On May 3 at least three police officers responded to a call about a camp from a homeowner adjacent to Leslie Grove Park. No camper was found but trash and debris had been left according to police reports obtained by the Observer.

With housing prices soaring and rent going up, the Richland City Council decided it was time to prohibit camping on just about every piece of city-owned property. The list of properties is provided in the packet for the council meeting. The page numbers by the agenda items below correspond to pages in the packet.

Before the camper ordinance discussion, Michele Gerber of the Benton Franklin Recovery Coalition will outline the progress being made on creating a facility to treat mental health and substance abuse issues.

Two secret, executive sessions follow the public meeting. One on litigation and the other to evaluate the 12 applicants that filed to fill the city council seat vacated by the resignation of Phil Lemley. Full disclosure — the Observer was one of the 12.

Campers on public property

This is the council’s third discussion of the homeless issue. At the Council’s September 17 retreat, Director of Parks and Facilities Joe Schiessl reported that the Tri-Cities had about 222 homeless people in 2019; of those, 60 were unsheltered.

At that meeting Councilmember Terry Christensen said, “The softer you go and the more accommodating you are, the more it just explodes the problem and makes it worse….Let’s try to be as aggressive as we can….sprinkler timers, things like that can all make a difference about comfortable.”

The matter came up a second time on January 25 when Human Services Director for Benton, Franklin counties gave a detailed presentation to the Richland Council about programs being developed to address the homeless issue.

The city’s summary in the packet for the June 21 meeting states: “As identified in Martin v. Boise, 920 F.3d 584 (9th. Cir. 2019), cities have authority to preclude such public camping, with some constraints. The primary holding in the Martin case was that if there was no shelter bed space or lawful alternative available at the time enforcement was sought, then the person could not be cited. However, the Court went on to say that cities could identify certain areas where no public camping could occur, provided there was not a total ban.”

It’s hard to see how the city’s listing of what appears to be every piece of public property, doesn’t constitute a “ban.” The ordinance does point out that a person can’t be cited if no shelter bed is available.

What is left out is information about the location and number of shelter beds. The Observer asked City Manager Jon Amundson for a list of those. In an email to the Observer, he responded that the Council would discuss that issue during the Tuesday meeting. So, tune in Tuesday for that information.

The meeting

1. The Tri-Cities is the only metro area in Washington State with no detox service (withdrawal management) or inpatient residential service to treat substance abuse disorders.  Michele Gerber will discuss the status of the Benton Franklin Recovery Coalition’s efforts to create such a facility. Pg. 4-19.

Public Hearing – You have 3 minutes to comment on the public hearing items. Even though the clerk reads a statement that says that this period is for comments not questions, you can ask the city to respond to your questions later.

2. Proposal to annex 12 acres on Brantingham Road (Badger Mt. Estates). This is a county island containing six residential units. It appears that these houses may depend on well water and would like city services. Maps and other details provided. Pg. 170-229

3. Proposed annexation of 300 acres of Dept. of Energy property north of the existing city limits.  The land is within the city’s urban growth area and is included in the Richland Comprehensive Plan as business research and natural open space. Pg. 230-311.

Public Comment Period – You have 2 minutes to comment here. Again, the city clerk says this is a comment period not a question-and-answer period. You can still ask for a response to your question as soon as a representative of the city can provide it.

Consent Calendar – these get no discussion and one vote.

4. Approval of the June 7 meeting minutes. Pg. 20-27

5. The city must scrub existing ordinances to restrict camping. Since the city plans to pass an ordinance that prohibits camping on what appears to be every city-owned property, it has to delete this because it leaves the impression that there are public camping areas. (page 31 in the packet):  “D. Camping. It is unlawful to camp in any park or in or upon any public land or property of the city except at places set aside for such purpose by the city manager and so designated by signs.”  Pg. 28-33.

6. Bids for the Wastewater Treatment Plant Aeration Basin came up $3 million above estimates, so they were all rejected. It is back to the drawing board to restructure the bid package. Pg. 34-36

7. The State will contribute $300,000 for the Vantage Highway Pathway. The council must vote to approve the agreement. Pg. 37-44.

8. A Joint Retirement Plans Committee will replace existing administrative directives. Pg. 45-54

9. City staff recommends that JUB Engineers, Inc. be contracted for about $63,000 to provide professional engineering expertise for completion of the fourth leg of the Clubhouse Lane roundabout and road extension of Kingsgate Way and Bushwood Drive, located near the main entrance of the Horn Rapids residential development in north Richland. Pg. 55-74

10. About $1 million will purchase the equipment to connect additional electrical capacity to the Badger Mt. South area. Pg. 75-80

11. The city will spend $804,644.48 to purchase 31.69 acres of land for a park from Badger Mt. South developer, Nor Am Investment, LLC. Pg. 81-94

12. Appointment of Alex Boecker for Position 4 and Talia Wolfgramm for Position 6 on the Arts Commission effective June 22, 2022, to March 31, 2023. Pg. 95-96.

13. May checks Pg. 97-169

Items of business – the council will vote on each of these

14. Annexation of Brantingham Road. See Item 2 above.

15. Annexing 300 acres of Department of Energy land. See Item 3 above.

16. The city will regulate public camping. Pg. 312-320

City Manager and City Councilmembers blah, blah, blah


Secret executive session to discuss legal matters (30 minutes)

Secret executive session to discuss the 12 applicants for the vacant city council seat. (45 minutes)