Update: July 18, City Attorney Heather Kintzley has provided an explanation for the plans examiner contract. The full response has been added to the bottom of this article.

Correction: July 25, As noted in Kintzley’s explanation, the council did approve the plans examiner contract on April 18 on the consent calendar. The Observer regrets the error.

The $25 million property tax waiver

You gotta love what the city puts on its consent calendar, the portion of the agenda for “routine items,” that receive no discussion and one vote. Waiving $2.5 million in property taxes over 10 years for a billion-dollar corporation is apparently routine and doesn’t require discussion in Richland.

ATI (previously Allegheny Technologies Inc.) Specialty Alloys wants to add a building to its metal smelting business at 3101 Kingsgate Way next to the locally owned gluten-free bakery which probably doesn’t have its taxes waived.

According to the city report, the additional 49,000 sq. ft. industrial, manufacturing building will create 93 new jobs, and 87 will be paid a living wage of $23/hour or more.

ATI reported revenue of $3.8 billion for FY 2022, an increase of 37.01% compared to FY 2021. Net income grew 442.67% to $130.9 million, according to MSN Money.

The current stock price of ATI is $44.84 a share on the New York Stock Exchange. It was a pretty good buy in July, 2022, when the stock was only $22.84 a share. Senior Vice President Elliot S. Davis cashed in and sold about $1 million worth in June and July, 2023.

The $300,000 contract

A $300,000 contract with Northwest Code Professionals (NWCP) to review and inspect building plans appears on the city council agenda after at least $130,000 of it has already been spent.

An item to raise the amount of a contract to Northwest Code Professionals to $300,000 is on the consent calendar for the Tuesday night meeting along with 15 other items that will receive no discussion and one vote.

On May 24, 2022, City Manager Jon Amundson signed a one-year contract with Northwest Code Professionals not to exceed $50,000 by the end of 2022., the Observer learned via a public record request.

Invoices included in city council agenda packets since May 24, 2022, show that as of June 23, 2023, the city had paid NWCP almost $130,000, including $65,683.29 for one project.

Although Richland City Manager Jon Amundson can approve contracts for to up to $50,000 without going through a formal solicitation process or the Richland City Council, Section 3.04.040 of the Richland Municipal Code prohibits splitting a contract to avoid the maximum dollar amount prescribed. That’s why the council had to approve the contract on April 18 where it was on the consent calendar where it received no discussion or individual vote.

Deputy City Manager Joe Schiessl doesn’t seem to disagree.  In a response, apparently on behalf of the Richland councilmembers who the Observer emailed with questions, Schiessl wrote, “Per Resolution No. 157-15 all consultant/services agreements valued at $50,000 or less are authorized to be signed by the City Manager. Amendments in an aggregate total of more than $50,000 require Council authorization (NWCP amendments 2 & 3).”

 It’s no secret that the city has had a hard time replacing plans examiners who resigned last year after Richland city management pressured one of them to approve a permit for an addition to Councilmember Theresa Richardson’s home that he feared might be unsafe.

At the July 6 city council meeting, the city Human Resources Department reported that they had hired Juan Sanchez as a plans examiner. The advertisement for the position on the city website with the top of the pay scale listed at close to $100,000 has been removed.

Schiessl wrote the Observer, “We recently filled one of the two vacant Plans Examiner positions (one remains vacant) and we are taking appropriate measures to hire a second plans examiner at a responsible and suitable time.”

As usual, the meeting begins at city hall at 6 pm. It will be live on Cable Channel 192 and online at Richland City View.

In other business:

1. Benton Council Deputy County Administrator Matt Rasmussen will update the council on the public safety sales tax and the recovery center.  Area citizens will vote in November on renewing the 0.3% public safety sales tax to fund criminal justice and public safety programs in Benton County.

Public hearings – commentors have 3 minutes to comment on the items below:

2. Relinquishing an easement at 311 Van Giesen Street. City staff says the 10-foot-wide, about 128-foot easement running along the side of the almost half an acre is no longer needed for utilities. A family trust from Utah recently purchased the property. The Observer wonders if the people who have owned, since 1994, the landlocked property behind this one have been notified. The Observer would also be interested in knowing why the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development owned the land in 1971 and transferred it in 1972 (no sale price given). Mysteries, mysteries.

3. Proposed 2023-2025 Collective Bargaining Agreement with the International Association of Firefighters Union Rank and File, Local No. 1052, Resolution No. 2023-122.

The IAFF R&F has 80 members and they voted unanimously to ratify the proposed agreement on June 29, 2023. A summary is available on page 270 of the packet.

Public comments – commentors have 2 minutes to say what they want. If you have a question, ask for an answer as soon as possible.

Consent Calendar – These receive no discussion and one vote for all

4. Approval of the July 6 minutes and the June 27 joint meeting with the Port of Benton

5. At the last meeting the council approved a grant for the Richland Police Department Officer Resiliency Program. At the Tuesday meeting the 2023 budget will be amended to include it.

6. This change in the description of the composition of the Firefights Pension Board will give the city the flexibility to have either the city clerk or the city comptroller on the board.

7. It will be a misdemeanor to misuse the emergency call system.

8. There’s a lot of red ink on the amendments to the city’s controlled substances violations and penalties.

9. A $2,329,000, plus tax and annual meter true-ups, for an 8-year contract with Hometown Connections Inc.  for electric and water meter data management software services. Eight years seems like a long time.

10. $66,000 for 3AC Engineering to install transformer monitors at the city electrical substations.

11. This authorizes the application for a DOE energy efficiency and conservation block grant for possibly $123,260

12. Approving 61 single-family homes on 45.57 acres in Siena Hills along Bermuda Road far out Queensgate. Homes out there are being advertised in the $700K range.

13. The council will approve granting $20,000 of the $60,000 cost of improving the façade of what was a community commercial center at 1515 Wright. According to the information provided in the packet, the owner, Paul Carlisle, expects a long-term lease with a technology firm.

14. Authorizing the contract for NWCP (see above)

15. Approving a $2.5 million tax cut for a billion-dollar business (see above)

16. Authorizing $1,220,000 for trenching Clubhouse Lane in Horn Rapids to prepare it for development.

17. Authorizing over a $100,000 increase ($367,140 to $476,550) for the law firm Rio & Foltz, PLLC to provide prosecution service for the city. “Criminal prosecution for controlled substances, which will resume as a gross misdemeanor effective August 15, 2023 is expect to generate a significant increase in case filings in Benton County District Court, thereby requiring Rio & Foltz, PLLC to add additional staff.”

18. All the cities checks for June. You can see the $15,079 payment to NWCP on June 23 in this list.

The roll will be called for the one vote for the items 4 through 18.

Items of Business – discussions and separate votes begin here.

19, This authorizes an agreement with Energy Northwest to co-locate radio equipment at two mountain-top sites. No cost.

20. The public hearing item on the easement at 311 Van Giesen will receive a separate vote because that is required when utility easements are being relinquished, otherwise this would be on the consent calendar for sure.

21. Approving the contract with the firefighters union. A public hearing was held earlier in the meeting.

22. The city is a customer of the Bonneville Power Authority.. BPA has estimated the city’s load forecast as part of the Climate Commitment Act. The council will vote on adopting BPA’s load forecast.

Reports and comments by the city manager and the city councilmembers

Blah, blah, blah.


 On behalf of the City, please allow me to address your purchasing concerns as they relate to the City’s professional services agreement with Northwest Code Professionals (NCP). The purpose of this professional services agreement is to procure contracted services to perform staff duties (i.e., plan review and building official duties) due to hard-to-fill vacancies.

There are two issues raised by your questions concerning the City’s contract with NCP: authority and solicitation.


From your email, it appears you may be concerned that the City Manager lacked authority to execute the professional services agreements with NCP. Based on a review of the history of this agreement, authority was exercised at the proper level for the initial agreement and each amendment thereto as required by the Richland Municipal Code.

RMC 3.04.060(A)(1) provides that the City Manager may execute “[c]ontracts . . . to purchase services equal to or less than $50,000 . . . .” Further, RMC 3.04.080(A) related to amendments and change orders grants authority to the City Manager to execute “[a]mendments or change orders to contracts . . . which result in the final contract amount exceeding the purchase limits identified in this chapter if the changes are: 1) within the scope of the project or purchase; 2) executed in writing; and 3) the amount [of the amendment] is equal to or less than the city manager’s purchase limit of $50,000.” This section grants the City Manager additional administrative purchase authority of $50,000 on top of the initial $50,000 identified in RMC 3.04.060(A)(1).

The original professional services agreement with NCP (Contract No. 200-22) was executed on May 24, 2022 and contained a Not To Exceed (NTE) amount of $50,000. This action was authorized by RMC 3.04.060(A)(1). The agreement was written to auto-renew on an annual basis unless notice to terminate by either party was given. A First Amendment to Contract No. 200-22 was executed on June 2, 2022 to include Building Official duties since Richland’s Building Official retired and recruiting a replacement was proving difficult. The value and term of Contract No. 200-22 did not change with execution of the First Amendment.

On April 4, 2023, Richland City Council approved a Second Amendment to Contract No. 200-22 through adoption of Resolution No. 2023-45 (attached). Through this action, Council authorized a $150,000 increase to the professional services agreement consistent with the purchasing requirements of RMC 3.04.080(A)(3) (the value added was in excess of the City Manager’s $50,000 initial authority plus $50,000 amendment authority). The Second Amendment did not change the term of the Agreement because the agreement is already auto-renewing. The City anticipates ending the agreement on 12/31/2023, but that will require notice to terminate since the agreement is written to auto-renew.

On tonight’s agenda is Resolution No. 2023-117, which will authorize a Third Amendment to Contract No. 200-22 to add another $100,000 for a total contract value of $300,000. Again, because the increase is outside the authority granted to the City Manager by RMC 3.04.060 and RMC 3.04.080, any additional value added to Contract No. 200-22 requires Council approval. See RMC 3.04.080(A)(3). If Resolution No. 2023-117 is adopted, the City Manager will be authorized to execute the Third Amendment.

Based on the above, there is no violation related to purchasing limits and the City Manager’s statutory authority to execute the professional services agreement with NCP.


The other concern you raise involves the solicitation process. You allege that the City violated state/local law by foregoing a competitive solicitation process prior to entering into a professional services agreement with NCP.

Richland is a first class city subject to a local charter. Section 5.08 of the Richland City Charter provides that “[a]ll contracts for public work or improvement, where the total contract is in excess of limits set by ordinance passed by the Richland City Council and all purchase of supplies, material, equipment, or nonprofessional services where the total cost exceeds the limits prescribed by ordinance, shall be subject to sealed bids.” This provision allows the City Council to set its own solicitation thresholds for public works and the purchase of supplies, materials, equipment and nonprofessional services. Section 5.08 does not require the City to procure professional services through a sealed bid process or to set any particular threshold for solicitation for professional services.

The rules/regulations governing procurement in the City of Richland are comprised of the Richland City Charter, Richland Municipal Code, and established City policies. RMC 3.04.060(E) governs the City’s solicitation standard for Professional and Nonprofessional Services (Excluding Architectural, Landscape Architectural, and Engineering Services).

RMC 3.04.060(E)

1. Contracts that have an estimated cost of equal to or less than $50,000 can be procured using an informal solicitation process in accordance with procedures developed by the purchasing officer.

2. Contracts that have an estimated cost in excess of $50,000 must use a formal solicitation process in accordance with procedures developed by the purchasing officer; provided, however, that the city manager may in the following circumstances waive the solicitation process for contracts greater than $50,000:

a. Quantifiable costs of delay in using a formal solicitation process are likely to outweigh higher quality performance expected from the formal solicitation.

The City’s execution and subsequent amendment of Contract No. 200-22 is consistent with the solicitation process established by RMC 3.04.060(E). No violation of law has occurred. The initial contract was within the $50,000 or below threshold identified in subsection (1) which authorizes an informal solicitation generally consisting of calling for quotes. No sealed bid process is required, and no competitive process beyond calling for quotes is required.

The First Amendment did not change contract value. The Second Amendment added $150,000 in contract value and was executed on April 12, 2023 after receiving Council approval. By this time, NCP had been performing plan review for the City for nearly a year, and had a number of significant building plan reviews in process. Consistent with RMC 3.04.060(E)(2)(a), the City Manager was authorized to waive the solicitation process for contracts greater than $50,000 because the quantifiable costs of delay in using a formal solicitation process were likely to outweigh higher quality performance expected from the formal solicitation. Pausing the contract (and performance thereunder) to search for other possible service providers in an extremely limited market would have proven detrimental to developers and project applicants while yielding little to no value. NCP is extremely qualified to perform this work, so there is no basis to conclude that some other “higher quality performance” would be experienced as a result of the formal solicitation process.

Consistent with Section 5.08 of the Richland City Charter, Chapter 3.04 RMC was written to direct the contracting for goods, services and public works at a reasonable cost using an open, fair, documented and competitive process whenever reasonable and possible. There are occasions, however, where exemptions to the competitive process are appropriate to ensure timely and appropriate provision of public services. RMC 3.04.060(E)(2)(a) codifies one of those occasions.

Based on the above, there is no violation of local or state law related to execution of Contract No. 200-22. The solicitation process was lawfully waived.  

I hope the above adequately addresses your concerns related to the NCP contract.