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.

Randy’s Recap, June 1, Richland council recognizes Juneteenth, agrees by a vote of 5-2 to eliminate dwelling size minimum in the central business district

Richland Days Inn Hotel

Mayor Lukson began the June 1 Richland City Council meeting by reading a proclamation recognizing the Juneteenth celebration on June 19. Some members of the council had indicated at an earlier meeting that they viewed such a proclamation as “partisan.” Apparently, they were a minority.

The council spent most of the hour-long meeting discussing a request that the 500 square foot dwelling unit minimum size for the central business district be eliminated. The Richland Planning Commission submitted the proposal to the council after the commission voted unanimously to approve the change.

Ziad Elsahili, president of Fortify Holdings from Portland, OR, requested the change in order to convert the Days Inn Hotel on Jadwin Avenue into apartments. According to Elsahili, who spoke during the council’s public comment period, his company will spend between 30 and 50 thousand dollars per unit adding kitchens and providing other upgrades. He said that the rental price has not yet been determined.

Elsahili has several other similar projects in the Pacific Northwest.

Reviews on internet sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor and Travelocity generally describe the Richland Days Inn as showing its age. The hotel was built in 1974.  Nobody mentions the murder there in April 2020.

In an email to the Observer, Interim City Manager Jon Amundson said that the rooms at the Days Inn were about 330-360 sq. ft.  The Park Place apartments, about a block away on George Washington Way, have some efficiencies in that size range. According to Amundson, Park Place received an administrative variance to allow their smaller units.

Councilmember Bob Thompson said at the last council workshop on May 25 that Richland wasn’t Portland and he didn’t think there was a market for such small apartments. However, on Tuesday he had decided, “The market will tell us.”

Councilmember Sandra Kent agreed with Thompson saying, “Government shouldn’t get in the way of progress.”

Other councilmembers weren’t convinced. Councilmember Terry Christensen worried that the city could lose the budget-priced Days Inn that he described as being popular with sports tourists. “My heart is with tourism,” he said.

Christensen didn’t believe the remodeling and conversion would upgrade the area. He said, “Low rent areas are the areas with the most crime.”

Councilmember Marianne Boring objected to the zoning change because she said that surrounding residential zones already allow smaller units. She said she thought that changing the central business district zoning would allow too many small units in the area. Boring said that she might approve a percentage of smaller units being allowed in the central business district but would not approve changing the entire zone.

Before being appointed to the city council to fill a resignation vacancy, Boring served for about 14  years on the Planning Commission and close to 20 years on the Board of Adjustment.

The vote was 5-2 on this first reading. Before the change can be adopted, the council must vote on it again at a second reading, probably at the next meeting on June 15.

Randy’s Roundup, June 1 Richland Council Agenda Explained – Juneteenth Proclamation tops the agenda, small apartments considered

Forty-six states recognize Juneteenth as a holiday or observance.

Instructions on how to comment on public hearings and during the public comment period as well as the various ways to watch the meeting are on the agenda. Page numbers below correspond to the pages in the packet information included with the agenda.

1.Apparently, at least four city councilmembers believe that the Juneteeth Celebration on June 19th deserves a Proclamation because it tops the agenda. At the May 25 council workshop only Councilmember Sandra Kent said that she supported the proclamation. Pg. 4-5.

Public hearing: You have three minutes to comment on a hearing item.

2. The city is considering eliminating the 500 sq. ft. minimum for apartments in the central business district. A developer wants to convert the Days Inn Hotel on Jadwin into apartments. The Park Place Apartments on George Washington Way, about a block from the Days Inn on Jadwin, has studio apartments smaller than 500 sq. ft. The builder of Park Place received a variance. Pg. 92-139

3. This approves additional $1,076,530 in appropriations for two new fire stations, traffic signal improvements, fiber infrastructure and to prepare surplus property for sale.  Pg. 17-20.

Public Comments: You have 2 minutes to talk about anything.

Consent Calendar – These will receive no discussion and one vote.

4. Approval of the May 18, 2021, City Council regular meeting minutes and the May 25, 2021 City Council Workshop meeting minutes. The three-hour council workshop on May 25 is summed up in two and a half pages. If you want the real story, go to Richland City View and watch it. Pg. 8-16

5. The council will vote on the additional appropriations that were the subject of the public hearing in item 3. Pg. 17-20.

6. The council will authorize an amended and restated Tri-Cities HOME consortium agreement to add Tenant-based rental assistance (TBRA). HOME is a U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Program.  Pg. 21-33      

7. This approves the sale of a 3-acre lot at the entrance of the Horn Rapids development at Kingsgate to AK’s Investments, LLC for $436,621. The developer will build a gas station, convenience store, coffee stand and car wash on the property. The developer has 18 months to get the development described underway or the property reverts to the city. Pg. 34-50.

8. Five property owners wish to have their property’s zoning changed. This item establishes a schedule for considering those changes. The final vote by the council on these changes would be in September.  Pg. 51-55, the schedule is on Pg. 55.

9. The City of Richland had been the operating agency for the Hanford Communities but the city has turned it over to Tri-City Development Council (TRIDEC). The purpose of Hanford Communities is to review, evaluate and monitor conditions at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, and the policies, programs and operations of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and others in regard to Hanford. Benton and Franklin and the cities of Richland, Kennewick, Pasco and West Richland (the “Participating Jurisdictions”). This authorizes Richland to be the pass-through agency for the $100,000 provided to it by the Washington Department of Ecology. Pg. 55-68

10. Area law enforcement agencies cooperate on sharing records. The summary in the agenda packet includes this information: “The records management system relied upon for many years, I/Leads, is being sunsetted in favor of a Tyler Technologies product, which will launch in the near future. At this time, the counties of Benton and Franklin and the cities of Connell, Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, West Richland, and Prosser, through their respective law enforcement departments, desire to jointly utilize this upgraded and expanded law enforcement records management system which will be operated by the City of Kennewick’s Information Technology Division.”  Richland pays a base fee of $10,000 with the rest of the cost based on useage. Pg. 69-85

11. ESF Development LLC of Walla Walla doing business as ESF Solutions was the low bidder for the construction of the Thayer/Van Giesen Roundabout. ESF will be awarded the contract for $639,311.82. Pg.  86-91

Items of Business – This item will receive discussion and a vote.

12. Reducing the allowed dwelling size in the central business district. See Item 2 above.

City manager and councilmembers now blah, blah, blah.

The council will adjourn into secret executive session to discuss potential litigation with the city attorney.

Randy’s Recap, May 25 Richland Council Workshop — slavery becomes a partisan issue, central Richland’s “high crime area” requires police presence, and more

Juneteenth Celebration

Some Richland city councilmembers believe that celebrating the end of slavery is too partisan for a city proclamation recognizing Juneteenth.

Councilmember Bob Thompson worried that the city could be sued for commemorating an event that 45 states recognize as a holiday or observance. It became a paid state holiday in Washington earlier this month.

“Council needs to look at controversial proclamations,” he said.

Juneteenth, a combination of June and nineteenth, also known as Emancipation Day and Freedom Day, was the day in 1865 that Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas and residents learned that slavery had been abolished. The former slaves celebrated their freedom, and the date has been commemorated ever since.

The long-serving members of the current council have a history of dismissing minority concerns. In 2017, the city council spent a year refusing to approve a statement that Richland was “a community that celebrates people from all quarters and rejects hate, bigotry, homophobia and antisemitism.” The city finally agreed to a resolution that stated that the city “welcomes all people.”

During the debate, Councilmember Terry Christiansen famously said that in the 1940s and 1950s, black people who worked at Hanford preferred living in Pasco.

Christensen, along with Councilmember Sandra Kent, failed to appear at the council meeting when the “welcomes all people” resolution passed 5-0.

Public Safety Facilities Planning

Police Chief John Bruce would like to move the police station from central Richland to property the city owns on Queensgate. He and Fire Chief Tom Huntington asked the council to approve a feasibility study for combining fire and police space and adding additional facilities.

Bruce said that the police department building had become overcrowded and he needed more space.

Thompson responded “Most crime is in N. Richland between the bypass highway and central Richland. Presence resonates for citizen in high crime areas.”

Thompson didn’t ask how long it would take for police to travel from Queensgate to the crime area around his home near Meadow Springs Country Club. In 2018, his girlfriend called Richland police to his address after an altercation with Thompson. She was charged with hitting him. Domestic disputes are one of the largest categories of police calls.

Thompson was arrested not far from his home in 2019 for drunk driving.

Bruce said that police have mobile offices and could use the fire stations in their patrol areas for paperwork. He added that moving the police department to Queensgate would free the land next to the old city hall site for development.

Councilmember Marianne Boring noted that that would make the central Richland property more desirable. She supported the feasibility study.

Some Richland residents have noted that with the razor wire around the wall protecting police vehicles, the police department building looks like a prison in the middle of the downtown area.

Fire Chief Tom Huntington discussed the need for two new fire stations, one near Horn Rapids and another in the Badger Mountain South area.

Dwelling Unit Size

A developer wants to turn the Days Inn on Jadwin Ave. into an apartment building. The developer, who was never named, called each of the members of the council to lobby for a zoning change to allow dwelling units smaller than 500 square feet.

Hotel conversions have become a new thing.

The Richland Planning Commission has approved the change but Councilmembers were skeptical. Thompson argued that just because people live in small apartments in Portland doesn’t mean that people will live in them here.  

Park Place Apartments, a luxury complex on George Washington Way about a block from the Days Inn, has studio units that are less than 500 square feet. According to Interim City Manager Jon Amundson in an email to the Observer, “On February 13, 2018, The Crown Group applied for and was granted an Administrative Variance by former Development Services Manager Rick Simon.”

Public Art Survey Discussed

Over 300 Richland residents and a few from outside of Richland were surveyed about their support for public art. While most enjoy the public art, some did not appreciate the art at the Queensgate roundabout.

Boring suggested funding be dedicated to the Richland Arts Commission for projects. Christensen said that he believed that it was better to fund projects as they come up. In the past he said, there was a pot of money for public art but it wasn’t used.

Randy’s Rundown: May 25 Richland Council Workshop explained — results of the public art survey, dwelling unit sizes, proclamations, and public safety facilities

May 23 Update: A reader explains the dwelling unit size issue.

Except for the results of the public art survey, the Richland City Council workshop agenda skimps on details. The agenda includes information on how to view the meeting.

You can read dozens of comments on public art. The Queensgate roundabout art does not receive favorable reviews. One commenter describes it this way, “… looks like someone lost a load of lumber leaving the Home Depot.”

While the city provides no explanation of why they are discussing dwelling unit sizes, reader Alison Cable explains, “The Dwelling Unit size item is to remove the minimum dwelling unit size in the central business district. This is so that hotels can be renovated/converted to apartments and bring more residents to the central business district.”

Police Chief John Bruce and Fire Chief Tom Huntington will discuss public safety facilities.

We know the horror and consternation that occurred over the proclamation, “Infertility Awareness Week.” Therefore, Council wants to discuss how to pick proclamations that are totally innocuous and will produce no opposition or concern from anyone on planet Richland.

I’m sure everyone looks forward to these discussions.

Randy’s Recap, May 18 Richland council: utility pre-payment plan aimed at troubled accounts, National Night Out to become a neighborhood event, secret meeting

The Richland City Council approved a contract with Exceleron for use of their software program, MyUsagePrePay at their May 18 meeting. The program aims at reducing delinquent utility accounts by giving consumers a pay-as-you-go-plan.

At the April 27 council meeting, Administrative Services Director Cathleen Koch said that in 2019, 400 consumers had delinquent accounts amounting to approximately $200,000. The contract that has been approved is for 500 consumers.

My UsagePrePay will cost at least $41,000 a year. The city has signed a three-year contract and will pay $15,000 for configuration and a minimum fee of $3000 a month to use the program with service provided by Exceleron.

Councilmember Marianne Boring asked to pull the utility pre-payment plan off the consent calendar for discussion and a separate vote.

Borings first concern was the termination part of the agreement which requires the city to pay all of fees for the rest of the contract should it wish to cancel.

Energy Services Director Clint Whitney said that Exceleron had been great to work with and he really saw no downside to the contract.

Boring also pointed out the houses without utilities were considered uninhabitable.

Whitney responded that electricity was usually the first utility cut off and that customers usually paid their bills before water and sewer were disconnected as well. Whitney referred to it as an “escalation process.”

Whitney did not provide any figures to indicate how many customers were disconnected from electricity in 2019 and how many were disconnected from all utilities. Due to COVID there has been a disconnection moratorium since early 2020 and 4000 accounts are now delinquent for a total of $2 million.

Whitney noted that the plan would work well not only for people who wanted to pay as they used the electricity but also for people who could not afford deposits.

National Night Out

Police Chief John Bruce wants the National Night Out to be held in the neighborhoods rather that at John Dam Plaza. According to the Night Out organization, the yearly event, held on the first Tuesday in August, is to promote police and community partnerships.  The council agreed to have their August 4 meeting on another day so they could participate in the neighborhood programs.

Secret Meeting

Richland City Council secret meetings (also known as Executive Sessions) have become more secret. The one held Tuesday was not even listed on the agenda. Interim City Manager Jon Amundson announced at the end of the Tuesday night city council meeting that there would be a “closed session” after the public meeting to discuss labor negotiations.

Randy’s Rundown: Richland council’s May 18 agenda explained — homes without schools and a new utility billing system

Houses, Houses and more houses at Horn Rapids but where will the new kids go to school? On April 27 the city rezoned the school site on Hwy 240 for apartments. Item 8. In other business, the city is adopting a new system for billing customers. The program will start with 500 guinea pigs. Item 11.

Go to the packet and use the information at the for viewing the meeting and for making a comment.  Numbers below correspond to the pages in the packet.

Public Hearing

  1. The owner of 1351 Haupt would like title to the unused sewer easement on their property. The sewer was moved to another location on the property. The city will relinquish the abandoned easement in exchange for an easement for the existing sewer line. Pg. 4 and Pg. 84-92

Public Comments

Consent Calendar (no discussion, one vote)

2. May 4 meeting minutes will be approved. The minutes are brief; they aren’t intended to be a transcript. If you want to know what happened, there’s a video. This makes you realize how little we knew before video recordings. Pg. 6-11

3. The city will allow up to 25 percent of parking spaces for compact cars. Residential compact spaces will be 7 ½ feet by 15 feet and commercial ones will be 9 feet by 15 feet.  This item took 50 pages. Pg. 12-63.

4. This should be the last chapter in the saga of the donut hole that is Allenwhite Drive. The 5 houses on 3.63 acres will be annexed and zoned R-1-12 which allows a 12,000 square foot minimum lot. Pg. 63-70.

5. The 76.54 acres that will be annexed at 1106 N. Jurupa Road will also be zone R-1-12. Pg. 71-78.

6. The sewer pipes in the older section of town need inspection, rehabilitation, and replacement. So Pro-Pipe, Inc. of Irvine, California will be paid $1, 277,625 to begin the work. Pg. 79-83

Sewer system will be inspected, rehabilitated and replaced in these areas.

7. See Item 1.

The blue area was zoned for a fire station and a school. The school site was converted to apartment zoning.

8. The city will approve 63 lots and 5 tracts for Quail Ridge in Horn Rapids (outlined in red)  Paperwork from the hearing examiner in 2017 for Quail Ridge Phases 3-6 claims that a future school is just east of the site. On April 27, 2021, the city claimed the school site was no longer needed and rezoned it for apartments.  Pg. 93-145.

9. The Dovetail Joint Restaurant in the Uptown Shopping Center will receive $17,500 to improve its façade and outdoor dining space. Frank Wright Interiors, owned by Leinbeck Properties LLC, will receive $19,200 to improve their building at 1022 Lee Street. Pg. 146-148

10. The city will seek a $75,000 grant to install a remote system for the school zone traffic lights. Currently, each of them is programmed individually.  Pg. 148-151.

11. The city will adopt a new software program for utility bill collection. Here’s what the city writes about its new pre-pay system:  “MyUsage Prepay Software will provide a prepay program for the mutual benefit of the City and its customers. Customers who use prepay reduce their overall usage by an average of 10%, and the program nearly eliminates fees, penalties, and utility disconnects for those customers. The combination of these factors improves the relationship between utility customers and the City and saves the City money by requiring fewer resources to collect on unpaid balances. Staff recommends adoption of Resolution No. 57-21. Fiscal Impact: Initial configuration will cost $15,000. Energy Services plans to limit the prepay program to 500 customers, which will cost $4,200 monthly. The initial configuration cost is included in the existing budget, and ongoing software costs will be encumbered annually as a part of approved budget expenditures.”

Here’s how the software developer, Exceleron Software, LLC describes it: “MyUsage Prepay takes the guesswork out of the utility bill and helps consumers budget their daily usage. Whether they have electric, water, gas, or all-of-the-above, consumers are in control. They pay for service prior to delivery, and as they use their utilities their credit balance is reduced daily.  When their balance gets low, MyUsage alerts them with a personalized message and provides them with convenient options to pay for additional service.” Pg. 152-176.

12. The city will have a new agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for Wildland Fire Suppression. There will be a mechanism for reimbursement to the city for firefighting on or near federal land. Pg. 177-184.

13. This license agreement is a follow-up to the city’s NON-exclusive franchise agreement (October 20, 2020) with New Cingular Wireless to put small wireless facilities in city rights-of-way. Federal law limits the payments to the city for pole usage to $270 a year. Pg. 185-230.

14. Anh-Thu Mai-Windle will be appoint to the Personnel Committee. There is no information about other applicants. The appointment is to fill Michael Simpson’s seat and will expire in September 2022. Pg. 231-232

15.April Checks – Pg. 233-335

Blah, blah, blah.

Randy’s Recap, May 4: Richland council ponders how to manage the city manager and proclamations

Interim City Manager Jon Amundson
National Infertility Awareness Week

At the Tuesday Richland City Council meeting councilmembers met with their newly hired consultant to discuss how to evaluate their interim city manager. The council also decided to plan a workshop on how to select proclamations since some people weren’t happy about their April 20 choice, National Infertility Awareness Week.  

The agenda that the city posted on April 30 did not include the manager discussion, item 13. It was added later. Washington open meeting laws are notoriously lax and last minutes changes are allowed.  According to RCW 42.30.077,  “Nothing in this section prohibits subsequent modifications to agendas nor invalidates any otherwise legal action taken at a meeting where the agenda was not posted in accordance with this section.”

Consultant Marsha Fraser will be paid up to $20,800 to help the council evaluate the new interim city manager’s performance. Her contract goes to December 31, 2021, but after spending some time with the council she noted that it could take longer, maybe until January or February.

Councilmember Terry Christensen said that the council had to finish by December 31 because they had promised the interim city manager.

Fraser displayed two lists of competencies that the council committee of Councilmembers Michael Alvarez and Sandra Kent and Mayor Ryan Lukson had put together.

Screenshot from May 4 Council meeting

Screenshot from May 4 council meeting

Councilmember Terry Christensen said, “Communication from the second list jumped right out at me.”

He added, “What we had before really, really was not good.”  He continued, “Lots didn’t get before the city council.”

He indicated that the previous city manager had filtered information and communicated with some councilmembers more than others.

Councilmember Bob Thompson said that the council felt like the staff was making policy.

The consultant mentioned that there would be input from the interim city manager and staff. Some councilmembers frequently appear to have not read their packet material or have knowledge of the items on the agenda.

Randy’s Rundown: Richland Council’s May 4 agenda explained — hotel tax funds, annexations, cruise ship buses

Tri-City Kart Club (TCKC) will receive $350,000 from the hotel/motel fund. (photo from the TCKC website)

May 3 update: Richland City Clerk Jennifer Rogers emailed me this morning and said that she would correct her error in reporting my April 20 comment.

Page number below correspond to the pages in the Council’s packet. Direction on how to sign up to comment are at the top of the first page. Residents are allowed three minutes to comment on the three public hearings but only two minutes for the public comment period.

If you’re confused about zoning, go to Pg. 51-61 for an explanation.

1.Debrief of Yakima Delta Fire by Fire Chief Tom Huntington

PUBLIC HEARINGS

2. Change zoning regulations to allow for compact car spaces. Up to 25% of of parking places could be designated for compact cars. In commercial spaces the compact slots could be 9’ x 15’ and in residential development they could be 7 ½’ x 15’. John Deskins, Richland traffic engineer, expressed concerns about the change (pg. 33). Pg. 4-35 and Pg. 178-228.

3. Accepting the proposed annexation of 3.63 Acres along Allenwhite Drive. This “donut hole” in the middle of the city has been the subject of discussion for at least a year. There are only five homes here. The zoning will be R-1-12 to match surrounding development which would allow as many as 14 homes in the same area. Pg. 36-69 and Pg. 239-236. The 12 in R-1-12 refers to 12,000 sq. ft. minimum lots or up to 5 houses per acre.

4. The owners of the Badger Mountain Wineries property at 1106 N. Jurupa Road want to have their 76.54 acres annexed. At least 43 pages of local residents oppose that. The property will be zoned R-1-12 which could accommodate as many as 382 homes. Pg. 70-167 and Pg. 237-244

PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD

CONSENT CALENDAR

5. Approval of the worthless minutes. Richland City Clerk Jennifer Rogers contacted me that she would correct her error in reporting my April 20 comment. Go to City View and watch the tapes if you really want to know what happened on April 20 and 27. The Observer also has a recap for April 20 and April 27 Pg. 168-177

6. The city will allow compact car parking spaces.  See Item 2. The city council’s public hearings are also listed on the consent calendar. Those items receive no discussion and one vote on all of the items. Does that give you any confidence that they actually consider your comments???

7. Five homes on 3.63 acres along Allenwhite Drive will be annexed.  See Item 3

8. The 76.54 acres of land located at 1106 N. Jurupa Road will be annexed. See Item 4

9. Pavement Preservation The city will pay Intermountain Slurry Seal, a Reno, NV company, $1,435,000 to resurface portions of Keene, Goethal, Swift, Knight and a couple of other streets. The Port of Benton will pay $150,000 of that total to have its street resurfaced at the same time.  Pg. 245-250.

10. The city will be upgrading the wastewater treatment plant digester. RH2 Engineering will be paid $80,000 to manage construction. Pg.251-261.

11. Sixteen organizations will receive 2021 funding from the Hotel/Motel Lodging Tax Fund. Pg. 261-263

A list of groups applying for grants from the hotel/motel fund

ITEMS OF BUSINESS

Cruise ship owners have complained that they can’t conveniently haul their cruise passengers out of Richland because their buses can’t get to their ships. Those darn residents keep parking their cars down there. So, from April to October parking on Lee Blvd. at the dock will be restricted. American Cruise Lines paid $45,000 a year for priority rights to use the million-dollar dock for 15 years.  Pg. 264-265.

Council will BLAH, BLAH. BLAH

Randy’s Recap, April 27 Richland council meeting; 4000 utility customers behind on their payments

Correction: The city attorney is Heather Kintzley.

Delinquent Utility Bills

Administrative Services Director Cathleen Koch reported to the Richland City Council Tuesday that the city had finished 2020 with expenses under budget. However, it wasn’t all good news.

Despite receiving $500,000 in Covid relief to help customers with utility bills, about 4000 have unpaid bills and a little more than $2 million is owed. That’s 10 times the $200,000 that was delinquent in 2019.

Koch said that the amount seems to have stabilized and the $2 million was not growing;

Councilman Terry Christiansen asked Finance Director Brandon Allen, “How does the city plan to handle the shortage.”

Allen replied that without the ability to shut off the utilities because of Covid restrictions, it was difficult to know who might be taking advantage of the situation. He added that shutoff wasn’t an option until at least July or August. He explained that the department was notifying people by mail and also making phone calls to explain to them their options .

Residents who are still struggling are directed to the county’s relief program.

Washington vs. Blake

Richland City Council continues to struggle with the Washington Supreme Court decision, Washington vs. Blake. The court’s decision that a person couldn’t be charged with possession of an illegal drug that they had unknowingly effectively gutted the state’s drug laws.

The Washington State Legislature’s fix, SB 5476, that recently passed, re-criminalizes the possession of illegal drugs as a gross misdemeanor instead of a felony. The bill requires that police divert people to treatment for their first two arrests. Only on their third or later arrests for possession can they actually be referred to the prosecutor for charges.

City Attorney Heather Kintzley pointed out that even State Representative Brad Klippert voted yes on SB 5476. She said that Klippert explained, “It is better than the supreme court gave us.”

According to Kintzley, the city never had an ordinance criminalizing drug use because the crime was a felony and the city had no jurisdiction over felony crime. For that reason, she said, the city had two options – do nothing and leave enforcement to the county or write a local ordinance that adopts the state’s new law. She pointed out that the new law expires July 1, 2023.

Councilmembers decided to wait and see what other local jurisdictions do before picking an option.

With that decision Mayor Ryan Lukson said, “We probably ended this discussion 30 minutes earlier because Bob [Councilmember Bob Thompson] is in Seattle.”

Changes to zoning

Councilmembers reviewed five proposed changes to zoning. Two of them would change commercial zoning to residential zoning.

Councilmembers expressed the most concern with changing the zoning from commercial to residential at the intersection of Meadow Drive South and Center Parkway. That change would mean that there was no commercial development at the busy intersection.

Meadow Drive South and Center Parkway could rezoned from commercial to medium density residential.

Residents will have an opportunity to comment on the changes listed before there is a final decision.

Automated External Defibrillators

Richland Fire Chief Thomas Huntington and Captain Michael Van Beek described to councilmembers how the department continues to improve its cardiac survival program.

Soon the fire department will be able to provide automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to some new construction, some large gatherings and city properties like parks. Van Beek assured the council that the AEDs themselves would instruct users on how to use the device.

A program that alerts off-duty firefighters with AEDs to a cardiac emergency near them is also being developed. Van Beek showed a table (below) that gives the statistics on how likely a heart attack victim will survive an attack at home and in a public location.

In conclusion, if you have a heart attack, try to have it at a restaurant and not your own home.

Randy’s Rundown: Richland Council’s April 27 agenda explained

Developers rush to cash in on the demand for housing in the Tri-Cities. This new development is in Horn Rapids.

Correction: Two developers have asked to change their commercial zoning to residential zoning. Two others have applied to increase the number of residential units on their parcels.

At this workshop meeting the Richland City Council will discuss law, financing, development and safety. The packet of information that accompanies the agenda only has 30 pages so maybe the councilmembers will actually read it.

The first item of business will see Councilmembers, along with city attorney Heather Kintzley, moaning and groaning about the new Washington State Supreme Court decision, Washington vs. Blake. At the last meeting Kintzley described the differences in drug laws nationally as “anarchy.”

Blake, as it is known, declared the state laws on the simple possession of illegal drugs unconstitutional. It all goes back to a woman wearing someone else’s pants. People cannot be prosecuted if they “unknowingly” possess drugs.

The city must amend their drug laws to reflect the Blake decision.

The second discussion will be led by Development Services Director Kerwin Jensen who will present the 2021 Review of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. It is a draft until approved by state auditors.

The Richland City Council will consider changing the zoning on two parcels from commercial to residential, one from low density residential to high density residential, one from public use to high density residential.  Usually, developers clamor to change their residential zoning to commercial zoning but the demand for housing in the Tri-Cities has changed the equation.

C&M Nursery, the owner of a fifth parcel on Van Geisen, wants the zoning for the agricultural back part of their property changed to match the commercial front part.

The proposed changes won’t have a vote until later, after it has gone through the planning committee process. Residents will have an opportunity to comment.

A 1.82 acre parcel off of N. Bermuda Road could be rezoned from commercial to medium density residential.
This area in North Horn Rapids along Highway 240 was designated for a school and a fire station. The Richland School Board has decided that it doesn’t need the site so it could become high density zoning for apartments.
This parcel on Center Parkway at the end of Meadow Drive South could be rezoned from commercial to medium density residential.
The owner of this property on the corner of Thayer Road and Duportail Road wants this parcel rezoned from low density residential to high density residential.
This C&M Nursery property along Van Giesen Street and the Hwy 240 bypass is zoned commercial in the front and agricultural in the back.. The owners would like all of the parcel to be zoned commercial.

Fire Chief Tom Huntington will wrap up this meeting with an update on the HeartSafe Richland Community AED (Automated External Defibrillator) Program. He gave council a review of the program last September.

Randy’s Recap April 20: Richland councilmembers prove once again that they don’t do their homework

The brown spot adjacent to Goethal Park will soon be home to another mini-storage business.

Richland city councilmembers proved Tuesday night what many residents have known for a long time – they do not read the packet of information given to them before the meetings.

In response to citizen questions that came up about a mini-storage development planned on Wellsian Way, Public Works Director Pete Rogalsky read the information to the councilmembers that he had included in their pre-meeting packet. 

Councilmembers laughably gushed over Rogalsky’s presentation of material that they received last week but obviously never looked at.

Councilmember Terry Christensen praised Rogalsky for answering all of his questions.

After Rogalsky finished his reading, Councilmember Bob Thompson asked, “What is the project?”

The first sentence of the one-page project summary on page 32 of the packet clearly says, “ABC Wellsian Way, LLC intends to construct a commercial mini-storage development at 302 Wellsian Way…..”

The city will give the Spokane mini-storage developer an easement that was intended as an extension of Davenport Street to Wellsian Way, because, according to Rogalsky, it is the policy of the city to create taxable use for property that is not economically productive. Rogalsky said that the developer will make road improvements elsewhere that will make the easement donation worthwhile.

School children currently use the easement as a path to walk to Carmichael Middle School and Richland High School.

According to Rogalsky, a 30-foot-wide section will remain as an undeveloped pathway because a water pipe lies under it.

Rogalsky used a sharpie to show where a stormwater pipe that drains the Davenport and Comstock Streets area runs though the developer’s property. Since the city doesn’t have an easement for the pipe that has been there for about 60 years, it must be moved.

Rogalsky claimed the pipe was of little use but plans to give the developer $20,000 to relocate it.  Apparently, his sharpie ran out of ink before he could mark the relocation site.

After the packet reading, the council voted to approve the item.

Richland city staff response to questions about Wellsian Way development

A Spokane developer plans to pave over the two-acre brown area for a storage unit facility. The city will donate the road right-of-way at the top to the developer. Staff provided no drawings to show the location of a stormwater pipe or where it would be moved to.
Is this part of the “pipe” that will be moved? Richland staff did not include any drawings about the location or re-location of the pipe.

Received April 19, 2021 via email

Good morning Randy,

Jon is out over the weekend, through today, and asked me to get you some information in response to your questions about the surplus process. I spoke with Pete Rogalsky on this and we have put together the following information for you:

How does a citizen know that a city property is considered “surplus?” 

Property is declared surplus by Council action as an agenda item in a regular business meeting.

I notice that ABC Wellsian Way LLC somehow knew that the right-of-way for Davenport was “no longer needed”. How was that determined?

ABC Wellsian Way, LLC did not know before they proposed development on their property adjacent to that right of way that the City considered the Davenport right-of-way excess to its needs.  Public Works engineering staff are the stewards of public street rights-of-way dedicated in the City, and that same group is responsible, at a staff level, to conduct analysis and planning for the street system.  The Davenport and Comstock rights-of-way between Goethals Drive and Wellsian Way were dedicated in the original plat of Richland, but never developed or improved; this is a very unusual circumstance and was brought to staff’s attention through  ABC Wellsian Way’s development proposal. The engineering staff in Public Works evaluated the connectivity needs for the area and came to the conclusion that one more connection between Wellsian Way and Goethals Drive was desirable, but two was more than needed. 

An additional consideration for this project is the proportionality standard for development impact mitigation required by RMC 12.10.  The storage project proposed for the site is not a large traffic or pedestrian generator, so obtaining improvements to two street rights-of-way from that development would not be justified.  Staff’s analysis is that the solution proposed in the agreement before Council is in the City’s best interest.  The staff analysis has been prepared and recommended to Council, however the final decisions have not been made.  There will be multiple opportunities for Council to weigh in on this recommendation, first with the consideration of this agreement and later when they are presented with the ordinance to vacate the Davenport right-of-way.    

The packet information indicates that it was a staff decision. Who is going to make sure that the stormwater conveyance that is built by the developer meets regulation requirements??  

Staff only recommends an action for vacation of right-of-way; the decision and action to do so rests solely with the City Council. Public Works regulates construction of stormwater systems for compliance with applicable regulations.  Public Works also accepts ‘donated’ stormwater infrastructure for operations and maintenance and thus has a direct and vested interest in receiving good infrastructure.  As an existing conveyance facility, the City’s recommended approach to this pipeline is a simple replacement.  Compliance with current stormwater regulations will apply to the development independently of this pipeline relocation.  The City will retain responsibility for the compliance implications of this pipeline, which are very minor.

Have a wonderful day!

Tom

RFDTom HuntingtonFire Chief625 Swift Blvd., MS-16 | Richland, WA 99352(509) 942-7703