Randy’s Rundown: Richland City Council Feb.16 agenda explained

Randy has simplified the Rundown.

Go to the city council agenda and packet for details on the city council agenda.  The item numbers below correspond with the item numbers in the agenda. Page numbers following the item correspond to the pages in the packet.

  1. Richland Art Commission will make two awards recognizing contributions to the arts. Pg. 4

2. Arts Commission Chair Dr. Jeff Kissel will discuss the 2021 commission work plan. Pg. 5

3. TRIDEC (Tri-Cities Economic Development Council) Annual Report from Karl Dye President.  Pg. 6

4. PUBLIC HEARING —    for Traffic Signal Systemic Safety Upgrades Project. I would like to tell you what this is about, but I have no clue. In Seattle this means making the walk signals last longer so a pedestrian can safely cross the street. The city will spend around $500,000 and receive a grant.  Here’s what is written:  “Upgrades project is designed to upgrade traffic signal equipment throughout the City, providing improved functionality at signals and making travel movements more efficient and safe through a combination of enhanced visibility and electronic controls.” City hall is closed Monday. You have Tuesday until 4:00 p.m. to find out what this is about and sign up to comment. — (go to the agenda for instructions on how to provide a three-minute comment). Pg. 62-65

PUBLIC COMMENTS – go to the agenda and read the rules. You get 2 minutes to talk about whatever your heart desires.

5. Approve Council Minutes for the Feb. 2 council meeting and the Feb. 9 workshop. Pg. 8-17

6. Bike Lanes will be added to Swift, Goethals and Williams when they are repaved and parking on other streets will be limited to make way for bike lanes.  Check out the list.  Pg. 18-30

7. The city council doesn’t want to listen to you complain if your sign application was rejected so your appeal will now go to the hearing examiner rather than the city council. Pg. 31-36

8. If you are thrown off your property for a public works project, you have to follow these rules for relocation assistance.  I highly recommend good legal representation. Pg.37-41

9. Twenty-three homes will be squeezed on to 4.2 acres in the Clearwater Creek development between Clearwater and Center Parkway. Pg.42-58

 10. Order of Agenda Items for Richland City Council Meetings is modified. Before you start scratching your heads, this is a typical Richland city process. They change, then codify the change years later. Apparently, the current agenda doesn’t look like it did back in the 1990s. Pg. 59-61

11. YIKES, just YIKES. Traffic Signal Systemic Safety Upgrades. This was the subject of the public hearing, item 4. You have until 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday to figure out what it this is about and call to put your name on the list to comment.  GOOD LUCK.  Monday is a holiday. Here’s what it says: “On February 14, 2021, notice was published that a public hearing would be held on February 16, 2021 to take public testimony regarding this proposed amendment. Barring any compelling public testimony to the contrary, staff recommends adoption of Resolution No. 23-21.”😂  The project will cost almost $500K but a grant has been obtained. Pg. 62-65

12. Councilmember Bob Thompson will be appointed to the Hanford Advisory Board until the end of 2021. Thompson told his fellow councilmembers during a workshop last Tuesday that he wanted the job and the council gave it to him. Long time Richland representative Pam Larsen resigned last year. Pg.66

13. Expenditures — all checks written in January pg. 67-147

14. The city will rezone 3.1 acres at Steptoe and Center Parkway in Clearwater Creek from AG (agriculture) to C-1 (neighborhood retail). If you have anything to say about this, you’re out of luck. The case is closed.  Pg. 148-161

15. The city will rezone 2.9 acres located at 1769 Leslie Road from C-LB (limited business use district) to C-3 (general commercial) so a Goodwill resale store can be built there.  Interestingly, the Round Table Pizza Restaurant next door does not conform to the C-LB zoning and changing this area to C-3 brings it into compliance. Pg. 162-175

16. This Benton County Jail agreement will require the City to pay 7.48% of the net operating costs for the jail (based on a fiscal rolling 3-year average). This is an increase from the 2020 rate of 7.43% assuming net operating costs and bed days remain constant, this jail contract will cost the City approximately $1,300,000. Pg. 176-191

17. The City Council will discuss the terms of Interim City Manager Jon Amundson’s Contract. Pg. 192

BLAH, BLAH, BLAH This is when the mayor and council get to talk for as long as they want about whatever.

Covid-19 has made more Tri-Citians dependent on the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court could strike down in June

If the Supreme Court declares the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, thousands of Tri-Citians could suddenly find themselves without health insurance when the program’s total enrollment has grown.

About 31,000 Benton and Franklin county residents had no health insurance in 2014, according to the Washington State Office of Financial Management. By 2018, that number had fallen to about 21,000.

Many of the newly insured obtained coverage through the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid, which includes people with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty line.

The ACA also gave people like small business owners and others who were not covered by an employer an option for insurance.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments last November about the ACA’s constitutionality. The court will decide by the end of June 2021.

If the law is scrapped, more families will find it impossible to pay for insurance coverage. Others may have to pay budget-busting premiums.

Some people with no insurance may put off preventative care if they cannot afford to visit a doctor. Not treating problems like high blood pressure and diabetes will result in unnecessary suffering and more expensive care as the conditions worsen. Neglect could also be life threatening.

“They make you beg for it”

According to one local woman I call Jane to protect her privacy, “The Affordable Care Act has been a real blessing.” 

Jane said that before the ACA, she had to apply for high-risk insurance because of her blood cancer. Since this type of coverage does not usually transfer from state to state, she had to reapply when she moved to Washington. 

“Over the years,” she said, “based on my income, insurance premiums have gone down because of the ACA.”

Without the ACA, more patients will be forced to apply for charity to cover their hospital bills. Washington requires hospitals to offer charity care for anyone below 200 percent of the federal poverty level — about $24,000 for a single person, and around $52,000 a year for a family of four.

Two indigent patients described the difficult process.

“Dolores,” who is disabled and on assistance, said that at Walla Walla St. Mary’s Hospital, “They make you beg for it.” 

“I’m on disability and have no secondary insurance and I get food assistance and housing assistance,” Dolores said. “It should be pretty clear that I am an indigent patient, and they know well ahead of the game what Medicare agrees to pay and what I will be left owing.

“I told them from the beginning that I couldn’t pay,” she said.  “They let me flounder and go to collections instead of trying to work with me from the beginning.” 

The state requires that the availability of payment relief be publicly displayed throughout the hospital including the places that patients check in. 

Dolores said she didn’t believe that the hospital’s efforts to publicize the availability of the charity care were adequate.

It took her a year to settle her bill, about $8,000.

Another patient, “Cynthia,” had a different experience. She arrived at Kadlec after being hit by an SUV. She received $25,000, the minimum amount of liability insurance that a driver must have, so she could hire an attorney to help her negotiate the system.  He worked with the surgeons and hospital to reduce the bills. To prove that she was truly indigent, her lawyer gave Kadlec a picture of his client working at her low-wage job. 

“I received bills after I thought I’d received all of the charity I applied for,” Cynthia said. “My attorney’s final (donated) assistance was to successfully pressure them to reconsider.”

Even with legal assistance, it took Cynthia over a year to settle her hospital bills, about $78,000.

State has limited protections

Washington passed a law to protect several popular consumer protections if the ACA is repealed. Insurers in Washington cannot impose life-time caps or exclusions for pre-existing conditions and adult children under 26 must be allowed insurance on their family’s plan.

However, in an Oct. 15 letter, Gov. Jay Inslee and state health officials told U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell that state law “provides no protection for Washingtonians who simply cannot afford the coverage.”

Inslee and the officials also pointed out that since the COVID-19 pandemic, 80,000 more people statewide have enrolled in Medicaid expansion. Based on the Tri-Cities population, that could mean as many as 3,200 more people here are covered under Medicaid.

Inslee and state health officials predicted “a total loss of $4.2 billion annually in federal funds for residents across the state who currently receive free or low-cost coverage under the ACA” if the federal law is struck down.

Randy’s Rundown: Richland City Council Feb.2 agenda explained

Feb.1 — Item 9 has been edited to clarify that the city owes Viking Builders $266,250,06 for improvements to Gage Blvd.

Cindy Reent’s finalized separation agreement and Phil Lemley’s proposed ethics committee do not appear on this agenda

Go here for the agenda and the packet of information that accompanies it.  The pages following the items below correspond to the pages in the packet.

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

Welcome and Roll Call

Pledge of Allegiance

Approval of Agenda

Presentations:

  1. LIGO ( Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) Month

2. Annual Development Service Update – Kerwin Jensen, Development Services Director

Public Hearings: If there were any hearings, you would have 3 minutes to talk about them.

Public Comments: You have 2 minutes for public comment. You can phone and make your comment (instructions on the top of the agenda) or you can submit them to be read by a city staff member in a flat, boring, emotionless voice. In any case, questions are forbidden. Councilmembers will sit there with a straight face and appear to be listening.

Consent Calendar: This is where they put things like 15-year leases on city docks. No one will say a word and there will be one vote on all at the end.

3. Minutes: Jan.19 and Jan.26 city council meeting minutes will be approved. Pg.8-15 These minutes tell you next to nothing about what happened at the city council meeting. But this exciting news is recorded:  January 19 Councilmember Marianne Boring moved to take a land sale contract off the consent calendar because of “naming inconsistencies between the purchase and sale agreement and the proposed resolution and asked that the inconsistencies be remedied before execution of the documents.” Wonders never cease at Richland City Council. Somebody asked to remove something from the consent calendar for discussion.

Ordinances – First Reading

4. This ordinance outlines restrictions for relocation assistance for people who are evicted from their property after an eminent domain proceeding takes it for a public project. All the many deadlines for appealing decisions have been listed. I hope anyone whose property is taken has a good attorney. This deserves a discussion but fat chance of that.  Pg.16-20.

Ordinances – Second Reading & Passage

Nothing here.

Resolutions – Adoption

5. The Council will distribute $145,000 from the Business License Reserve Fund — $25,000 for the business recovery and resiliency program, $14,000 for stage-2 businesses looking to expand, $6,000 for the Uptown Business District alley art program and $100,000 for the commercial façade improvement program.  This leaves $22,690 left in the fund. Pg. 21-23

6. The Port of Benton will pay the city $300,000 to be included in the city’s slurry seal road preservation project. The city will put the slurry seal program up for bid.  The approved Richland 2021 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) has authorized $2,230,000 for the 2021 Pavement Preservation Program. If you read Randy’s Rundown for Jan. 19, you should be up to speed now on pavement preservation. Pg. 24-29

7. This authorizes an agreement with TRIDEC for Marketing and Representation Services. TRIDEC maintains a list of city properties on its website.  You can read 16 pages about what TRIDEC is doing to promote the Tri-Cities. Pg. 30-46

8. Oops, another city boo-boo. This corrects the city’s compensation plan for unaffiliated employees to include an inflation adjustment that was omitted when it was approved on November 17, 2020. As an example, look at the first person on the list, “Accountant.” In November, the minimum hourly wage was $32.26 but with the 1.3 percent adjustment, the minimum is now $32.68.  The item first appeared on the no questions asked consent calendar just like this one does. Pg. 47-52.

9. The city is responsible for building major roads and one way they pay for that is via development impact fees charged to home buyers. Viking Builders completed road improvements on Gage and the cost exceeded the impact fees from their development, The Reserve at Summerview Terrace. Since it was the responsibility of the city to pay for the road, Viking will receive the overage $266,250.06 in installments from impact fees collected elsewhere. The first installment is $50,000 and Viking will be paid the remainder quarterly as fees become available. Pg.53-60.

10. Intermountain Materials Testing & Geotechnical will be awarded a 5-year contract not to exceed $75,000 a year for materials testing services. The company will test cement, asphalt and other materials to assure that it meets applicable standards. Four companies submitted bids.  Intermountain was founded by Marianne Boring and her husband. This could be a conflict of interest for Boring. By definition a conflict of interest occurs when a party has competing interests or loyalties. A conflict of interest does not just apply to a “financial” conflict.

 11. The city has agreed to a settlement regarding sewer and water service to Jolene and Michael Grimes who purchased their property at 1061 Allenwhite Drive in 2008. Somehow, the city limits went around a few acres there, possibly because development occurred around an older existing home. In 2002 the city agreed to extend water and sewer to that home. After the Grimes purchased the home in 2008 and divided the lot into 1061 and 1063, they asked the city to extend the water and sewer to the second lot. The city said the 2002 agreement only applied to one lot and advised the Grimes to apply for annexation. They have applied. While annexation is going through the process the city is providing the water and sewer to the second lot at the expense of the owner.  Pg. 77-82

Items – Approval

None

Expenditures – Approval

None

Items of Business:

None

Reports and Comments:

blah, blah, blah  

At the end of the Jan. 19 meeting Thompson pitched ivermectin as a drug for treatment and prevention of COVID. Ivermectin is an ingredient in canine heartworm medicine and in head lice remedies. This drug along with every other drug on the planet is being STUDIED for use against COVID but Bob is ready to prescribe it to the masses. I just hope he doesn’t have a dog.

Executive Session:  Secret session to evaluate qualifications of an applicant or to review the performance of an employee (60 minutes).

Is this about the terms of Cindy Reent’s termination agreement???  The council meeting minutes for the December 15, 2020 meeting says: “City of Richland and City Manager Reents have mutually agreed to enter into a separation agreement, although the terms of the agreement have yet to be finalized.” The finalized agreement must be approved in open session.

Parks Director tries to sell Richland City Council on dock contract it already approved. Members weren’t buying

In what sounded at times more like a sales pitch than a Richland City Council workshop meeting, City Parks and Facilities Director Joe Schiessl tried to sell the council on a contract the council approved on Dec. 15. 

Councilmembers clearly had second thoughts. 

Councilmember Michael Alvarez interrupted Schiessl’s presentation at the Jan. 26 meeting to say, “Why didn’t we get this workshop prior to Dec. 15, 2020 ?”

Schiessl responded, “That’s a great question. There are a lot of ways for staff and council to interact.”

Mayor Ryan Lukson said, “It’s clear that there was a policy decision made here and we didn’t have enough information.” He added, “No one on council knew we were making a tradeoff decision.”

The council’s Dec. 15 agenda packet included the contract and other information on pages 91-106.  No councilmember asked a question about it before they voted to approve it.

The contract allows American Cruise Line (ACL) to control the use of the Lee Street dock for the next 15 years for $45,000 the first year.

Schiessl said, “The city is out of the dock scheduling business.”

The contract leaves three other cruise companies, American Queens Steamboat Company (AQSC), Lindblad Expeditions, and Uncruise Adventures high and dry. 

ACL said in council documents that it predicts it will double the number of passengers it currently brings to Richland by adding two new vessels in 2022. 

Schiessl repeated the claim Tuesday as a way of justifying the contract. 

According to Schiessl, ACL currently brings about 12,000 passengers to Richland. AQSC brings 7,500, and the other two lines combined bring about 1,000.

ACL’s contract requires that it allows other cruise lines to make reservations one year in advance for dates that ACL doesn’t use.  

AQSC representative Eric Denley told the council Jan. 15 that his line prepares its schedule two or three years in advance. He said AQSC would not be able to dock here under the new contract. 

Denley expressed disappointment that his company was not included earlier in the discussions. 

AQSC and ACL’s websites show the companies are accepting reservations for 2022 cruises that come to the Richland dock.

Lee Street dock took three years to plan and build along the shoreline the city already owned. The dock was completed in 2004 and cost $591,000, not counting staff salaries. 

The city hasn’t charged user fees because the city looked at the dock as an economic development tool, Schiessl said. 

He estimated that with the possible increase in traffic from ACL in 2022, the cruise ships could bring $5.5 million in tourist dollars to the Tri-Cities area.

“ACL is digging deep and making very significant capital investment in ships,” Schiessl said. “They desire to have exclusive control of the facilities at every port of call.” 

He promoted the idea of a new dock to be built by ACL at Columbia Point and showed a conceptual drawing of the dock site, including commercial development around it and a city park, but he also admitted, “We certainly don’t have an agreement for a new dock or a timeframe.”

Councilmember Terry Christensen admitted that he probably should have asked more questions on Dec. 15.  He said he did not want to lose customers speculating on what might happen in the future. We’re taking care of the big guy instead of taking care of them all.  He asked, “Can we revise our agreement?”

Lukson, an attorney, said, “There’s no wiggle room in the contract.”

Councilmember Bob Thompson, also an attorney, added that contracts are not written to accommodate the whims of city councilmembers.

“Everybody is going to work together and hopefully we will reach a kumbaya moment,” Lukson said.

Richland has sold off the Lee Street dock for the next 15 years. Councilmembers now have questions

Lee Street Dock

The Richland City Council regularly approves multiple items on a consent calendar with one vote and no discussion.  Over a month after voting on Dec. 15 for 14 items that included a 15-year contract for American Cruise Line (ACL) to take over the Lee Street Dock, Richland City Council members say they need more information.

The councilmembers had second thoughts when the attorney for the competing cruise line, American Queen Steamboat Company, complained about the contract during citizen comments at the Jan. 19 city council meeting.

The contract requires that ACL pay the city $45,000 the first year to have priority docking. ACL must provide reservations to other businesses one year in advance.

According to American Queen’s Eric Denley, “It practically makes it impossible for a company like ours to come to Richland.” Denley explained that American Queen schedules two to three years in advance and is working on its 2023 schedule now.

Denley pointed out that his company’s cruises brought 12,102 visitors to Richland in 2019 and contributed $2.7 million to the local economy. 

Mayor Ryan Lukson said later in the meeting, “I wasn’t aware of some of the details that Mr. Denley brought forward.” 

Councilmembers Phil Lemley, Sandra Kent and Terry Christensen also said that they would like more information. The packet that accompanies the agenda for the Dec. 15 meeting included the contract on pages 92-106

Lukson, Kent and Councilmember Bob Thompson are attorneys.

Any member of the council can ask to have a consent calendar item pulled for discussion and a separate vote, but on Dec. 15 no one asked to pull the dock contract.

Lukson and Director of Parks and Facilities Joe Schiessl declined to answer The Observer’s questions about the status of the contract and how much the cruise ships paid for docking in 2019, the last normal year for cruises.

The cover sheet and resolution for the contract approval mention that “talks are underway” about a new dock that ACL will build at Columbia Point, but Denley pointed out during citizen comment that there is no requirement in the contract for such a dock.

Astoria, Oregon awarded a contract to ACL in 2019 to manage their dock after a bidding process that included American Queen. The Observer spoke with Astoria Public Works Director Jeff Herrington who said the contract had worked out well for the city and he had not heard any complaints about scheduling.

In a phone call with Denley, he told The Observer, “We found out earlier in the process and were able to get some certainty in that contract.”

According to Denley, the Richland contract has already been signed. He said that while he was disappointed that his company had not had the opportunity to participate in the process, he appreciated that city staff had reached out to him the day after his comments and offered to assist his company in finding an alternative.

The Richland City Council plans to discuss the matter at its Jan. 26 council workshop session that begins at 6:00 p.m.

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

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

Correction: Item 4, the City of Richland is selling the property not buying the property.

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 to 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 sell 3 acres instead of 2.56 acres at the northeast corner of Kingsgate Way and Clubhouse Lane. The AK investment 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 for commercial development near the traffic circle into the new Horn Rapids Commercial Plaza.

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.