Kennewick developers sue.

Kennewick developers, Andrew Klein and Brian Griffith, who claim that the Hanford Area Economic Investment Fund advisory committee sank their project when it reduced their loan from $1.1 million to $345,000, sued on Sept. 23 for breach of contract.

In their complaint, filed in the Western Washington Federal District Court in Tacoma, Klein and Griffith allege that three new members who joined the advisory committee in 2021, Rebekah Dobbs of Spokane Teachers Credit Union; Will McKay, Benton County Commissioner; and Brad Peck, Franklin County Commissioner, had “an undisclosed conflict of interest” regarding Klein Griffith and The Nineteen. 

According to a report in the Tri-City Area Journal of Business, Klein and Griffith had secured a $9.7 million agreement with New York-based ICON Realty Capital that was dependent on the $1.1 million from HAEIF. The two developers claimed that without the $1.1 million the project collapsed.

In a report at the time, the advisory committee claimed they reduced the amount of the loan because the developers had changed the scope of the project.

Klein and Griffith, who maintained that there was no change, had proposed a building in downtown Kennewick with commercial space at street level and apartments above it at the intersection on West Canal Drive and North Auburn Street. The building was to be called The Nineteen for the address that it would have on Auburn Street.

The complaint notes that in 2020 Mr. Griffith had written a letter to the Tri-City Herald endorsing Mr. Peck’s opponent. “In that letter, Mr. Griffith was also critical of Mr. Peck focusing political attention to demand that the local Health District delete its Facebook post regarding June being Pride Month. At all times material hereto, Mr. Peck and/or HAEIFAC Defendants had knowledge of such letter.”

HAEIF was created by the legislature, RCW 43.31.425 to utilize fees on hazardous waste deposited at the Hanford site for economic development in the area. 

The Observer reached out to HAEIF Advisory Committee Chair Skip Novakovich for a comment. He responded in an email, “ The best I can provide you at this time is to tell you that I cannot comment on or discuss pending litigation.”

Klein did not respond to a phone call asking for comments.

The suit, Klein Griffith Property Groups LLC vs. Washington State Department of Commerce, which oversees the HAEIF advisory committee, is scheduled to be heard March 11, 2024.

Railroads through Richland may soon be moving faster..

According to Port of Benton Commissioner Roy Keck, trains may be moving through Richland faster after 1500 new ties are installed on the tracks. Keck thanked the Richland City Council at their last meeting on Feb. 7 for working with the port to obtain the ties that may enable speeds to increase from 5 mph to 20 mph.

Keck also noted that a local company, Columbia Rail, has been given a short-term contract for up to two years for operation and maintenance of the rail line.

Journalist Wendy Culverwell has returned to the Tri-City Herald.

Journalist Wendy Culverwell has returned to the Tri-City Herald. Culverwell had been at the Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business since 2019, most recently as the editor.

“…I indeed have returned to the Herald…my third time. I also joined in 1997 and 2015. I am covering business and development as well as the city of Richland. Native of Massachusetts/Texas/Virginia/Washington. University of Puget Sound. Spent my career careening between weeklies and dailies, but the Herald (& Laurie Williams and Co) has always been home. I am grateful for the warm welcome back.” Culverwell wrote in a message to the Observer.

Culverwell said that she was an addition to the Herald staff and not a replacement for another reporter.