, WA 99352(509) 942-7703

Randy’s Rundown: Richland Council’s April 20 Agenda Explained

Residents in the Comstock, Benham and Davenport Streets neighborhood need to pay particular attention to Item 7. The city is bending over backwards to help a Spokane developer build storage units on Wellsian Way next to Goethal Park. Actions on that site could affect storm water drainage in your neighborhood. The city has washed its hands of any responsibility for flooding.

Page numbers beside the items correspond with the page numbers in the agenda Packet.

1.Proclamation Declaring April 18-24, 2021 to be National Infertility Awareness Week. Pg. 3-4

No public hearings are scheduled.

Next up is public comment. Go to the agenda (link above) and read the rules at the top.

All of the following is on the consent calendar where it receives no discussion and one vote.

2. Approving April 6, 2021 minutes. If you really want to know what’s going on, skip the minutes which describe a long discussion in a few words. Go to City View and watch the tape. Pg. 5-11

3. The cyberstalking law must be amended to eliminate “embarrassing” due to constitutional issues. Pg. 12-14

4. The city must amend its ordinances to reflect a new court decision, Washington vs. Blake, that prohibits prosecution of anyone unless they “knowingly” have possession of illegal drugs. This ruling invalidated current drug laws. Pg. 15-18

5. Money will be moved around in the budget for concrete crushing, for a leaky roof at Fire Station 71, for police forensics and hardware preventing crimes against children, and for hiring seasonal park rangers. Pg. 19-22

6. This contract will enable reimbursement from the Washington State Department of Health to the city fire department for assistance provided at the fairground vaccination site. Pg. 23-31

Stormwater conveyance in the Comstock and Davenport Streets area will be altered by new development on Wellsian Way

7. THIS ITEM DOES NOT BELONG ON THE CONSENT AGENDA. IT NEEDS DISCUSSION.  The city is bending over backwards to accommodate a Spokane developer’s plan to build a storage unit facility on his two acres on Wellsian Way. The city will GIVE the developer its street right-of-way for extending Davenport Road to Wellsian. The city will PAY the developer $20,000 to re-route a stormwater pipe that serves the area around Davenport and Comstock Streets and goes through the middle of the developer’s property.  AND, the city is washing its hands of any responsibility for flooding that might occur from the stormwater re-routing (Pg 41, Section D, Mutual Indemnification). No drawings and building plans are provided in the agenda packet for any of this. The property where the storage units will be built abuts Goethal Park and includes a low area that might require fill, further complicating the storm water issue.

Brown area will become a storage unit facility. Land at the top intended for the extension of Davenport Road to Wellsian Way will be given to the developer.

Development abuts the Goethal playground.
Stormwater pipe on Goethal Drive
Any fill dirt added to property could affect stormwater controls.

Drainage from Davenport and Comstock Streets probably ends up here.

8. The City Council tried to find a consultant to evaluate former City Manager Cindy Reents but ended up firing her instead.  Bob Thompson said, “Cindy forgot who her friends were.”  So now they plan to pay consultant Marsha Fraser, who has unknown qualifications, $200 an hour for 66-104 hours not to exceed $20,800 to evaluate the new interim city manager’s performance.  Performance goals have no definition. Her expenses will be paid if she comes over from Edmund, Washington where she is located. The contract could be amended to pay her for more work.  The Observer reached out to Fraser and asked for her resume. There has been no response.  Pg. 52-65.

9. March checks Pg. 66-143

Blah, blah, blah from council

Meeting adjourned.

Richland police don’t consider bicycle-truck crash newsworthy

Early Monday morning Richland Police Department (RPD) posted some suggestions for biking safely. When a couple of commenters posted that they had passed a Sunday night bicycle-truck collision at the intersection of Keene and Queensgate Roads, several people wondered why they had not read anything about it.

Sgt. Shawn Swanson, a RPD spokesperson, explained to The Observer, “The incident wasn’t newsworthy.” Similar collisions have been reported in the past. A recent car-truck crash was also reported.

According to Facebook commenter Ryan Dudley, the crash occurred at about 6:30 p.m.

Lisa Nelson wrote The Observer, “We came through around 8:30 p.m. There were about five cop cars blocking Keene, heading towards West Richland. The bicycle was still laying in the middle of the intersection.” Nelson said that they had to detour around Target.

According to Swanson, the bicyclist ran into the side of a truck and was taken to a local hospital. Swanson said that the bicycle safety post that appeared at 6:24 a.m. on Monday morning had been preplanned the week before. “It was just coincidental that it appeared after the incident,” he noted.

Swanson said Wednesday that a full report on the collision would be available this week.

Richlanders have gone from drab to fab with front doors

If you’ve driven around Richland lately, you may have noticed that some homeowners have become more adventurous with front door colors. Using a variety of methods to choose a color, Richlanders have gone from drab to fab with a gallon of paint.

I’ve called these Richlanders by their first names like I do with all of my neighbors.

Wife picked cranberry

Crediting his wife for picking the cranberry color for their front door, Mark said, “She has a knack for color.” He added that they both thought their home’s neutral siding needed to be jazzed up.

Green is a favorite color

Molly had the same concern about her white house. She decided the look was a little boring. She explained how she chose the door color, “My two favorite colors are blue and green. Since my shutters are blue, I decided on a green door.” To decide on the shade of green she pored over paint chips at Home Depot before selecting one.

Left-over paint

Left-over paint and a door that needed it inspired Heather to paint her door a blue-green color.  She said, “The door really needed painting and I had already had paint.”

She loves previous owner’s choice

Leslie, a real estate agent, first noticed the new, energy-efficient door when she purchased her home. She noted that she would have never picked the color on her door herself, but she loves it so much that she is painting her back door to match it. She added, “Real estate studies show that an appealing outside can add as much as $20,000 to the value of a house.”

For homeowners who can’t choose from the thousands of color options for their front doors, never fear, internet decorators can help. Dozens of front door pictures with paint brands and names included can assist selection or overwhelm.

If you’re in the overwhelmed category, Barbara Meglis to the rescue. Send a picture of your house and $25 and she will suggest some Benjamin Moore paint options for your front door. Barbara Meglis | Your Home & Color Coach (yourcolorcoach.blog)

What’s the worst that can happen? You can always buy another gallon of paint and turn your door back to drab.

Randy’s Rundown: Richland Council’s April 6 agenda explained

Meeting Highlights: You can only be charged for violating certain drug possession laws if you did it “knowingly.” Five groups will have the funding they have raised for recreation projects matched by the city. Your recycle pick up charge may change. The wastewater treatment plant will be improved.

You have three minutes to comment on public hearings and two minutes to comment on anything during the public comment period. Go to the agenda and read the rules at the top.

Page numbers below correspond to the pages in the packet. Most of the items on the agenda are listed under the “Consent Calendar” and receive little discussion and one vote.

Meeting Begins

1.Ms. Celeste Blair will be honored as the first female youth in the Tri-Cities to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. Pg. 4-5

PUBLIC HEARING

2. City funds will be switched around in order to fund concrete crushing services at the landfill, to fix the leaking roof at Fire Station 71, to hire seasonal park rangers and to replace failing forensic workstations at the police department. Pg. 20-23

CONSENT CALENDAR

3. Council will vote to approve its worthless minutes from the March 16 and March 23 meetings. If you really want to know what happened at these meetings go to the videos. Pg. 7-16

4. The city code on cyberstalking will be amended to eliminate “embarrass.” The Washington State Court of Appeals ruled in State v. Mireles that it was necessary to strike the term “embarrass” from RCW 9.61.260 in order to preserve the constitutionality of the statute. Pg.17-19

5. The city funding switcheroo (see the public hearing above) will be voted on along with everything else on the consent calendar. Pg. 20-23

6. The methane gas created at the Horn Rapids Landfill will be collected and sold by a contractor that will pay the city $6000 a month. If any other gas is processed by the system at the landfill, the city will receive no less than 2 percent and no more than 10 percent of the gross. Pg. 24-30

7. Richland will provide traffic signal technical services to the City of West Richland. West Richland will reimburse Richland by paying for the salary and benefits for the hours provided by the city employee. Pg. 31-37

8. This outlines the city’s responsibility for funding shortfalls for Metro, a cooperative agreement with area jurisdictions that seeks to control substance trafficking within the Tri-Cities Community. Metro is currently comprised of the cities of Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, and West Richland, and the counties of Benton and Franklin. The City of Kennewick is currently the administrative jurisdiction for Metro. The City of Richland expects to use the Public Safety Sales Tax revenue to pay their share. Pg. 38-42

9. As a condition of project permits, the City is required to employ a third-party, cultural resources monitoring company to observe the work on the Columbia Park Trail improvement project. The contractors will be paid about $146,000 to look for any important archeological properties or human remains. Pg. 44-49

10. The city will cooperate with the Port of Benton to resurface roads. Doolittle Construction of Belleview, Washington submitted the lowest bid.  City costs are estimated to be $435,020 which includes construction, contingency, and construction inspection. The Port of Benton will pay $150,000. Pg. 50-57

11. The city will hire Culbert Construction Inc.  $1,438,905.94 for the construction of .33 miles of 1st Street west of Kingsgate Way.  Pg. 58-68

12. Monson Development Washington, LLC has applied for final plat approval for Phase 2 of its Goose Ridge subdivision. Located along the north boundary of the Badger Mountain South Master Planned Community, the final plat of Goose Ridge Estates – Phase 2 proposes to divide 8.18 acres into 22 residential lots and five (5) tracts. This brings the total residential lots in Goose Ridge Estates to 106. Pg. 69-96.

13. Five city organizations will receive matching grants for improvements to recreational facilities:  Back Country Horsemen of Washington will receive $5,000 for parking and horse trail improvements. Pg. 97-122; Crested Hills Homeowners’ Association will receive $2,287.15 for trees for Crested Hill Park. Pg. 123-138; Friends of Badger Mountain will receive $5,000 to develop a north face trail. Pg.139-152; Horn Rapids Motor Sports Complex will receive $5,000 to make their facility safer by building a fence around their track. Pg. 153-170; Sundance Ridge HOA-Richland will use $2,000 to add plants to Heritage Hills Park. Pg. 171-179.

14. This is the first of two improvements on the agenda for the Wastewater Treatment plant. This one is to upgrade the electrical supply and control for the plant digester. The project will cost $1,549,796. Vincent Brothers LLP submitted the winning bid. Pg. 180-183

15. Wastewater plants are required to have a backup generator. The city’s backup which was installed in 1985 failed and couldn’t be fixed. Prater Electric Inc. will replace the $10,000 a month rental backup with a new backup generator for $551,098. Pg. 184-188

ITEMS OF BUSINESS (There could be discussion for these.)

16. The city will amend its ordinances to reflect a state court decision that you can only be charged for violating certain drug possession laws if you did it “knowingly.” Pg. 188-191

17. The city’s Utility Advisory Committee reviewed a consultant’s report regarding the charges for sold waste disposal. Most of the recommended changes involved specific waste streams received and processed at the City’s landfill. The only collection service rate included in the recommended package of changes was for curbside recycling. Pg. 192

REPORTS AND COMMENTS

Blah, blah, blah

SECRET SESSION

To discuss current and potential litigation with the city attorney.