Randy’s Rundown: Richland City Council Jan. 19, agenda explained

Comprehensive plans and zoning are merely suggestions in Richland. See items 11 and 12.

Page numbers given below correspond to the page numbers of the packet items. To make a public comment see instructions on the agenda which is on the first page of the packet.

City Council Workshop – 5:00 p.m. via Zoom

  1. Executive Session to Evaluate the qualifications of an applicant for public employment (55 minutes). If this is a new city manager, the council certainly didn’t waste any time finding a replacement for Cindy Reents.

City Council Regular Meeting – 6:00 p.m.

Welcome and Roll Call

Pledge of Allegiance

Approval of Agenda

Presentations:

None Listed.

Public Hearing: Residents would be allowed 3 minutes to comment on public hearing items, but none are listed.

Public Comments: Residents can have 2 minutes to comment about anything. See directions at the top of the agenda, link above. However, residents are warned that the council will not “directly respond.”

Consent Calendar: These items receive little if any discussion and they will be approved with one vote. One councilmember can pull an item off the Consent Calendar for discussion and a separate vote, but they rarely do.

Minutes:

  2. The council will approve the minutes from its last brief meeting. Pg. 4-9

Ordinances – First Reading

None listed.

Ordinances – Second Reading & Passage:

None listed.

Resolutions – Adoption

3. A $174.705 consulting fee will be paid to H.W. Lochner for phase 1 of a three-phase project make traffic move faster down George Washington Way.  The three phases include evaluating the S. George Washington Way/Columbia Point Intersection for improvements, selecting a preferred alternative, completing the design of the preferred alternative, preparing plans, specifications, and estimate (PS&E) package to be advertised for construction, and assisting with the construction administration/management. North Richland residents who want to see the traffic diverted from GWay to the bypass to facilitate better downtown development have vigorously opposed this plan, particularly the alternative that would take the ballet studio. Page.10-79

4. The city is amending its purchase agreement with Kamal Singh (owner of AK’s Investments, LLC) to buy 3 acres instead of 2.56 acres at the northeast corner of Kingsgate Way and Clubhouse Lane. The city will pay $436,621 for the purchase of 3 acres, up from the previous purchase price of $336,501 for the original 2.56 acres. The acreage will be used to build a traffic circle into the new Horn Rapids Commercial Plaza. Note that here the city buys land on Kingsgate Way for $145,000 an acre and sells on Kingsgate Way in Item 8 for $54,000 an acre. Pg. 80-87

5. Nasty, dirty stormwater runoff coming from the roads and other impervious surfaces around Hains Avenue will be treated by these facilities before it flows into the Columbia River. This authorizes an agreement for the state to pay ¾ of the $300,000 cost of infiltration basins in the grassy areas along the road and an infiltration basin under the road. The basin under the road will have a pre-treatment system to remove oil and other pollutants. Pg. 88-133

6. This authorizes an agreement with Energy Northwest for technical services. No cost is given but whatever it is, it will be covered with funds from the electric utility’s expert services budget. My resident expert tells me that this is probably for electrical engineering services. Pg.134-145

7. This authorizes staff to apply for state funding for pavement preservation of Stevens Dr. In case you didn’t know anything about pavement preservation, you will now. It includes chip seals, slurry seals, hot mix asphalt overlays, crack seals and other methods. According to the U.S. Park Service, “A key to successful pavement preservation is choosing the right treatment, for the right road at the right time.” For more go to www.pavementpreservation.org at the University of Michigan.  Pg. 146-147

8. John Watson, who owns an existing business that specializes in nuclear-certified piping materials, valves, instrumentation, machine components, fasteners, and engineering services, wants to purchase 1.49 acres for $81,205 to expand his business in the Horn Rapids Industrial Park at the northwest corner of Kingsgate Way and Battelle. Pg. 148-163

9. The final plat of West Village – Phase 5 proposes to divide 24.6 acres into 114 residential lots and one (1) tract on a site located in the Badger Mountain South Master Planned Community. Sprawl, sprawl, sprawl   Pg. 164-193

Items – Approval:

Nothing here.

Expenditures – Approval

December checks for $39,427,358.45   Pg. 194-255

Items of Business:

11. The comprehensive plan is only good until a developer comes along and wants to change it. This amends the comprehensive plan for 300 acres owned by developer Greg Markel located in the very northwest portion of the City along SR-240. Approximately 177 acres will be medium density residential and approximately 123 acres will be commercial (from Public Facility). On page 266 Patrick Paulson argues that approving sprawl development discourages redevelopment in the downtown.  Pg. 256-286

12.    Changing the zoning to accommodate the above. Pg. 286-293.

13, Appointing Assistant City Manager Jon Amundson to be interim city manager and giving him a 10% raise for taking the job. Pg. 293-294.

Reports and Comments:

Blah, blah, blah and probably a lecture from Bob Thompson.

Adjourn:

Handpicked community representatives on police investigations have no power. Does their presence make any difference?

Since January 5, 2020, when a new police reform law went into effect in Washington, five community representatives have served on Tri-City police investigation teams. Each was handpicked by the chief of the involved agency.

The state Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC) that provided the rules for the law directs police independent investigation teams (IIT) to be “completely independent of any involved agency.”

The relationships between police chiefs and their appointed community reps  might jeopardize the integrity of the investigations. But with poorly described responsibilities and no training, it’s difficult to see what difference that makes.

The CJTC’s factsheet says community representatives will participate in the selection of police investigators, be present at briefings, have access to the completed investigation files, and be provided copies of news releases and communications prior to release. Aside from the briefings, which are not defined, this only puts representatives one step ahead of the public in receiving information.

Leo Perales became the first person picked to be a community representative on an investigation. He was added to the IIT for the February 9, 2020 shooting death of Gordon Whitaker by Kennewick police. Perales  said that during the Whitaker case, “I didn’t know what we were there for.” He explained that he wondered how much authority he had.

The factsheet instructs law enforcement in the state to “solicit” at least two non-law enforcement community representatives from the death’s impacted community. Franklin County law enforcement agencies only choose two for the entire county.  Walla Walla County did the same thing, but chose three. Only Benton County has two from each of the law enforcement agencies within its borders. 

The Observer obtained the police investigation report for the Whitaker case that included emails about the selection of the representatives. According to Kennewick Police Commander Trevor White, “We tried to hastily come into compliance with the new law.”

The “solicit” part seems to have been a sticking point with Kennewick Police Chief Hohenberg and Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller.

In a March 2 email to Hohenberg, Miller says “You can interpret ‘solicit’ in different ways and that could include soliciting specific people to see if they would be interested. And that process could arguably be transparent as required by the rule.”

Miller suggested in a follow-up email that Benton County select two to four people, then join the other two counties in the investigation unit – Franklin and Walla Walla — in creating a roster of names.

Following that advice, area law enforcement agencies created a list of 13 names. The Observer spoke to 6 of them.

Of the 13, the two chosen by Pasco Police Chief Ken Roske have been serving simultaneously on two investigations of Pasco police. Two of the three representatives chosen by the Kennewick Police Chief have served on two investigations of Kennewick police.

Perales received an email on Feb. 11 from Hohenberg asking him to serve on the Whitaker case. Perales said that he had known the chief since he took a class from him years ago.

Hohenberg also suggested Othene Bell Wade for the Whitaker case. He then put her and Perales on the roster.

Chelsan Simpson had attended the Richland Police Department Citizen Academy and had met the Police Chief John Bruce there. A representative from the department asked if he would be willing to volunteer.

Simpson said that when he agreed to serve, he was told that he could be asked to be on an investigation in another jurisdiction. No one else indicated that they received that information.

Prosser had a slightly different process. Police Chief Pat McCullough advertised that he was looking for volunteers. People who responded received a questionnaire that they completed and returned. He then picked two representatives.

Brandi Thornbrugh of Prosser responded to McCullough because she explained, “Volunteering was one way to be involved in the community.”

Other jurisdictions have taken a similar approach. Pierce County, the Washington State Patrol, and the cities of Yelm and Shoreline have advertised for volunteers to apply to be non-law enforcement community representatives.

The appointees that The Observer spoke with lamented that they had had no training. An in-person training session planned for November by the police departments was cancelled due to COVID restrictions.

Perales believes that to protect the independence of the representatives, someone other than the chiefs — possibly the city councils — should pick appointees. He also questioned whether the police departments should be conducting the training.

Representatives sign a confidentiality agreement that’s required, but not described, by the CTJC. The document outlines penalties if representatives disclose confidential information before the “prosecutor of jurisdiction either declines to file charges or the criminal case is concluded.” They can be prosecuted for obstructing a law enforcement officer, perjury, or violation of the Criminal Records Privacy Act.

Understandably, this made Hector Cruz hesitant about answering any of The Observer’s questions because he is currently volunteering for two investigations in Pasco. All he would say was that he had been chosen to be a representative by the Pasco Police Department because he had worked with the department in the past.

Two cases that occurred before the new law went into effect have not been closed by Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant. Werner Anderson died August 10, 2018  in the back of an ambulance while in Pasco police custody. A Franklin County deputy shot Dante Jones on a rural Franklin County road on November 18, 2019. If community representatives had been on those cases, they would have been unable to talk about them for months, even years. 

Washington lawmakers will be considering police reform measures during the 2021 legislative session.

Randy’s Rundown: Richland City Council’s Jan.5 agenda explained

Unless city council drops some bombshell in their comments or someone embarrasses themselves, we will not see much action at the Tuesday meeting.

Nevertheless, you need to check it out here. DocPreview.aspx (civicclerk.com)

Page numbers provided below correspond with the pages in the packet.  See link above.

City Council Regular Meeting – 6:00 p.m.

Welcome and Roll Call

Pledge of Allegiance

Approval of Agenda: 

Presentations:

Public Hearing: You have 3 minutes to comment on the following public hearing.  Go to the link above and following the instructions on the agenda if you wish to comment.

  1. The old city hall site at 505 Swift has utility easements running around and through the property.  The utilities have been relocated. To prevent any issues in the event of a sale, the city is relinquishing the easements.  That requires a hearing and council approval. Pg. 24-27

Public Comments:  You have 2 minutes to talk about anything you wish but no questions will be addressed. You can ask anything you want but they will look at you with a blank stare.  If you have a question, I suggest emailing the members.  Some of them do respond. In other cities, councilmembers rotate meeting with residents one-on-one an hour before the meeting begins. I have suggested that our council do that but, of course, more blank stares.

Consent Calendar: The council approves these items with little to no discussion and a single vote. That way no one can be held accountable.  One member can pull an item off the consent calendar for discussion and a separate vote, but they rarely do.

Minutes:

2. Totally worthless Dec. 15 meeting minutes will be approved. The clerk sanitized them. She left out Councilmember Phil Lemley’s ethics committee discussion comment, “Coming to the council meetings drinking or drunk is wrong.” Also omitted was Lemley’s comments about firing someone who does a good job in the discussion about Cindy Reents leaving. The minutes do include Lukson’s comments about objecting to Lemley’s “characterization” of the situation with Reents, but without Lemley’s comments, you don’t know what the characterization is. Minutes aren’t supposed to be a transcript, but they are supposed to reflect what happened at the meeting. In Richland, they rarely do. However, the meetings are taped.  Go here to review those. Watch CityView | City of Richland, WA  Pg. 5-12

Ordinances – First Reading:

Nothing here.

Ordinances – Second Reading:

3. This item had a public hearing and a first reading vote at the Dec. 1 meeting.  The city will annex 8.52 off Shockley Rd. that belongs to the Zinsli family and allow low-density zoning.  The property will have 24 units at full build out with an estimate 2.6 person per unit. The city estimated costs and benefits but never mentioned anything about the impact on schools. Pg. 13-23

Resolutions – Adoption:

4. The relinquishment of the utility easement at the old city hall site has a hearing and an approval at the same meeting. See Item 1. Pg.24-27

5. Boyd’s Tree Service will be authorized for no more than $350,00 to trim trees and bushes around public utilities. This contract piggybacks on a much larger 2021 Benton Public Utility District contract for no more than $850,000. Pg. 28-32.

6. Efficiency Solutions, LLC, will receive a contract for no more than $250,000 to work with Richland Energy Services to improve energy efficiency in homes and businesses.  There are financial incentives including loans for upgrading windows and insulation or for installing an energy efficient heat pump. Pg. 33-45.

7. This reauthorizes the agreement between Richland, Kennewick, Pasco and West Richland to monitor Columbia River water usage. They share the cost of hiring a consultant to oversee the monitoring.  On Page 50 of the packet, it says a proposed consultant agreement is included in Exhibit A.  I could not find Exhibit A. Pg. 46-52.

Expenditures – Approval:

All the checks written in November 2020, over $27 million worth. Pg. 53-82

Items of Business:

None listed

Reports and Comments:

Blah, blah, blah

Adjournment

Councilmember Phil Lemley believes that another councilmember may be drinking on the job and wants to reinstate the ethics committee

Top to bottom, left to right: Mayor Lukson, Councilmembers Thompson, Lemley, Christensen, Boring, Kent and Alvarez and City Manager Reents

At the Dec. 15 Richland City Council meeting Councilmember Phil Lemley moved to reinstate the City Council Ethics and Administration Committee because he believes that another councilmember may have been participating in meetings while under the influence of alcohol to the point of being “drunk.”

The city council has not appointed a committee chair from among its members since 2002. The proposal to resurrect the committee did not sit well with some of the councilmembers.

Councilmember Bob Thompson responded that he believed that Lemley’s proposal stemmed from Thompson’s past comments critical of the governor. Thompson said, “We need free speech.” He added, “It could become a First Amendment problem and you might not like where we end up.”

Councilmember Michael Alvarez asked Lemley what drove him to bring up the ethics committee.

Lemley said, “It’s sad that we need this in the first place.” He continued, “I’m not concerned about what is said but what is happening when it is said.”

When Thompson asked for specifics, Lemley explained, “Things have happened at council meetings that shouldn’t have happened. Coming to or being part of a council meeting drunk or drinking is wrong.” 

Councilmember Thompson replied, “I agree.”

Richland city councilmembers oversee the finances of the city and adopt an annual budget that in 2020 included around $305 million in spending. They approve city ordinances; acquire land including by condemnation; and hire a city manager. 

In 2019 the yearly salary for the mayor was $16,920 and for councilmembers it was $13,920. Depending on the type of health insurance plan they opted for in 2019, yearly compensation ranged from $13,920 for Councilmember Sandra Kent and former Councilmember Brad Anderson to $37,862 for then Mayor Bob Thompson.

For most non-supervisory Richland city employees, the consumption of alcohol during the course of an employee’s scheduled work day is grounds for discharge or discipline.   Councilmembers, on the other hand, can only be fired by the voters.

The Observer reached out to Lemley to ask who he was referring to. Lemley did not name names but in a Dec. 18 email  said that he thought the problem “came to a head” at the July 7, 2020 council Zoom meeting.  

“I was trying to not accuse anyone in particular, rather point out that things have been said and actions have been done that we all know to be wrong. Reasonable people know the difference in how we should conduct ourselves in public and in private,” he wrote. “I think that having an ethics commission or policy would help remind us of our responsibilities.

In his email, Lemley did not say what about that meeting seemed inappropriate. However, the online recording of the July 7 meeting shows that in the final councilmember comment portion of the meeting Lemley called out Thompson for the language he had used during the meeting. Earlier, Thompson had dropped an F bomb, suggested a resident was a “moron” and called fellow councilmembers “goddamn soft.” 

During the Dec. 15 meeting, before the city council’s discussion, City Attorney Heather Kintzley went through the city’s history with ethics boards and committees.  According to Kintzley in 1967 the council created a Board of Ethics that met no less than twice a year or as needed to consider any violations of conflicts of interest and self-dealing as well disclosure of confidential information. Modifications that were made to the ordinance in 1976 appeared to bring the law in conformance with the new state open meetings law, Kintzley said.  In 1992 the council added language on conduct: “Councilmembers shall conduct themselves so as not to bring disgrace or embarrassment upon the city.”

Kintzley noted that in 1993 the council, not the Board of Ethics, censured Councilmember Bob Ellis for grabbing Mayor Craig Buchanan’s arm and calling him a “jerk” and the council “criminals.”  According to Kintzley, the council specified that the censure was for what Ellis did and not for what he said.  

In 1998, the council eliminated the board and replaced it with the council committee making the code conform with the action that had been taken in 1993.  Until 2004, a council member was appointed to head the committee.  Since 2002, there has been no reference to it during the biennial appointment of councilmembers to committees.

Councilmember Sandra Kent said that she thought the council supported the Lemley proposal but that it needed revision and agreed that free speech had to be protected.

Councilmember Marianne Boring added, “We need to bring up as a gentle reminder not to say some things out loud.”

Thompson laughed, “According to you.”

The Observer emailed all of the councilmembers and asked each of them if they were the person that Lemley was referring to. In addition, the Observer asked if the councilmembers would be concerned if one of them participated in a city meeting “drunk or drinking.” Other than Lemley, only Mayor Ryan Lukson and Boring replied.

Lukson said, “Is that a joke?  I’ve never been to a council meeting drunk. You should reach out to Phil.”

Boring wrote, “It certainly was not me Councilman Lemley was suggesting. All of my meetings have been virtual thus far. Please know I do my best not to speculate on any matter….” The council appointed Boring on Oct.6 to replace Anderson who resigned.

The councilmembers agreed that they wanted to continue to have an ad hoc committee and Lukson asked the city attorney to clean up the language in the ordinance to assure that free speech was protected.  After that he said the Council would have another discussion on the issue.

In his email, Lemley stressed that he had no “absolute proof” that any council members had been intoxicated during meetings. 

“It is very easy to do or say things in the heat of the moment that is later regretted, at least by most people. I do not have absolute proof of that issue but strongly believe that it has happened in the past. All you have to do is watch the videos and judge for yourself. I have been clueless to a point in the past, but it is my understanding that it happens more than I realize.”

Cindy Reents out as Richland City Manager

Richland City Council announced tonight that they had reached a separation agreement with City Manager Cindy Reents effective January 22, 2021.  

Reents has been with the city since 2003 and became city manager in 2007.  

According to Mayor Ryan Lukson, details have not been finalized. Reents contract specifies that she’s entitled to 6-months pay if the council decides to terminate her contract. The city currently pays Reents about $200,000 annually.

City Councilmember Phil Lemley said, “I am not happy at all about what has happened to our city manager.”  He added, “You don’t fire someone who does a good job.”

Lemley went on to say, “Everyone needs to know what happened in executive session.”  He did not elaborate.

The other councilmembers thanked Reents and wished her well.

An emotional Reents spoke of her 17 years with the City that started when she was hired from California to be assistant city manager. She said that completing the Duportail Bridge under budget and on time was one of the highlights of her time with the city.

In closing she said, “Our leadership team is the best. I’m sad but confident that I have laid the foundation for the remaining staff to operate effectively.”

Randy’s Rundown: Richland City Council Dec. 15 agenda explained

This week’s Richland City Council begins at 5:15 p.m. with a secret executive session regarding litigation and ends with an Ethics and Administration Committee discussion.

The usual approval of a year-end performance review and salary increase for City Manager Cindy Reents is missing from the middle.

The council has been looking for a consultant to assistant with the review.  The Observer asked Mayor Ryan Lukson in an email Thursday if the council had hired a consultant and he responded, “We have not.”

In some good news for area out-door enthusiasts, agenda Item 9 includes easements for a new portion of the Rivers to Ridges trail system.

The agenda with the accompanying packet of information includes instructions for making public comments.  The items described below can be found on the packet pages listed.

City Council Workshop – 5:15 p.m.

  1. Executive Session to discuss current or potential litigation with retained legal counsel – 45 minutes

City Council Regular Meeting – 6:00 p.m.

Welcome and Roll Call

Pledge of Allegiance

Approval of Agenda (Approved by Motion)

Presentations:

2. DECA Month Proclamation – November was Distributive Education Club of America (DECA) Month.

Public Hearing:  You would have 3 minutes to comment if there was something to comment about.

Public Comments:  You have 2 minutes to talk about anything, unlike council members who can go on and on and on and on. No questions are allowed. Go to the agenda for instructions on how to comment.

Consent Calendar: The Council lumps everything into this category. The items receive little if any discussion and only one vote so that no one can be held accountable.  A councilmember can move to have an item moved to Items of Business for deliberation and a separate vote, but they rarely do.

Minutes:

3. Approval of the December 1, 2020 council meeting minutes

Ordinance – First Reading:

Nothing here

Ordinance – Second Reading:

4. City Council votes itself a 1.3% raise. The raise will not take effect until 2024. City-provided health insurance more than doubles the compensation that some city councilmembers make.  Bob Thompson tops the list with about $37,000 in compensation in 2019.      Pg. 14-18

Resolutions – Adoption

5. Authorizing a consultant agreement with Jacobs Engineering Group for a project to construct a grade-separated flyover eastbound ramp and reconstruct the existing SR-240/Aaron Drive intersection. The $169,998 planned for this phase of work will be funded at 86.5% by a Washington State Department of Transportation grant and 13.5% by city funds. Pg. 19-82

6. The city council will approve about $37,000 for another year of wetland monitoring by Shannon & Wilson Inc.  The consultant will monitor existing and created wetlands at Logan Road in the Horn Rapids Industrial Park.  They will assess plant survival and wildlife use in all the areas. Success in creating hydric soils in the new wetland will also be evaluated. Pg. 83-91

7. American Cruise Line (ACL) will pay the city $45,000 annually to use the Lee Boulevard dock. Plans are underway for the ACL to build its own dock at its own expense at Columbia Point. Anybody can use the Lee Boulevard dock when ACL is not using it but check with ACL first.  Pg. 91-107

8. This authorizes MacKay Sposito to perform shoreline stabilization design and permitting for the city. Rivers naturally meander but we have developed the shoreline; therefore, ours must be “managed”.   Hopefully, they will not just throw a bunch of boulders along the river (rip rap) to armor the shoreline. Pg 108-167

9. The city will approve the final plat of The Reserve at Summerview Terrace, Phase 2.  The development is near Gage Blvd., Sicily Ln., and Meadow Springs Drive. There will be 34 lots on 13 acres.  On page 174, the agreement includes an easement for a trail to become part of the Rivers to Ridges trail system. Pg. 168-201

10. This authorizes a grant agreement for a stormwater project on Goethals. The Department of Ecology grant provides 75 percent of the cost, $342,088, and the city provides the other 25 percent, $85,522. The city may use several different techniques to improve water quality including infiltration ditches and a Contech CDS which uses a swirling vortex of water to spin out solid pollutants. I can’t wait to see that.  Pg. 202-248

11. This extends until June 30, 2021 the waiver that allows businesses to use city property for outside activities during COVID indoor restrictions. Pg.249-251

12. Richland will piggyback on a Benton County project to chip seal roads in the Lorayne J. neighborhood that was annexed in 2018. The roads were torn up to lay water lines to the community.  Benton County will chip seal Reata Road and Twin Bridges Road and will throw Richland into the deal for about $100,000.  The contract says that Benton County must discuss with Richland if the price exceeds the $100,000. Pg. 252-263

13. This approves a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture to conduct wildlife damage management at the Horn Rapids Landfill.  According to the agreement: “The specific goal is to conduct a wildlife damage management program to protect buildings, equipment, and human health and safety. This will be accomplished primarily by reducing the presence of blackbirds, collared doves, coyotes, gulls, pigeon, ravens, and starlings.” Pg. 264-274.

14. The city will purchase software and services from Tyler Technologies for about $537,000. Pg. 275-295

15. Richland will accept a $17,000 grant from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission for police department overtime for seatbelt enforcement.  Pg. 296-322

16. This authorizes a $50,000 payment to the Bonneville Power Authority for preliminary engineering work for electrical service to support the 1,641 acres north of Horn Rapids that was transferred to the city of Richland from the Department of Energy.  Pg. 314-322

Items – Approval

nothing

Expenditures – Approval

Nothing

Items of Business:

17. Council will discuss the Council Ethics and Administration Committee existing under RMC 2.26 after a short historical overview provided by the City Attorney. At the Dec.1 meeting Councilmember Phil Lemley requested this discussion. Concerns were raised by Lemley and Councilmember Sandra Kent about comments made to residents in emails from Councilmember Bob Thompson. Thompson has sometimes suggested that residents who do not agree with him need mental health care. Pg. 321

Reports and Comments:

Blah, blah, blah

Adjournment:

Police shooting reports include hundreds of Facebook posts

After a police shooting, detectives spend several weeks taking screenshots of Facebook posts documenting people’s reactions to the event.  The sources include the Facebook pages of the police departments, the Tri-City Herald, and local television and radio stations.

Witnesses

According to Lt. Drew Florence, Richland Police Department crime scene supervisor, detectives read the posts looking for witnesses and other people who might have information important to the investigation.

“Some people are comfortable talking on Facebook but not to police,” Florence said.

According to Florence, the Facebook posts on public sites can be copied without a legal process to obtain them.

Special Investigative Unit

Officers from police departments in the area that are not involved in the case compose a Special Investigative Unit (SIU). The SIU investigates officer-involved incidents that result in death or serious injury and write a report.

The 1895-page SIU report on the Nov. 18, 2019, shooting of Dante Redmond Jones by Franklin County Sheriff Deputy Cody Quantrell, includes almost 200 pages of Facebook posts (pg. 722-920).

The 2,888-page report on the Feb. 9, 2020, shooting of Gordon Whitaker has 100 pages of Facebook posts. (page. 528-628 of the fourth installment).

Categories

The SIU reports list some posts by categories: Present During Event, Activity Leading up to Event, Unknown Presence, Knows Suspect, Unknown Category. Each comment under the categories includes the media outlet where the post appeared.

The Jones report differs from the Whitaker report in that after the category listing, it provides posts from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office as well as posts from seven media outlets. The Whitaker Report only provides the posts from the Kennewick Police Department, possibly accounting for the difference in the number of pages of posts, 200 in the Jones report but only 100 in the Whitaker report.

Commenters Surprised

Via a Facebook personal message, the Observer contacted people who had posted to ask if they knew that the SIU reports included their comments.  A few responded.

Not surprisingly posts from former Franklin County Deputy Jereme James Ekiert defended both Sheriff Jim Raymond and the deputies involved in the Jones shooting. His comments appeared on the KEPR Action News Report. 

When one person asked where the body camera pictures were, Ekiert responded, “Being reviewed by investigators. This isn’t a 60 minute episode of blue bloods.”

The Franklin County Sheriff’s deputies do not have body cameras or dashboard cameras. In the Tri-Cities only the Pasco Police Department uses camera equipment.

Melissa Ruelas expressed surprise that her comments including, “It’s suspicious to me,” appeared on the KEPR Facebook page. Ruelas wrote to the Observer that her husband knew Jones well.

When Ruelas learned that Prosecutor Shawn Sant had not made public a decision as to whether he considered the shooting justified, Ruelas responded, “I thought this case was swept under the rug a long time ago.”

Sarese Kirk who commented on the Gordon Whitaker shooting said she was surprised her posts were part of the record.  She noted, “I didn’t think that that was necessary especially when I spoke out of anger and emotion….”

 She knew Whitaker and her posts are listed under the “Knows Suspect” category for a comment on the Kennewick Police Department Facebook page as well as “unknown Category” for another post on the KEPR Facebook page.

Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller declared in August that no charges would be filed in the Whitaker case because the officer who killed Whitaker, had a “good faith belief” that he was preventing death or injury to another officer.

After the Whitaker shooting, Francesca Maier posted on the Kennewick Police Department page: “What was the probable cause for contacting the men?”

When asked if she knew her comment would become a part of the police report, she said, No, I didn’t know that, but I don’t believe we have a right to privacy when posting on a public website, particularly not on the page of a public agency.”

Randy’s Rundown: Richland City Council Dec.1 agenda explained

Perhaps to save the council from further embarrassing comments from Councilmember Bob Thompson, no COVID update appears on the agenda for the first time since March

If you want to comment on the hearing items go to the city agenda and follow the instructions.

Page numbers give below correspond to the page numbers of the packet items.

City Council Regular Meeting – 6:00 p.m.

Welcome and Roll Call

Pledge of Allegiance

Approval of Agenda: (Approved by Motion) 

Presentations:  Possibly to save itself from further embarrassing comments from Councilmember Bob Thompson, this council meeting will have no COVID update for the first time since March. At the last meeting Thompson said that it was a good thing that more people had COVID.

Public Hearing:  You can have 3 minutes to comment here.  Go to the agenda (link above) for instructions.

  1. Robert Zinsli wants the city to annex his 8.52 acres at 771 Shockley Road. The city will designate the zoning as low-density residential which allows primarily for residences but also for neighborhood amenities such as churches and restaurants. City staff assumes 24 units with 2.6 person per household (pg. 27). They have done a cost and benefit analysis that considers roads, fire department and police coverage but nothing about schools. According to Zillow, the owner tried to sell the property last year for $1.5 million.   Pg. 20-30

2. Greg Markel of Vantage Way properties asked that the city rezone his 177 acres in Horn Rapids from agricultural to medium density residential which allows for duplexes and possibly townhouses as well as single family housing. He wants the additional 123 acres rezoned from public facility to commercial. This amends the Comprehensive Plan to allow that.  In a telephone conversation earlier this year, I asked Markel if he felt that roads in the Horn Rapids area could handle the additional traffic.  He said he did and added, “I may be dead before there is development on this property.”

The City of Richland will rezone its own 30-acre property in the Horn Rapid area from industrial to commercial. Pg. 89-98

3. This Amends the Zoning Maps to reflect the changes that have been requested in the above items. Pg.99-105

Public Comments:  You have 2 minutes to talk about anything, unlike council members who can go on and on and on and on. No questions are allowed.

Consent Calendar:   The Council lumps everything into this category. The items receive little if any discussion and only one vote so that no one can be held accountable.

Minutes

4. The council will approve the almost worthless minutes of the last meeting. It reads like this, “Councilmembers shared thoughts.” If you want to know what was actually said and what actually happened in the meetings go to the tape on City View

Ordinances – First Reading

5. City Council votes itself a 1.3% raise. The raise will not take effect until 2024 after everyone who voted for it would be up for re-election. City-provided health insurance and other perks more than double the compensation that some city councilmembers make.  Bob Thompson tops the list with about $37,000 in compensation in 2019.  Pg. 16-19

6. See Item 1 under Public Hearing

Ordinances – Second Reading & Passage

7. This explains year-end budget reconciliation.  Money is moved around to make it all balance out in the end.  For instance, a police crime van was budgeted in the general fund for $275,000 but state and federal grants paid for it.That $275,000 can be used to cover a shortage somewhere else. At the last council meeting the city manager announced that $500,000 had been found in the budget to use for building a new the animal shelter.  Pg. 31-34.

Resolutions – Adoptions

8. The Richland Police Department has received a $45,000 grant from federal and state funding for investigation and prosecution of internet crimes against children. The funds will help cover the costs of forensic hardware and software. Pg. 31-39

9. David Pandzhakidze owner of D&I Investments LLC wants to purchase 10 acres of the city’s property in the Horn Rapids Industrial Park for $400,000. The city has a repurchase right if a building plan is not submitted within 8 months of closing and if building has not begun in 18 months. Pandzhakidze writes to the city council that he already has his first client, Avallax LLC, that will lease at least a 6000 square foot building and bring two good paying jobs.  Avallax LLC also belongs to Pandzhakidze. Pg. 40-57

10. This will extend the city’s contract with DGR Grant Construction in the amount of $119,278 for design and construction assistance for the two new fire stations, also known as “Public Safety Response Stations nos. 73&75.” Page 58-72.

Items – Approval

Nothing

Expenditures – Approval

Nothing

Items of Business

11. This proposed revision of the Richland Municipal Code would allow the city council to appoint a replacement for the city manager while they look to permanently fill the position when a city manager is absent for 60 days due to illness, disability or any other reason. Reents recommended increasing the current 14-day limit. When the councilmembers discussed this at the last meeting, Reents assured them that she felt fine and was not sick.

The code will also be amended to allow the city manager to pick an assistant city manager.  The city hired Reents as assistant city manager in 2003.

12. See Item 2 under Public Hearing

13. See Item 3 under Public Hearing

Reports and Comments

Blah, blah, blah, curse, curse, curse.

Executive Session

A secret meeting to discuss lawsuits.

Tri-Cities Face Mask Makers celebrate 30,000 masks

Cassandra “Cassie” Oakes, founder of Tri-Cities Face Mask Makers, models a mask.

In the last 8 months, Tri-Cities Mask Makers made 30,000 masks for area hospitals, police departments, postal workers, firefighters, hospices, prisons, food banks and dozens of other groups.

According to the group’s founder, Cassandra “Cassie” Oakes of Richland, “We filled all of our orders and everywhere you look now there are masks for sale for a few dollars.”

Oakes, a stay-at-home mother of four boys, started the group in March when she read a Facebook post from a local doctor describing the need for face masks. Oakes said, “I could sew and the community needed masks, so I began making them and started the group.”

March seems like a century ago, but many of us can still remember when the coronavirus first started galloping through areas of Washington. Medical professionals appealed to people to save the diminishing supply of surgical masks and N95 respirators for health care workers on the front line.  They recommended that everyone else make their own masks.

When requests for masks came pouring in, Oakes set up a system so the group could fill them in order. She also organized teams of people for every task.

Volunteers included sewers, runners who delivered supplies to sewers and picked up and delivered finished masks, and cutters who cut the pieces from fabric for the sewers to stitch together.  The group even included elastic untanglers.

Oakes posted a picture on the group’s Facebook page of what looked like a bag full of spaghetti. She asked, “Do we have any takers on untangling this type of elastic & cutting it into 10-yd lengths for kits?”  Within minutes two people volunteered. 

Oakes could not estimate how many people volunteered with her group but eventually her Facebook page, Tri-Cities Face Mask Makers, had 1,500 members. 

Becky Holstein Pospical of Richland made 1,000 masks. Pospical said, “I had nurse friends who asked me to please make masks. At about that time this group popped up.”

“People did whatever they could,” Pospical added.  “My high school friend donated four bolts of fabric.”

“As someone who has sewed my whole life, I was happy to learn that there are others like me out there,” Pospical said.

Amy Hanson, also of Richland, decided that she was not a sewer. She recalls, “I made a few masks and decided – no way!”

Hanson became a runner because she said, “I know how to drive.” 

Hanson recalls, “One lovely lady set up ice coffee for me when I came over to pick up or deliver. I met a lot of happy, nice people.”

DeAnna Winterrose, another Richland volunteer, made almost 2,500 masks but she said, “I don’t deserve all the credit for those.”

“I had volunteer cutters. Their work and other supplies would miraculously arrive at my door. I had a continuous supply. All I had to do was put the word out,” she said.

Winterrose described how she became worried watching the beginning of the pandemic while in Hawaii. “When I returned to Washington, making masks helped take my mind off of it,” she said.

Winterrose also credits a friend at Pacific Northwest National Laboratories who volunteered to check fabrics for their filtration ability. “That way we knew our masks were actually protecting people.” 

Oakes coordinated all of these tasks while making masks herself and even doing training videos for eager volunteers. She said, “Everybody wanted to help in some way.” 

Oakes said that her management skills came from years of motherhood after a career in banking. “I tend to be organized,” she said.

As the group shuts down Oakes admits, “I am exhausted.”

She added, “It feels refreshing to be able to bring people together to do something for the community. Knowing there are so many good humans out there makes my heart happy.” 

Runner Jo Breneman of Richland praised Oakes, “The Tri-Cities Face Mask Makers was an incredible endeavor, and Cassie deserves all the kudos we can give her.”

Randy Notes: the rundown on the November 17 Richland City Council agenda

Daisy, Photo by Jan Taylor

Funding Found for the Animal Shelter

November 15, 2020

Randy Notes translates the gobbledygook of the Richland City Council agenda for you.

If you want to comment on the hearing items go to the city agenda and follow the instructions.

Page numbers given below correspond to the page numbers of the packet items.  

City Council Workshop – 5:00 p.m.

  1. Council members receive training in city social media policy.

City Council Regular Meeting – 6:00 p.m.

Welcome and Roll Call

Pledge of Allegiance

Approval of Agenda: (Approved by Motion)

Presentations

2. Covid update from City Manager Cindy Reents

Public Hearing:  You can have 3 minutes to comment here.  Go to the agenda (link above) for instructions. The city attorney reads the rules. Questions are not allowed. The rules normally include prohibitions about clapping and other citizen misbehavior that could result in expulsion. However, since she can’t have you kicked out of a virtual meeting, you are free to clap and boo to your heart’s content.

3. Money found for the animal shelter. Each of the three Tri-Cities’ jurisdictions have responsibility for the area animal shelter. Richland had budgeted $!.5 million for its one-third share of the cost. However, the city needed to find an extra $500,000 for its share when construction estimates came in for a higher amount. Since the Washington State Supreme Court decided that Richland and other cities can keep charging the car tab, $500,000 became available for the extra funding. Look at Pg. 29 “General Fund.” This and other amendments to the 2020 budget can be found on Pg. 25-29.

4. In 2021, the city will receive $305,207 dollars in Community Block Grant Funding. Recipients include Elijah Family Homes and Meals on Wheels. For others go to Page 63. The Tri-Cities HOME consortium will receive $700,367 for down payment assistance, pg.64.  Details on the two programs are on pg. 60-107.

5. The city has received an additional $310,301 from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. It will be distributed as follows: Microenterprise Business Assistance $161,030; Public Service $118,241; Administration $31,030. Pg. 107-112

6. An update of the city employee compensation plan. Pg. 151-156

7. Relinquishment of a utility easement at 2209 Humphreys Street.  Pg.157-160

8. The Port of Benton has requested a portion of easement north and east of Robertson Drive. Pg. 161-164

Public Comments:  You have 2 minutes to talk about anything. Same rules as for the public hearings. No questions allowed.

Consent Calendar:   The Council lumps everything into this category. The items receive little if any discussion and only one vote so that no one can be held accountable.

Minutes

9. Approval of the November 3, 2020 minutes

Ordinances – First Reading

10. See Item 3 under the Public Hearing section. These are the amendments to the 2020 budget which include the new animal shelter. Pg. 25-29.

Ordinances – Second Reading & Passage

11. Proposed 2021 budget and 2021-2026 Capital Improvement Plan.  The budget proposal is online.  

12. Amending Chapter 2.04 of the Richland Municipal Code. This eliminates the position of deputy city manager and eliminates the assistant city manager as someone who is hired and instead makes the position someone who is chosen by and directed by the city manager. It also makes the descriptions of the city manager gender neutral. It changes the names of several city committees and departments to reflect their current responsibilities.  For instance, Parks and Recreation becomes Parks and Public Facilities. Pg. 30-45

Resolutions – Adoptions

13. Columbia Center Parkway will eventually go through between Gage and Tapteal.  This approves the $400,000 funding from the Port of Kennewick. Pg.46-52

14. The Port of Benton will contribute $50,000 for the same Gage to Tapteal project above. Pg.52-59

15. CDBG funding was the subject of the Item 4 hearing under the Public Hearing section. Pg. 60-107

16. CARES Act funding was the subject of the Item 5 hearing under the Public Hearing section. Pg. 107-112

17. This authorizes the circulation of a petition for residents to approve the annexation of Badger Mountain Vineyards at 1106 N. Jurupa Road.  The land would be zoned low density.

18. Apollo Inc. of Kennewick submitted the lowest bid, $4,405,295.72, for improvements to about a mile of Columbia Park Trail East.  The packet provides details.  Pg. 123-145

19. The city has hired a new civil engineer but until that person is up to speed, the city will pay RGW Enterprises a consulting fee for services regarding the new Horn Rapids and North Richland development projects. This will add about $93,000 to the original contract.  Pg. 146-150

20. Item 6 from the Public Hearing section, the compensation plan for city employees. Pg. 151-156

21. Item 7 from the Public Hearing section, relinquishment of the easement at 2209 Humphreys Street. Pag. 157-160

22. Item 8 from the Public Hearing section, relinquishment of an easement to the Port of Benton. Pg.161-164.

23. The owners of 4 homes on Allenwhite Drive live on a little island of land in the middle of the city. See for yourself on this map of Richland.   The paperwork doesn’t include an explanation as to how this happened, but the annexation petitions reads, “petitioners pray that the City Council of the City of Richland, Washington entertain this petition.” Pg. 165-171.

Items – Approval

24. Lizzy Ridley will be appointed to the Planning Commission. Ridley is a land use planner at J-U-B Engineers. The firm advertises as working in “Transportation, Water Resources and Land Development.”  Pg. 175-176.

Expenditures – Approval

25. All checks written in October.  Pg. 177-212

Items of Business

Nothing

Reports and Comments

City Manager, Council and Mayor – blah, blah, blah

Secret Executive Session

26. The council estimates 30 minutes for this secret meeting.  You can keep your television or computer engaged to see when Mayor Ryan Lukson comes out to declare it completed.  Taxpayers are paying for “retained legal counsel” for current or potential litigation.

Tension at Richland City Hall over hiring a consultant for review of City Manager

Cindy Reents at recent Zoom city council meeting

Nov. 8

The Richland City Council in the past evaluated its city manager during closed executive sessions with no outside assistance. Now the council is using a consultant to aid the process, and the new procedure has created tension at city hall.  

City Manager Cindy Reents’ contract requires a yearly council review. She was hired as city manager in December 2007 with a $131,000 yearly salary plus benefits. Since then, she has received a 2 to 3 percent salary increase each year as well as thousands of dollars in incentives. Her current salary is around $200,000. 

At the Oct. 6 council meeting Mayor Ryan Lukson reported that a committee that included him and Councilmembers Michael Alvarez and Sandra Kent had interviewed a Georgia “professional facilitator” who they did not believe fit their needs.  

Lukson said that since it might be a conflict for Reents to help pick a consultant, Assistant City Manager Jon Amundson would direct the process for identifying new candidates for the job of consultant. 

Later in the meeting Reents replied, “I will make sure we put staff resources towards that, but I want the authority for the task myself.”

During his comments Councilmember Terry Christensen responded, “Cindy doesn’t select the person.” He did agree that Reents could pick candidates that the Lukson committee could interview.

Despite the tense words at the Oct. 6 meeting, the city council expanded the city manager’s authority at the Nov. 3 meeting. 

The council removed the job description of assistant city manager from the city code. Now the city manager will pick an assistant city manager and assign them to tasks as needed. 

Newly appointed Councilmember Marianne Boring has an unusual situation. When she evaluates the city manager, she will be judging her husband’s boss. Michael Boring works in the Richland Development Office.   

In an email to the Observer, Boring said that she does not believe that she has a conflict.

Reents joined the staff at city hall as assistant city manager in 2003 when her name was Cindy Johnson. In 2007, she became city manager. She had previously worked in various city departments in Ridgecrest, California.

Reents, 57, grew up in Trona, California, near Ridgecrest. She received a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in business administration from California Coastal University, a pioneer in distance learning. 

Cindy Johnson became Cindy Reents in 2015 after she married Dean Reents, a Richland fire department captain who is now retired.

Several citizens have questioned whether Reents has violated the residency requirement in the Richland City Charter.  Section 4.01 of the charter reads: “The manager need not be a resident of the state when appointed but during the tenure of office he [note below] shall reside within the city.”

Questions arose because the only home listed in the Benton County property records for Reents or her husband is in the city of West Richland.

When asked if she lived in Richland, Reents declined to comment.

She did respond, “I am very proud of my humble beginnings, the sacrifices made and how hard I worked to get where I am today. It was not easy nor was it quick but with perseverance and support from my family I have accomplished quite a bit.”

Note: Authors of the city charter obviously did not expect a woman to become city manager.

Randy’s Notes: a rundown on the Nov. 3 Richland City Council agenda

Budget and Taxes

If you want to comment on the hearings or during the public comment period, go to the city agenda and follow the instructions.

Page numbers given below correspond to the page numbers of the packet items.

Secret Executive Session – 5:45 p.m

  1. During this closed session, expected to last for 15 minutes, Council will discuss union contracts and/or negotiations.

City Council Regular Meeting – 6:00 p.m.

Welcome and Roll Call

Pledge of Allegiance

Approval of Agenda: (Approved by Motion)

Presentations

2. Covid-19 Update, Cindy Reents, City Manager.  Pg. 6

Public Hearing:  You can have 3 minutes to comment here.  Go to the agenda (link above) for instructions.

3. Proposed 2021 budget and 2021-2026 Capital Improvement Plan.  The budget proposal is online.    Pg. 7

4. Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Southeast Washington telecommunicators Guild. The contract is provided on Pg. 177-211.

5. Collective Bargaining Agreement with the International Union of Operating Engineers. Their contract is provided on Pg. 211-266

Public Comments:  You have 2 minutes to talk about anything, but questions are not allowed. The city attorney reads the rules and the penalties for citizen misbehavior, like clapping, which seem even more ridiculous now that citizens attend the meetings remotely.

Consent Calendar:   The Council lumps everything into this category. The items receive little if any discussion and only one vote so that no one can be held accountable.

Minutes

6. Approval of the Oct. 20 council meeting minutes and the Oct. 27 council workshop minutes. These tell you next to nothing. Pg. 10-21   If you’re really interested in what happened, go to City View and watch the tapes

Ordinances – First Reading

7. Approving the 2021 Budget and the 2021-2026 Capital Improvement Plan. In case you have forgotten already, this was the first public hearing. Pg. 22-25

8. Amending Chapter 2.04 of the Richland Municipal Code. This is mostly a cleanup.  It makes all of the descriptions of the city manager gender neutral. It changes the names of several city committees and departments to reflect their current responsibilities.  For instance, Parks and Recreation becomes Parks and Public Facilities. The job of the assistant city manager has been amended. Pg. 26-41

Ordinances – Second Reading & Passage

9. Increasing funding for fire department radios, stormwater facility maintenance, wastewater plant improvements and industrial development. Pg. 42-45

10, Potable water cannot be used for irrigation where non-potable water is available. A violation could result in your potable water service being discontinued. Pg.46-50

11. If you own a $300,000 house, your taxes will go up by $7.  The rest of the numbers are on Pg. 54.

12. More on Taxes   Pg. 51-60

13. More on Taxes   Pg. 51-60

14. You’re not allowed to discharge a firearm in the city unless it’s at the airport and you’re shooting at animals that could crash an airplane. But according to the airport officials, shooting is the last resort. Pg. 61-63

15. If you want to repair your sidewalk and you fill out enough paperwork, the city will reimburse 25% of the costs.  If you don’t clear your sidewalk of snow, you could be in trouble.  Check the rules. Pg. 64-67

16. The definition of a potentially dangerous animal is amended to include an animal endangering someone “on the private property of another.” As written, the same behavior on public property would warrant declaring the animal as potentially dangerous, but no protections are afforded for the same conduct on the private property of another. Pg. 68-73

17. There’s a deficiency in the definition of Second Degree Criminal Trespass. This remedies that by defining “premises” as “any real property (fenced or unfenced), vehicle, railway car, cargo container, or other similar structure.” This definition will eliminate ambiguity between second degree criminal trespass and first degree criminal trespass, which provides that it is unlawful for any person to knowingly enter or remain, unlawfully, in a building of another Pg. 73-75

18. The lodging tax charged to hotel guests and used for tourism promotion in the Tri-Cities will be increased from $2.00 to $3.00 a night. Pg. 76-78

Resolutions – Adoptions

19. Commonstreet Consulting, LLC,  will be hired to help the city staff acquire the right-of-way for three projects — Among these are Center Parkway, the Vantage Highway Path – Phase 2, South George Washington Way Intersection Improvements, Van Giesen/Thayer Intersection Improvements, and Gage Boulevard Improvements. Pg 79-136

20. Approving the 2021 Tri-City Regional Hotel-Motel Commission budget and marketing plan. Everything you wanted to know about tourism in the Tri-Cities.  Pg. 137-166.

21. More about raising the lodging tax. Pg. 167-172

22. Updating council assignments. New Councilmember Marianne Boring will have Brad Anderson’s assignments. Welcome to the Mosquito Control Board Councilmember Boring! Councilmember Terry Christensen wanted Brad’s assignment to the Lodging Tax Board. The council voted to grant him his wish with the proviso that he recuses himself for matters involving softball. In the past Christensen has been in hot water for lobbying for his favorite sport.

23. Approving the 2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Southeast Washington Telecommunicators Guild. This was the subject of the earlier public hearing.  The contract is on pg. 177-211.

24. Approving the 2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement with the International Union of Operating Engineers. This was the subject of the earlier public hearing. The contract is on pg. 211-266

25. Adopting the City of Richland’s 2021 legislative priorities. The City is leading a regional effort to improve SR240 with an Aaron Drive flyover exchange, estimated to cost $30 million. The second requested improvement is the SR240 / SR224 / Van Giesen Street Interchange, estimated to cost $45 million. Other projects include police training, environmental improvements to the area around Bateman Island, and funding for LED lights for city streets. Pg. 267-270

26. Adopting the City of Richland street light standards. The city wants to switch to LED lights. The policy for street lighting is included in these pages. Pg. 271-283 

27. Authorizing a grant agreement with the Washington Traffic Safety Commission for Pedestrian Safety Funding. Plenty of information here about the contract and funding but nothing about what the police actually plan to do about pedestrian safety.  Pg. 284-289

28. Authorizing the 5-year renewal agreement for the promotion of tourism with the Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau. The City agrees to pay the Bureau fifty percent of the annual average hotel/motel tax receipts of the City collected from the first two percent levied for the five-year period immediately preceding each year of the contract period.   See Pg. 290-295

Items – Approval

Expenditures – Approval

Items of Business

Authorizing a funding agreement with Benton country for the Center Parkway North – Gage to Tapteal Project. The proposed agreement will secure $1,240,000 from the Benton County Rural County Capital Fund for this project.  Pg 296 – 304

Reports and Comments

City Manager, City Councilmembers, Mayor 

blah, blah, blah

Secret Executive Session

Yes, another one. This time the council will discuss lawsuits

Adjournment

If you want to stick around until after this secret meeting, Mayor Ryan Lukson will come out and say “meeting adjourned”. 

Animal shelter plan gives Richland City Council sticker shock

Correction Oct. 21:  The price estimate given for the shelter was $550 a square foot not $850.  The city paid $400 a sq. ft. for the new city hall. Neither price includes the land.

Consultant David Robinson of Strategic Construction Management surprised the Richland City Council with a price of over $550 a sq. ft. for a new Tri-Cities animal shelter. 

Robinson recommended building the new shelter on the old site in Pasco.

Robinson estimated the total would be $4.8 to $5.8 million split between Richland, Kennewick and Pasco, the three cooperating jurisdictions.

City Manager Cindy Reents pointed out that the new city hall had cost $400 a square foot.

The City of Pasco has taken the lead in the planning of the new shelter. Pasco City Manager Dave Zabell and Pasco Administrative and Community Services Director Zach Ratkai attended the meeting to help explain the plan.

Councilmember Bob Thompson said, “We have sticker shock.  Can we find a grant?” 

Mayor Ryan Lukson asked, “Could we renovate a building at another location?  I’m looking for ways to reduce costs.”

Ratkai said, “We couldn’t find any other buildings that were compatible.”

Zabell added that he had looked at the shelter in Spokane that was built in an old Harley Davidson showroom.  According to Zabell, “It cost a lot of money but did not turn out to be the best facility.”

Councilmember Michael Alvarez said, “I like the plan but I think it is expensive.”

Councilmember Philip Lemley wanted to know, “With our exploding population, how long before we outgrow this shelter.”

Robinson replied that there was no way of knowing but a more attractive shelter would attract families who would adopt pets at a faster pace.

“Richland needs to work with Kennewick and Pasco to use a design-build contract to cut costs as much as possible and perhaps also involve Benton County. We all want a new animal shelter but we need to look for the most cost-effective way to build it.  We need to explore every option.”  Lukson concluded.

Randy’s Notes: a rundown on Tuesday’s Richland City Council agenda

New taxes and a new animal shelter

A discussion about the proposed new Tri-Cities Animal Shelter will begin the Richland City Council meeting at 5:00 p.m. on October 20. Note the earlier starting time. Before the coronavirus, supporters for a new shelter packed the council chamber. Information on how to watch the meeting and how to comment are at the top of the agenda. 

Page numbers after the items below correspond with the pages in the packet of information that goes with the agenda.

City Council Workshop:

  1. At 5:00 p.m. City Manager Cindy Reents will update the City Council with options for a new animal shelter. Pg. 5-21 Comments can be made during the public comment period.

City Council Regular Meeting – 6:00 p.m.

Welcome

Pledge of Allegiance

Approval of Agenda

Presentations

2. Extra Mile Day recognizes people and organizations that make positive change. Pg. 22-23

3. COVID-19 Update from City Manager Cindy Reents  pg.24

Public Hearing  Check the agenda for the instructions on how to comment for up to 3 minutes.

4. A proposal to increase the budget appropriation for new fire department radios, stormwater improvements in several locations, an emergency generator at the wastewater treatment plant and last but not least $560,000 to repurchase property from Energy Northwest will be discussed and comments heard. Pg. 36-40

5. Council will hear comments about the proposal to raise property taxes by 1%.  Pg. 45-54

6. If this proposal for a city surplus sale is approved, you can buy anything from a pickup truck to a front loader.  Pg. 144-148

Public Comments  Check the agenda for how you can have 2 minutes to comment.

Consent Calendar  These items receive little to no comment and one vote for all of them.

Minutes

7. Approval of the October 6, 2020 meeting minutes

Ordinances – First Reading

8. Increasing funding for fire department radios, stormwater facility maintenance, wastewater plant improvements and industrial development. This was discussed in the earlier public hearing, Item 4. Pg. 36-40

9. Potable water cannot be used for irrigation where non-potable water is available. A violation could result in your potable water service being discontinued.  Pg. 40-44

10. Property Taxes  to be increased by 1%.  Pg. 45-54

11. Property Taxes  Pg. 45-54

12. Property Taxes  Pg. 45-54

13. You’re not allowed to discharge a firearm in the city unless it’s at the airport and you’re shooting at animals that could crash an airplane.  But according to the airport officials, shooting is the last resort.  Pg. 55-58

14. If you want to repair your sidewalk and you fill out enough paperwork, the city will reimburse 25% of the costs.  If you don’t clear your sidewalk of snow, you could be in trouble.  Check the rules. Pg. 58-61

15. The definition of a potentially dangerous animal is amended to include an animal endangering someone “on the private property of another.” As written, the same behavior on public property would warrant declaring the animal as potentially dangerous, but no protections are afforded for the same conduct on the private property of another.  Pg. 62-66

16. There’s a deficiency in the definition of Second Degree Criminal Trespass. This remedies that by defining “premises” as “any real property (fenced or unfenced), vehicle, railway car, cargo container, or other similar structure.” This definition will eliminate ambiguity between second degree criminal trespass and first degree criminal trespass, which provides that it is unlawful for any person to knowingly enter or remain, unlawfully, in a building of another.  Pg. 67-69

17. The lodging tax charged to hotel guests and used for tourism promotion in the Tri-Cities will be increased from $2.00 to $3.00 a night. Pg. 70-72

Ordinances – Second Reading & Passage

18. This authorizes a franchise agreement with New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC d/b/a AT&T Mobility. It doesn’t give the company a monopoly and each project must be approved.  There was a hearing and the first reading during the October 6 meeting. Pg. 73-118

19. The unused right-of-way on Robertson Drive will be given to the adjacent property owner. This was the subject of a public hearing and first reading at the October 6 meeting. Pg. 119-123

20. Streets will now have classifications that match state and federal guidelines.  You might want to see where your street falls in these descriptions. Pg. 124-128

21. Zoning of 7.4 acres of the old motel site on Columbia Point Trail near the Steptoe roundabout will be changed from C-2 Retail Business to Limited Business (C-LB).  Pg. 129-143  

 Following are the definitions of the two designations;  

A. The limited business use district (C-LB) is a zone classification designed to provide an area for the location of buildings for professional and business offices, motels, hotels, and their associated accessory uses, and other compatible uses serving as an administrative district for the enhancement of the central business districts, with regulations to afford protection for developments in this and adjacent districts and in certain instances to provide a buffer zone between residential areas and other commercial and industrial districts. This zoning classification is intended to be applied to some portions of the city that are designated either commercial or high-density residential under the city of Richland comprehensive plan.

B. The neighborhood retail business use district (C-1) is a limited retail business zone classification for areas which primarily provide retail products and services for the convenience of nearby neighborhoods with minimal impact to the surrounding residential area. This zoning classification is intended to be applied to some portions of the city that are designated commercial under the city of Richland comprehensive plan. 

Resolutions – Adoption

22. You can buy a surplus truck from the city or a front loader.  Check out the list of available surplus here.  Pg. 144-148

23. The city will spend $664,172.52 for a metal clad switchgear for a new electrical substation to serve the Horn Rapids industrial area. Pg. 149-154

24. The police have received a $27, 500 grant for overtime pay from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission for a high visibility enforcement project.  High visibility enforcement (HVE) incorporates enforcement strategies, such as enhanced patrols using visibility elements (e.g. electronic message boards, road signs, command posts, BAT mobiles, etc.) designed to make enforcement efforts obvious to the public.  The grant goes from October 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021.  Pg. 155-175

Items – Approval

Expenditures – Approval

25. All the City expenditures from September 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021  for $33,279,719.14 are listed.   Pg. 175-225.

Items of Business

26. Council Assignments – The Mosquito Control Board will miss former Councilmember Brad Anderson but, alas, someone else will have to be our representative to that committee.  Now that Brad Anderson has resigned, the council assignments must be shifted around. Anderson’s other positions are now open as well.   Pg. 226-229

Reports and Comments

City Manager, City Council, Mayor – blah, blah, blah.

Executive Session

27. The council has a secret meeting for 30 minutes to discuss lawsuits.

Escape Covid with a tiny town tour

“Wild Life” sculpture by Tom Otterness

Although Covid may have dashed your dreams of a cruise or some other bucket-list trip you had planned, you can still travel. In less than an hour, you can be in Connell.

The Observer highly recommends a walking tour of this tiny town of about 5,600.

In a telephone conversation Connell City Administrator Maria Pena told the Observer, “We are proud of Connell and particularly the art that you will find on our streets and trails.” She recommended the map from the town’s website.

So, grab your map and take highway 395 to northern Franklin County. 

You can stop at Country Mercantile about midway. The Mercantile has produce, both fresh and preserved, as well as a public restroom.

Exit at State Route 260, turn right at Columbia Ave., Connell’s main street. Start your tour at Franklin St. and N. Columbia Ave. 

In addition to the art, Columbia Ave. has a mix of historic, brick buildings constructed after a fire destroyed most of the town in 1905 and newer, mid-century buildings.

Four of Tom Otterness’s six bronze and cast concrete sculptures, “Wild Life” sit along the two blocks between Franklin St. and Borah St. As you walk, you will also see murals depicting local history painted by Pat Boyer.

An Otterness “Wild Life” sculpture. The duck has an ace behind his back.

One of Connell’s largest employers, the Washington Department of Corrections Coyote Ridge Corrections Center working with the State Arts Commission funded the statutes. Local businesses contributed to the Boyer murals.

Coyote Ridge, north of Connell, houses 2100 inmates and employs many of the local residents.

For lunch, both the Pizza Station at 238 N. Columbia Ave. and Papa Ray’s across the street at 245 N. Columbia have carry-out. 

Husband Bob and I enjoyed a delicious hamburger and fries from Papa Ray’s at the table with the Otterness train sculpture next to Connell City Hall and Police Department. According to Pena, “The table and sculpture sit just outside my office window.”

Pena encouraged visitors to have lunch at any of the tables with the sculptures.

Walk about five blocks south on Columbia Ave. to see the other two Otterness sculptures between Elm St. and Gum St.  

On the way to the sculptures, take a short side trip up W. Adams St. to see the 1904 Presbyterian Church which now houses the Connell Heritage Museum. Unfortunately, the museum is currently closed.

Pena pointed out that along Highway 395, the city has installed a one-mile walking path that connects Gum Street and Clark Street. Tall steel flowers by Jean Whitesavage and Nick Lyle sit along the path. Coyote Ridge and the State Arts Commission also funded these.

Connell’s impressive public school complex fills several blocks on W. Clark.

Connell grew from sheep and cattle country to a railroad town after the golden spike joined the western branch of the Northern Pacific Railroad with the eastern branch at Gold Creek, Montana in 1883. Former President Ulysses S. Grant and other luminaries traveled to Montana to celebrate the achievement.

Wells provided the town with water but growth has always strained the supply. Dry land wheat has been the most important product through most of Connell’s history.