Randy’s Recap: Richland Council’s July 27 workshop – surplus property, transportation grants, electricity for North Horn Rapids

During Richland City Council workshops which are held monthly, councilmembers receive information about issues before the city. The Council does not vote or take citizen comments at workshops. Sometimes the matters discussed come before the council later for a vote and then residents can comment publicly. Until then, residents can email the councilmembers their opinions.

The Observer was the only resident at Richland City Hall for the July 27 city council workshop. Following are her notes on the meeting.

Declaring Property at Lawless and Thayer Surplus

Based on the discussion at the Tuesday night workshop, the Richland City Council intends to proceed to declare the property at the intersection of Lawless Drive and Thayer Drive as surplus.

Only four members of the council were present at the meeting, Councilmembers Phil Lemley, Terry Christensen, Michael Alvarez and Marianne Boring.

Public Works Director Pete Rogalsky made a presentation to the council with details on the property.

Rogalsky explained that the Washington State Department of Transportation placed restrictions on the sale of the two parcels of property when they were given to the city. The city must repay the highway commission for the money they paid for one parcel. Proceeds from a sale of the other parcel must go to street improvements.

He noted that the Economic Development Committee recommended the property be designated surplus when it met on May 24, 2021. The Planning Commission did the same on May 26, 2021.

The property has no zoning attached to it as it is not included in the city’s comprehensive plan. The process to determine the land use designation could take well into next year according to Rogalsky.

Rogalsky pointed out that a developer could buy the undesignated property and work through the zoning process. He recommended the city decide on the best land use for the property before selling it so the land could be more accurately valued.

A city council vote on declaring the property surplus could occur as early as next week.

Transportation Grant Opportunities

Rogalsky also went through a list of possible transportation grant opportunities.

He said that the Marcus Whitman Elementary School area has gaps in the sidewalks that children use to walk to school. He wants to apply to the Washington Transportation Improvement Board for funding to fill in those gaps.

He suggested to the council that they up the amount of matching funds they were willing to contribute for the downtown connectivity project. [Note: The Observer asked Iterim City Manager for clarification on the dollar amount increase but has not received a response.] The project includes making Jadwin Avenue and George Washington Way one way in the downtown area. Sidewalks and bikeways would be part of a package of other improvement. He said that if the city was willing to kick in more money, their grant application to the state might receive more attention.

The council generally approved of that idea. Christensen said that the additional funding would have to be part of the budget process so that the impact to other projects could be considered. The other councilmembers present agreed with that approach.

North Horn Rapids Transmission Planning & Scheduling

Clint Whitney, Energy Services Director, discussed the schedule for building the new transmission line to the substation at North Horn Rapids that will serve some of the new industrial users in that area of town.

Whitney noted, “We don’t have a generation issue. We have a transmission issue.”

Whitney outlined plans for transmission projects that will provide power to other newly developed areas of Richland.

Kennewick Police Department still smarting from police reforms

Stabbed Kennewick Police Car

Update: July 26, 2021, 11:45 p.m. Kennewick Police Department reports that pepperball guns are on order.

Of the Tri-Cities, only the City of Kennewick opposed police reform in the last Washington State Legislative Session. Reform legislation passed and apparently, the Kennewick Police Departments (KPD) hasn’t come to terms with that.

A media release on July 27 about officers’ response to a disturbance at 1001 W. 4th Ave. in Kennewick describes how Kennewick officers successfully apprehended a woman throwing dishes and rocks and armed with scissors and kitchen knives which she used to slash their tires.

The successful conclusion of the event, the 28-year-old in custody and injury only to two police cars, didn’t stop Kennewick police from complaining about police reforms. According to the media release, H.B. 1054 prohibits the KPD from using their 37mm impact baton because it is larger than .50 caliber. They had to call in the Pasco Police with their pepperball gun to help.

Through public record requests earlier this year, the Observer obtained the emails from each of the Tri-Cities between city officials and staff and their Olympia lobbyists. In an email on January 12, 2021, Police Chief Ken Hohenberg, who also serves as a Kennewick Assistant City Manager, opposed the reform bill H.B. 1054.  and instructed the city lobbyists, Tom McBride and Ben Buchholz, to oppose it as the city’s representatives in Olympia.

When the Observer emailed the members of the Kennewick City Council to ask if the council had discussed a position on the police reform, only two wrote back. Both Councilmember Jim Millbauer and Councilmember Chuck Torrelli pointed to the discussion at the July 14, 2020, Kennewick City Council meeting.

At that time the council seemed to accept Hohenberg’s position supporting choke holds and other methods prohibited in H.B. 1054. Hohenberg said, “Police Officers have to have the option or we’ll have more dead officers.”

Pasco took the opposite approach. Before the last legislative session, Pasco City Council formally adopted this position: “Pasco encourages [their emphasis] the state to enact reforms to our state’s criminal justice system. Pasco has taken bold steps to reform policing locally and calls on the state to follow suit.”

According to Interim City Manager Jon Amundson, “The City of Richland supported the AWC (Association of Washington Cities) in their position on behalf of cities, ‘support local control over city law enforcement to meet the needs of each community while recognizing the need for certain statewide reforms.’”

No word on whether KPD plans to buy a peppergun.

Randy’s Rundown: proposal to surplus and sell Thayer property and two other items will be the subject of July 27 Richland council workshop

Bush family 2.02 acres outlined in orange. Proposed surplus property outlined in blue.

The Tuesday Richland City Council workshop agenda includes three items. The packet includes just the bare bones information. The Observer emailed Interim City Manager Jon Amundson and he provided more information on the Thayer Property.

Here is the information provided by Amundson:

Notice the first paragraph after the summary: “Staff has received developer interest in several parcels of City-owned property off of the south end of Thayer Drive.” Bargain price sale of city-owned properties always starts out this way.

Also up for discussion:

North Horn Rapids Transmission Planning & Scheduling – Clint Whitney, Energy Services Director

Transportation Grant Opportunities – Pete Rogalsky, Public Works Director   Rogalsky works hard for transportation grants.

Randy’s Recap of Richland Council’s July 20 meeting – Lukson addresses lineman contract, Boring opposes $1 property sale, and Christensen complains about having to vote

July 22 Update: To justify the $1 sale of the Northgate property to Columbia Basin College the city ignored the county’s $1,776,730 accessed value for the property and only mentioned the $250,000 land value and the demolition estimate of $348.000.

Linemen

The council usually stays mum during and after the public comment period. Tonight was different. After being pummeled again by residents for dragging out negotiations with the utility linesmen, Mayor Ryan Lukson responded that a proposal had been offered to the union on July 8 but there had been no response.

According to Lukson, the city offered the linesmen, represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), a 2.5 percent salary increase in 2021; a 3 percent increase in 2022; and a 3 percent increase in 2023. He said the city wanted to fairly compensate employees and was bargaining in good faith to come to a mutually satisfactory agreement.

One dollar property sale

Councilmember Marianne Boring had the $1.00 sale of the city’s 29,800 sq. ft. property at 840 Northgate to Columbia Basin College (CBC) pulled from the consent calendar for discussion.  Boring said that she felt like the decision to give the property away should be paused and other city uses for it considered.

The land is valued at $250,000, but the building on it is 81 years old and in need of major exterior and interior renovations, including minor asbestos removal. The Department of Energy gave the property to the city with the condition that it only be used for public, non-commercial use.

Boring referenced State vs. Blake, a Washington State Supreme Court ruling, which has turned drug enforcement into a public health issue rather than criminal justice issue. Police are required to direct people with drug problems to treatment and recovery centers rather than arrest them.

The property, which is located near resources like the Ben Franklin Transit transfer station, would be ideal for that, she said.

Boring also mention the need for a homeless shelter.

Lukson agreed with Boring on the need for a shelter because, he said, the courts had ruled that people sleeping on public property could not be removed if there was no shelter for them to use.

Lukson and four other councilmembers present (Councilmember Bob Thompson was absent) wanted to see CBC expand in Richland and voted to approve the sale. Each one of them felt that the services Boring discussed could be provided elsewhere. Boring voted no to the sale.

Christensen Complains about voting

The majority of council business is listed on the consent calendar that receives no discussion and one vote. A councilmember can ask to have an item pulled for discussion and a separate vote as Boring did with the one-dollar sale.

Christensen complained that approval for the police to accept a $7968 grant should have been on the consent agenda. Apparently saying “aye” more than once a night is a problem for him.

Lukson explained that since he recused himself because he worked with the grant program in his position at the Benton County prosecutor’s office, the vote wouldn’t be unanimous and thus had to come off of the consent calendar.

The meeting ended with Lukson urging everyone to be vaccinated so the city could avoid another shutdown.

Randy’s Rundown: Richland council’s July 20 meeting explained. Council goes live.

In January 2020, the council chamber had a full house. Photo by the Observer

The Observer apologizes for failing to notice when she wrote the last Rundown that the Richland City Council has moved into hybrid-live meetings. Last week, Councilmembers Terry Christensen and Bob Thompson participated via Zoom and the rest of the councilmembers were in the council chamber. Some residents made comments in person, some on the phone and some had their comments read by the city clerk.

The meeting starts at 6:00 p.m. You can go to city hall or check the agenda for Information on how to watch the meeting from home.

The page numbers beside the items below correspond to the page numbers in the packet that is included with the agenda.

1. Staff members will discuss reports from two appraisers regarding the current value of land in the Horn Rapids Industrial Park. Pg. 4

2. Board Chair Kurt Maier will present the Richland Public Library Board of Trustees’ annual report to City Council.  Pg. 5

Public Hearings – residents have 3 minutes to comment on these items. Either come to city hall personally or follow the instructions at the top of the agenda.

3. This item approves carryovers from the 2020 budget to the 2021 budget. A full list of items is provided. Pg. 82-80

4. The Richland Players will pay $1,531 for 625 sq. ft. of city property behind their theater. A storage unit was mistakenly built partially on city property in 1993. Pg. 183-188

5. The city will relinquish a public utility easement to the homeowner at 1349 Haupt. The easement is no longer needed because it was replaced with another that better accommodated the electrical lines. Pg. 196-199

Public Comments – residents have 2 minutes to comment on anything. Either come to city hall at 6:00 p.m. or follow the instructions at the top of the agenda.

6. The council will approve the minutes of their last meeting pg. 10-16

7. Council will approve an increase in density from 1 unit per 1,500 square feet to 1 unit per 1,000 sq. ft. for both the Waterfront District and the Commercial Use District. In addition, the Waterfront District will be amended to allow for parks. Pg. 82-88.

8. Calvin Matson of Logan Properties will purchase 5 acres in the Horn Rapids Business Center for $511,830. Pg. 89-104

9. NorAm Investments LLC asks approval to build 48 Badger View Villas on 5.3 acres. The five acres would be divided into 12 residential lots with a 4-plex on each. Pg. 105-142

10. For one dollar the city will sell 840 Northgate to Columbia Basin College. The property was given to the city by the Department of Energy on condition that it only be used for public non-commercial purposes. The land is valued at $250,000 but the 81-year-old building will cost $348,000 to demolish. Pg. 143-160.

11. Shannon and Wilson, Inc.  monitors the petroleum contamination at Goethals and Mansfield. Five tests have come up clean so the firm will be paid $4785 to work with the Department of Ecology to remove the property’s deed restriction. Pg. 161-168

12. This agreement authorizes up to $500,000 in consulting fees on debt and bonds for PFM Financial Advisors LLC. Pg. 169-181

13. The 606 Jadwin surplus property. See Item 4 under the public hearings.

14. NorAm Investments LLC will receive $1,337,980.70 for a Latecomer agreement for Bella Cola Lane. Sometimes the city repays developers with development fees after they’ve built a road. Pg. 189-195

15. Haupt surplus property. See Item 5 under public hearings.

16. The law firm of Bell, Brown and Rio provides prosecution services in Benton County District Court for all Richland misdemeanor/gross misdemeanor criminal cases. The Benton County prosecutor handles felony cases. The law firm is asking for $6600 more in fees for 2021 because of the extra time it takes them to handle Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO).  Under a law passed in the 2017 legislature, an ERPO allows family/household members or law enforcement to petition a court to temporarily remove a person’s access to firearms when there is evidence that individual is likely to harm themselves or others. Pg. 200-204

18.. Expenditures for the month of June 2021. Page. 205-279

19. The 2021 Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program Interlocal Agreement is between Kennewick, Richland, and Benton County. The JAG program is the leading source of federal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions The City of Kennewick has agreed to be the applicant and fiscal agent for the JAG Program funding and has been awarded $31,870. The City of Richland’s share of the JAG Program funding is $7,968, which will be used for bicycles for patrol and non-ballistic helmet visors for crowd control helmets.  Pg. 280-285

20.. The Department of Energy wants the city to annex 300 acres near the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories. City Councilmembers will discuss that proposal. Pg. 286-300.

Blah, blah, blah, city manager and city councilmembers.

Tri-Cities government agencies pay state and federal lobbyists hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Are they worth what we’re paying?

Washington State Capitol in Olympia

Tri-Cities’ government agencies pay lobbyists to Olympia and Washington, D.C., hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to make their case before the Washington State Legislature and the U.S. Congress. Taxpayers pay about the same amount to their congressman, state representatives and state senators who were elected to do the same thing.

How do lobbyists earn their fees? Using public record requests, the Observer collected documents and emails between the lobbyists and their clients. This article about Richland will be the first in a series of articles about what the Observer learned.

RICHLAND 

While the city paid David C. Arbaugh to represent it in Olympia, it appears nobody worked harder than Richland Public Works Director Pete Rogalsky to lobby for Richland’s priorities during the 2021 Washington legislative session.

By the time the Richland City Council approved its list of legislative priorities for 2021, on Nov. 3, 2020, Rogalsky had been working for months for the transportation projects on the list — the Aaron Drive Flyover and the SR240/Van Giesen Street Interchange.

Arbaugh charges Richland $36,000 a year, much less than the $119,400 that he charges Chelan County Public Utility District #1 and less than two of his other five clients. He is the lowest paid lobbyist in the Tri-Cities where the fees range up to about $72,000 a year.

Arbaugh lists his address as Shelton, Washington, a town of 10,000 on the Puget Sound, 22 miles north of Olympia. Before starting his own firm, Arbaugh was director of government relations for the Washington Public Utilities District Association and political director for the Public School Employees of Washington. 

Lobbyists typically give generously to political campaigns, particularly to elected officials who might have influence over the issues of interest to their clients. Compared to other lobbyists in the area, Arbaugh’s contributions were relatively modest.

In September 2019, Arbaugh contributed $250 to Rep. Matt Boehnke who represents Legislative District 16 that includes Richland. Boehnke is the highest-ranking Republican on the House Community and Economic Development Committee.

Arbaugh also gave $250 in July 2020 to Sen. Mark Schoelser who represents Legislative District 9 that includes Franklin County. Schoelser serves on the Senate Ways and Means Committee that writes the budget. Gael Tarleton who ran and lost for Washington Secretary of State received Arbaugh’s largest donation, $1000.

Other lobbyists worked for Richland as well through membership organizations like the Association of Washington Cities (AWC), and the Washington Public Utilities District Association (WPUDA).

While several Richland staff consulted with Arbaugh occasionally, Rogalsky relentlessly proposed letters and correspondence to legislators on the transportation projects. 

Richland Business Services Manager Sandi Edgemon and Energy Services Director Clint Whitney availed themselves of Arbaugh’s advice on proposed regulatory changes and other matters that would impact city services. They worked with Arbaugh as well as WPUDA to understand various proposals.

In addition to advice, Arbaugh also provided a weekly update of the legislature’s progress on issues before it. Occasionally Arbaugh took on the tedious task of setting up telephone meetings between Richland staff and state legislators.

At one point in March 2021, when meeting arrangements with legislators dragged on for days, Rogalsky wrote to Arbaugh, “More time coordinating the event than performing it.

Rogalsky learned that there was a niche category of bicycle and pedestrian projects funding available. He worked with Kennewick to support submitting the Island View to Vista Field Trail for a $16 million grant that would include money for a bike/pedestrian bridge over SR240.

He wrote Arbaugh that he submitted the proposal to the city council at their March 23 meeting but noted “They didn’t say much on the project. I interpreted that as ‘go do what you do’ direction.”

Rogalsky also attempted to engage council members in meetings with legislators.

He wanted to include Mayor Ryan Lukson in a call to State Senator Curtis King, the highest-ranking Republican member of the Senate Transportation Committee, to discuss Richland’s priority transportation projects. Rogalsky wrote Arbaugh, “I don’t want to pass up an opportunity to keep our electeds engaged.”

Arbaugh responded, “I definitely hear you about electeds, but my sense is that this is a smaller conversation where we can talk some nuts and bolts about the transportation package.”

Rogalsky checked in with Richland City Manager Cindy Reents on Jan. 5 who supported Arbaugh’s position. Lukson wasn’t invited to the meeting. 

Reents was a lame duck city manager at that time. In December, she and the council agreed that her last day on the job would be Jan. 22.  When council members met with a consultant hired to help them in a search for a new city manager, Council member Terry Christensen complained about poor communication with Reents.

The Port of Benton did not have their own lobbyist, but they cooperated with Arbaugh, the City of Richland and the Washington Economic Development Association in a successful effort to pass legislation to allow tax increment financing (TIF) for local governments. Under TIF, signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee, cities and ports can finance development with future revenue from tax increases rather than through bonds.

At the end of the session, Richland came up empty handed on transportation projects. According to Rogalsky, after revenue shortfalls in 2020 due to Covid, funding was focused on keeping existing projects on track.

The Washington Department of Commerce budget did provide $900,000 for a replacement Hospice House in Richland. According to Chaplaincy Health Care Chief Financial Officer Jim Main, the group worked with area legislators to obtain the funding.

Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller has asked an outside panel to review the investigation of Richland police shooting

Police marks on the trail where Richland Police Officer Christian Jabri shot Charlie J. Suarez. Photo by Andrea Cameron

An outside panel of five elected state prosecutors is reviewing the Feb. 1 Richland police shooting of Charlie J. Suarez.

It’s the first time a Tri-Cities police shooting is being reviewed under a pilot program created by the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, according to the association’s president.  

Under the program, a local prosecutor can request an outside panel of prosecutors to review a police shooting case. WAPA president and Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller is the second prosecutor to ask for a panel.

Richland police officer Christian Jabri shot Suarez twice on the bike path along the bypass highway after Suarez flipped his car near Wellsian Way and allegedly ran from police. Details about why Jabri shot Suarez have not yet been released. Suarez was treated and released without charges.

Prosecutors in Washington determine if lethal force was justified using reports from independent investigation teams. The teams are comprised of police officers from agencies not involved in the shooting being investigated. 

The Tri-Cities team is the Regional Special Investigations Unit. Kennewick police Commander Randy Maynard headed the Suarez shooting investigation, which was completed and submitted to Miller at the end of June.

In an email to the Observer, Miller explained that because of legislative proposals and community concerns, WAPA had discussed the outside review program many times in the past two years.  

“It is completely discretionary on the part of the involved prosecutor whether or not to use that process,” Miller said.

Meyer confirmed the program is optional, adding that it represents an informal power of law enforcement and prosecutors. 

“Prosecutors already have the ability to bounce off ideas and opinions with each other,” Meyer told the Observer.

Meyer said that he would serve on the panel along with elected prosecutors from Thurston, Spokane, Clark, and Pend Oreille counties.

Meyer said that his goal was to have an odd number on the panels, and not restrict them to elected prosecutors.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law this year that created an Office of Independent Investigation, a state-level agency that can select cases to investigate. 

A similar bill that would have created an Office of Independent Prosecution did not pass in the Legislature.

Meyer said the program will be reviewed as it progresses.

Slain Marine’s family files claim against Franklin County for $5 million

The family of a former Marine shot to death by a Franklin County sheriff’s deputy has filed a wrongful death claim with the county for $5 million.

The claim, filed by Kennewick attorney Brian Davis, says Dante Jones’ family is entitled to the damages after Jones was killed in the 2019 shooting on a rural road north of Basin City.

The Observer obtained a copy of the claim through a public records request with Franklin County. State law gives the county 60 days to respond to the claim, after which the family can file a lawsuit.

The claim, filed June 25, 2021, came just six days before Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant determined deputy Cody Quantrell was justified in shooting Jones. 

Sant, who received the final report on the shooting in spring 2020, said in a statement that he wanted to be sure he had all the available evidence, including lab reports, before deciding whether to charge or clear Quantrell. 

On the night of Nov. 18, 2019, Quantrell claimed Jones brake-checked him several times after he tried to stop him for speeding, according to the Tri-City Regional Special Investigative Unit report.

Once Jones slowed to highway speed, Franklin Sgt. Gordon Thomasson, who is also named in the claim, told Quantrell to “terminate the pursuit.”  Quantrell admitted to SIU investigators that he did not do so.

Jones then pulled up next to Quantrell, who got out of his patrol car with his gun drawn. Quantrell told investigators that when Jones didn’t respond to his commands,he reached into the car with his left hand to take the keys. Jones then hit the gas.

Quantrell said he was trapped halfway in the car and feared that he would be dragged to death, so he shot Jones four times. Quantrell fell out of the car, which continued down the road and ended up in a tree farm.

Jones died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Quantrell had a scrape on his left knee and some scratches on his right hand.

According to his friends, Jones had had mental health issues and possibly post-traumatic stress disorder since leaving the Marine Corps. His autopsy showed methamphetamine in his system.

Quantrell joined the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office just months after receiving a serious counseling at his past job as a Toppenish police officer.from Toppenish Police Chief Kurt Ruggles.

Police Chief Kurt Ruggles said in a disciplinary report that Quantrell pursued a vehicle in a reckless manner for 30 minutes for a traffic violation; pulled a gun on the wrong suspect in a motorcycle reckless driving case and then failed to report the use of force until a complaint was filed; and damaged seven patrol vehicles. 

Quantrell also has been reprimanded in Franklin County for conduct during another traffic stop. Sheriff Jim Raymond said Quantrell lacked good decision-making skills and professionalism during an Independence Day stop in 2020. Quantrell ultimately got a “meets standards” rating from Raymond.

Randy’s Rundown: July 6 Richland Council agenda explained – city to annex 300 DoE acres, boards to go live but not council, trouble with permits at Amon Creek

DoE property proposed for annexation.

The Richland City Council will start the process for annexing 300 acres along the Columbia River north of the current Pacific Northwest National Laboratories (PNNL). The city will supply infrastructure to the site to enable future development there. Item 7.

The council will also discuss restarting live boards and commissions meetings. What about the city council? Item 17.

An ordinance update that protects aquifer recharge is also on the agenda. Then, a mere two items later, they will be surprised to learn about permitting hurdles with the road over the Amon Creek Nature Preserve. Who’d have thought. Item 5

The numbers after the items correspond to pages in the packet. Information on public comments appear at the top of the agenda.

1.The Trifecta of Chief of Police John Bruce, Fire Chief Tom Huntington and Parks and Public Facilities Director Joe Schiessl will give a July 4 update. Nobody died and only a few things burned to the ground so I guess the day will be rated a success. Pg. 4 😃

Consent Calendar

2. Approving the June 15 and June 22 city council meeting and workshop minutes Pg. 5-15

3. Changing the municipal code to protect aquifer recharge areas Pg. 16-79

4. Amending the process for approving minor variances. Pg. 80-88.

5. Approving $110,805 to RH2 Engineering to address the unexpected permitting complexities regarding the road over the Amon Creek Nature Preserve. Pg. 88-115

6. Approving the final plat for 24 residential lots and 3 tracts on 68 acres in Westcliffe Heights. Pg. 116-182

7. Beginning the process for the annexation of 300 Department of Energy (DoE) acres so that city services can be extended there. An unofficial source told the Observer that DoE and Pacific Northwest National Laboratories (PNNL) have had problems with the mix of ownership of land and buildings on their campus. Any expansion of PNNL onto DoE property would eliminate that complication. Pg.183-195.

8. Authorizing Silverbow Roofing to be a contractor for the Weatherwise Program Pg. 196-220.

9. Paying Murrysmith , Inc. $249,618 to complete the retrofit analysis and design for the waterwater treatment plant’s aeration basin facilities. Pg. 221-234

10. Authorizing a service agreement with Benton-Franklin Health District for a COVID-19 mobile vaccination clinic.  The cost to the city was unavailable Friday when the agenda was published. Pg. 235-245

11. Renting more space to Frost Me Sweet that will double the size of its outdoor dining. The restaurant will increase the monthly amount it now pays the city to $420.89 for outside space on Carol Woodruff Plaza. P. 246-252.

12. Paying expenses for Mayor Ryan Lukson and Councilmember Bob Thompson to travel to Alexandria, Virginia on September 8-10 for an Energy Communities Alliance (ECA) National Cleanup Workshop. It will cost $5,048 but most of that will be reimbursed by the ECA. Pg. 253-257.

13. Appointing Justin Raffa to the Board of Adjustment. This is the board that Councilmember Marianne Boring served on for almost 20 years. Most of the work this board did in the past was transferred to a hearing examiner. The board now considers applications for carports and other smaller projects. Pg. 258.

14. Creating an all-male Utility Board Committee. The one woman on the committee resigned. There were six applicants, but the city decided to reappoint Dave Larkin who had dropped off the committee after serving 15 years.  Last year he wrote to the Observer for an article about the five longest serving members of the Richland boards and commissions:

15. Awarding a bid to Sierra Electric for traffic signal systemic safety upgrades. A map of the intersections is provided.  P. 262-278.

16. Accepting a request from annexation for 8 homes at Badger Mt. Estates. They have well water. Pg. 268-277,

17. Discussing in-person meetings for boards, commissions, and committees. Maybe the council is afraid to go in-person because Councilmember Terry Christensen declared some months ago that he didn’t intend to be vaccinated.

Blah, Blah Blah, the interim city manager and the city council talk.

Benton County won’t see windfall from Easterday land sale

A Benton County assessor map that shows the area between McNary Dam and Wallula Gap that includes Easterday and Farmland Reserve properties.

Benton County’s tax coffers will stay the same after a $209 million land sale to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

County Agricultural Supervisor Rikki Davis said Farmland Reserve Inc., the investment arm of the LDS church, will continue to pay the same taxes that Easterday Farms paid.   

Farmland Reserve bought the 21,234 acres at auction, after Easterday Farms declared bankruptcy amid the “ghost cows” scandal that wiped out the longtime ag operation. 

President Cody Easterday defrauded Tyson Foods of more than $200 million over several years to cover bad bets on commodity futures. 

The proceeds from the Benton County land auction go toward covering the debt to Tyson Foods. 

Farmland Reserve already owns hundreds of acres near the Easterday Farms land, in an area that lies along the Columbia River between the McNary Dam and the Wallula Gap. 

Churches don’t pay property taxes on church property, but they do pay taxes on property that is not used for religious or educational purposes, such as commercially farmed land.

Davis said a state program for current-use farmland has a discounted tax rate that depends on the value of the use. Farmland Reserve and Easterday Farms paid Benton County taxes under the program.

Farmland Reserve pays $7,834 each year for one parcel of 575 irrigated acres and 73 acres of rangeland, which has a market value of $4,292,850.

Easterday paid $6,513 for one parcel of 454 acres of irrigated farmland, 123 acres of dry farmland and 64 acres of rangeland that had a market value of $3,629,770.

Davis said, “A couple of Easterday parcels were not included in the state discount program, and the new owners could apply for that.” 

Visit Tri-Cities pushes rental scooters and council considers wheeled all-terrain vehicles on city streets and the upcoming budget process –Randy’s Recap, Richland Council’s June 22 workshop

During Richland City Council workshops which are held monthly, councilmembers receive information about issues before the city. The Council does not vote or take citizen comments at workshops. Sometimes the matters discussed come before the council later for a vote and then residents can comment publicly. Until then, residents can email the councilmembers their opinions.

Electric Rental Scooters

Michael Novakovic, President and CEO of Visit Tri-Cities has been motoring along the idea of electric rental scooters since 2019. He attended the Tuesday meeting to encourage Richland to take the lead in the process of approving a rental scooter company because they were only interested in a contract that included all the Tri Cities.

Councilmember Michael Alvarez asked if Novakovic had approached other cities’ councilmembers about rental scooters and he said that he had not. Alvarez said, “I don’t want to take the lead.

Director Joe Schiessl responded, “We’re further along.”

Councilmembers expressed concerns about where people would ride the scooters, who had liability for injuries, who would be responsible for scooters littering the sidewalks and streets and how the city would deal with any scooters thrown in the river.

In all cases, Novakovic pointed to the scooter companies although Councilmember Phil Lemley pointed out that accident victims usually went after the “deepest pockets.”

Novakovic batted away concerns and outlined a process for considering the scooters – community open houses in September, bids accepted in December, contracts awarded in January for a trial program.

Revenue would go to Visit Tri-Cities that would administer the program.

Wheeled All-Terrain Vehicles

Both Kennewick and West Richland allow wheeled all-terrain vehicle (WATV) on city streets so you can bet that they will be in Richland soon.

Mayor Ryan Lukson said, “I’m in favor of opening up opportunities. I don’t care how people drive around.”

Sandra Kent said that although all-terrain vehicles are “loud like a nice motorcycle,” she approved of them on city streets if people follow the rules.

According to Richland City Attorney Heather Kintzley, by state law the vehicles must have windshields, be licensed, and insured, and the occupants must wear Department of Transportation approved helmets. The vehicles are only allowed on streets with 35 mph or lower speed limits.

Public Works Director Pete Rogalsky suggested prohibiting the WATVs on three streets with 35 mph limits – George Washington Way, Stevens Drive (north of Jadwin) and Jadwin Avenue.

Rogalsky explained, “The character of their use and the frequent operating speeds may be higher than 35 mph.” In plain English that means that drivers exceed the speed limits and we let them.

Kintzley emphasized that staff was not promoting the use of the WATV but only presenting the information to council so that members could decide whether to consider approving them.

Lukson, who lives in the Meadow Springs Country Club neighborhood, has promoted the idea of allowing golf carts on neighborhood streets. Rogalsky pointed out that golf carts do not fall under the definition of wheeled all-terrain vehicles.

In other business the council discussed the schedule for the next budget’s consideration. Cathleen Koch, Administrative Services Director said that the city had received $7,361,385 from the American Rescue Plan.   The money has to be obligated by 2024 and the projects completed by 2026.

Randy’s Rundown: Richland council’s June 22 workshop explained – wheeled all-terrain vehicles, e-scooters and the budget

The Richland City Council will discuss all-terrain vehicles, e-scooters and the budget. You can learn how to watch the meeting and about a sentence more on the subject matter by going to the agenda and packet. Residents will not have the ability to comment on these items until they appear on a city council agenda for a vote.

Washington State allows the all-terrain vehicles on streets if approved by the local jurisdiction.

All-terrain vehicles already illegally speed loudly down the Observer’s residential street. The council will consider legalizing them like Kennewick and West Richland have done.

The council will also discuss e-scooters. For fun let’s discuss those first.

E-scooters have come up in past meetings. Some city council members have mentioned that rental scooters might be popular with cruise passengers if placed near the docks.

Considering the demographic of the typical cruise passenger, you need to imagine the Observer and her friends Councilmembers Terry Christensen, Phil Lemley and Bob Thompson disembarking from a cruise ship and jumping on an e-scooter to cruise around town 😂🤣😂 Instead, let’s imagine a young person zipping along a sidewalk weaving in and out of the cruise passengers.

So back to the all-terrain vehicles…

According to state law:

(19) “Wheeled allterrain vehicle” means (a) any motorized nonhighway vehicle with handlebars that is fifty inches or less in width, has a seat height of at least twenty inches, weighs less than one thousand five hundred pounds, and has four tires having a diameter of thirty inches or less, or (b) a utility-type vehicle designed for and capable of travel over designated roads that travels on four or more low-pressure tires of twenty psi or less, has a maximum width less than seventy-four inches, has a maximum weight less than two thousand pounds, has a wheelbase of one hundred ten inches or less, and satisfies at least one of the following: (i) Has a minimum width of fifty inches; (ii) has a minimum weight of at least nine hundred pounds; or (iii) has a wheelbase of over sixty-one inches.

The law includes requirements that only allow them on streets that have 35 mph speed limits.

During past discussions regarding this issue, Mayor Ryan Lukson indicated that residents of his Meadow Springs neighborhood would like to see golf carts allowed on the neighborhood streets. However, golf carts do not fall under the description of all-terrain vehicles.

A discussion of the budget process follows.

All Tri-City law enforcement agencies will soon have body-worn cameras

All Tri-City law enforcement agencies plan to have body-worn cameras by the start of next year, and they’re hoping the federal government will pay for them.

Richland Police Chief John Bruce told the Richland City Council on Tuesday that state legislation requires police to record all interrogations, whether in a police car or at a station. Bruce said. The best way to comply with state law is with body cameras, Bruce said. 

However, Mayor Ryan Lukson said the Legislature didn’t add any money to the law, which mostly takes effect Jan. 1, 2022. 

Bruce said Tri-City law enforcement agencies are applying as a region for a U.S. Department of Justice grant to buy the cameras and supporting software. The grant requires matching dollars from local governments.

The agencies stand a better chance of winning money with the regional grant approach, Bruce said. 

The Richland City Council had already started discussing the purchase of both body cameras and car-mounted cameras at their March 23 meeting. Bruce estimated at that time that the 5-year cost of that program would be $1,303,951.26.

In emails to the Observer Commander Trevor White of the Kennewick Police Department confirmed to the Observer that Kennewick was participating in the discussions.

In the past Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg, who plans to retire in February 2022, has steadfastly opposed the use of cameras. 

Franklin County Sheriff Jim Raymond wrote the Observer that he would soon present a proposal to the Franklin County Commission outlining what it would  cost to mirror the Pasco Police Department’s body camera program. The department has had body cameras for a few years.

Lukson said the Benton County Sheriff’s Office also was also looking at body cameras for its deputies.

Richland City Councilmembers unanimously approved the grant application.

Randy’s Rundown: Richland council’s June 15 agenda explained – police body-worn cameras and the five-year transportation improvement program

Richland will apply for a federal matching fund grant to provide body-worn cameras to police officers. At the March 23 city council meeting Richland Police Chief John Bruce, who supports the use of cameras, said body-worn cameras and dashboard cameras would cost the department $1,303,951.26 for five years. The federal grant described in the information packet is only for body-worn cameras.  This discussion, Item 17, will occur near the end of the meeting.

Transportation projects planned for the next five years fill Pages 96-129. Improvements to Hwy 240 and Aaron Road remain at the top of the list. The packet includes a map on Page. 129.

The meeting begins at 6:00 p.m. Go to the agenda for information on how to watch the meeting. The agenda also has instructions on how to comment on public hearing items and during the public comment period.

Pages below correspond to the pages in the packet that are included with the agenda.

Presentations

1.Chancellor Sandra Haynes, Ph.D., will update the Council and the public on Washington State University Tri-Cities.

Public Hearing

2. Proposed Transportation Improvement Program. The city staff proposes completion of dozens of projects for the next five years.  Pg. 96-129.

3. Approval of the June 1 meeting minutes.

4. The code that addresses Critical Areas will be amended.  According to the summary in the packet, “This update is necessary to improve the review of Critical Aquifer Recharge Areas (CARAs), to improve permitting processes and procedures, to ensure compliance with state laws, and also to aid in reducing City risk.” Pg. 16-79.

5. This amends the city’s process for reviewing building variances, particularly minor variances (Pg. 83.)  Pg. 80-88.

6. An additional $1,216,530 in funds will be added to the budget to accommodate spending on the two new fire stations, broadband improvement and several other items.  Pg. 89-92.

7. Adding $240,000 to the design-build agreement with DGR Grant Construction for the two fire stations. COVID 19 material shortages, relocation of a water main and new technology for dispatching has added to the costs.

8. The five-year Transportation Improvement Program projects are listed on Pg. 96-129. Map on Pg. 129.

9. Approving the final plat of 46 residential lots for West Vineyard – Phase 2 in Badger Mountain South.  Pg. 130-166.

10. Awarding $7835 from the Business License Reserve Fund for soffit replacements on The Parkway. Pg. 167-171.

11. Authorizing $355,561 for a consultant agreement with Parametrix Inc. for closure of the 26 acres of Phase 2 at the Horn Rapids Landfill. We’re now working on filling the expansion area. Pg. 172-182

12. Setting July 6, 2021 as the date that the city council will meet with applicants about a proposed annexation (Badger Mountain Estates). Pg. 193-194.

13. The city will pay Magnum Power, LLC $2,955,520.22 for construction of an electric substation to serve the Horn Rapids Industrial Complex. Pg. 195-203

14. This authorizes $534,303 for replacement of electric conductors and 100 power poles. A map is included. Pg.204-214.

15. Authorizing $10,000 for Tri-Cities Regional Chamber of Commerce on behalf of Stevens Media Group for Live@5.

16. Checks for May.  Pg. 218-298

17. This authorizes staff to apply for a federal grant to purchase body-worn cameras and require a 1-to-1 match by the grantee. This is from the project summary: “Funds proposed, both federal and matching, may include expenses reasonably related to BWC program implementation. Besides the purchase or lease of BWCs themselves, allowable expenses include, but are not limited to, personnel to support the program, the cost of developing training on BWC use, and related technology costs such as infrastructure enhancements, redaction costs, and storage cost.” Pg. 299-300

18. This will amend the municipal code to allow dwelling units of less than 500 sq. ft. in the central business district. The council agreed to the change at the last city council meeting by a vote of 5-2. Pg. 301-348

Blah, blah, blah by interim city manager and councilmembers

End of meeting

Undisclosed property flip lands local pols McKay and McKay in disclosure commission trouble

An undisclosed land swap has put a Kennewick city councilman and his Benton County commissioner son in potential trouble with the state.

Two complaints filed April 28 by Kennewick Councilman Chuck Torrelli accuse William “Bill” McKay, Sr. and McKay’s son William “Will” McKay, Jr.  of flipping ownership of a property at 2652 W. 15th Ave. in Kennewick without telling the state’s Public Disclosure Commission.

In April of each year, office holders in the state are required to file their personal financial information for the previous year so that citizens can determine any conflicts of interest. That information could include land deals.

The flipped property is an empty 3.87-acre parcel on South Conway Street, west of the Zintel Canyon greenway in Kennewick. Benton PUD owns two parcels on South Ely Street adjacent to the west side of the 2652 W. 15th property.

Bill McKay Sr. bought the land in 2017 for $390,000, according to the complaint. On April 8, 2019, McKay Sr., a dairy farmer in Idaho for 21 years, created a limited liability company fittingly named Udderly Williams. Will McKay Jr. is listed as a governor on the Udderly Williams paperwork with the  Secretary of State’s office. Neither one of them disclosed the LLC on their PDC financial filings for that year.

On August 27, 2019, McKay Sr. took McKay Jr. off the LLC’s governor’s list. Two days later, McKay Sr. transferred the land to Udderly Williams, according to the complaint. .

McKay Sr.’s ownership of the property has not been a secret in Kennewick.  On August 26, 2019, he spoke before the Kennewick Planning Commission requesting that the property’s zoning be changed to high density residential.

At about the same time, he asked the planning commission to change his 5.47-acre property at 3112 W. 27th Ave. just east of the entrance to the Canyon Lakes development from Residential Manufactured Home (RMH) to Residential High (RH). That property has a storage unit facility on it and is appraised by the Benton County Auditor at $3,687,910.

Both properties had zoning which allowed storage unit development before a 2018 municipal code amendment prohibited those in a RMH zone. The two properties were grandfathered for the storage unit use.                                                  

The changes were approved by the Kennewick City Council on March 17, 2020. Kennewick staff recommended the new zoning to help address a housing shortage in Kennewick. McKay recused himself from the votes.

The PDC has not resolved Torrelli’s complaints.