The Richland City Council has four topics on the agenda for its Tuesday night workshop — a consultant’s report on the building permitting process, road projects, Narcan distribution by the EMS, and a possible switch from an annual budget to a biennial budget.
The 6 pm meeting at Richland City Hall can also be viewed on Richland City View and on Cable Channel 192.
Low morale, high turnover
After the controversy last spring surrounding the permit for Councilmember Theresa Richardson’s home addition, which was reported by the Observer in October, the city of Richland hired Matrix Consulting Group to recommend improvements in the permitting process.
Matrix didn’t waste any time in their 135-page report zeroing in the low morale and high staff turnover in the permitting section of the Development Services Department and recommended “…avoid political interference in the substance of decisions made by staff.”
Richardson began pulling strings with City Manager Jon Amundson about her permit during the review process, possibly in violation of Section 4.05 of the city charter which prohibits elected officials from interference with staff.
Tyler Jennings, a highly regarded veteran Richland plans examiner, wanted proof that the plan was safe and the structure of the room beneath a concrete slab, an outdoor kitchen, and a pergola could support the weight. He asked Richardson’s architect and engineer for additional information, possibly costing the councilmember more money.
Amundson and Development Services Department Director Kerwin Jensen pressured Jennings to approve the project.
The matter came to a head with Jensen standing over Jennings saying, “You are going to sit at your desk. I am going to stand right here behind you until Richardson’s project is signed off on.”
“We have let integrity fall victim to politics, permitting those with political power to influence how we react,” Jennings, one of the five resignations in the permitting section of the Development Services Department last year, wrote in his resignation letter,
Jennings signed off on Richardson’s permit before he resigned in June.
In the fall, before that permit expired, a different architectural firm submitted a revised plan for the supporting structure for Richardson’s addition.
The Matrix consultant also made detailed recommendations for improvement in the permitting process including creating a cross-departmental oversight committee, transitioning to a fully paperless permitting process, and preparing a comprehensive development handbook with user-friendly information on each stage of the development process.
If you like eight lanes of whizzing vehicles, this plan is for you. George Washington Way at Aaron Drive will become eight lanes with a pedestrian bridge to get over the mess.
Traffic going south will travel on one-way Jadwin and one-way traffic going north will travel through downtown Richland where there is supposedly a “road diet.”
The “diet” is achieved on George Washington Way by turning a 12-foot turning lane into eight feet of parking and adding a couple of feet to each sidewalk, but the number of northbound lanes are increased from two to three.
Pictures and drawings in the packet included with the agenda describe these projects and more.
The Benton Franklin Health District has approached the local EMS providers about providing Nalaxone (Narcan) following an opioid-related call for service. Fire Chief Tom Huntington will discuss the option with the council.
The council will discuss switching from an annual budget to a biennial budget. Pasco and Kennewick have a biennial budgets.
Correction: Traffic in downtown Richland will be northbound and traffic on Jadwin will be southbound.