Benton Commissioners meet to discuss putting a crisis recovery center in the old Kennewick hospital – by Mike Lowery*, Guest Writer

This was a special Benton County Commissioner’s meeting at 6 pm on 9/1/21 to informally
discuss matters regarding the creation of a Crisis Recovery Center (CRC) at the old Kennewick Hospital also known as the Trios Auburn property at 8th and Auburn in Kennewick.

The Meeting Agenda

The matters highlighted in the agenda included:

1, Discussing a .01% sales tax, a penny on every ten dollars spent in Benton county to help fund the CRC,

2. Creating an Advisory Committee for the CRC,

3, Discussing the Property Condition Assessment Report for the Trios Auburn Property.

I attended the meeting by video so I was not sure which commissioners were speaking at times because of face mask. When I refer to “the Board” I mean it in general. Not all of the Board agreed with everything I heard them say. It was hard to hear “who said what”. They were all there, Commissioners Shon Small, Jerome Delvin and Will McKay.

The commissioners shared that they were eager to move forward on the project and wished for
public input for almost all matters associated with the CRC.

Sales Tax

Concerning the tax, they know discussions need to be held but are in support of moving forward with the process because as they mentioned it will serve our community greatly.

If I heard correctly one of the Board supports a half of .01% tax increase if Franklin County gets involved. We heard an audience member support that value. Others that spoke agree with the full amount of .01% with or without Franklin Co.

While it is uncertain whether Franklin County will be involved, Benton is moving forward and all who
spoke this evening were in support.

It was also shared that revenue from the tax in our county should be about five million dollars a year. Since no budget was mentioned, it’s hard to understand if it’s fair.

Treatment for Children and Teens

Many people in the room and the Board want the CRC to deal with
children and teens. The board mentioned our juvenile justice center and jails are crowded with
people who just need mental attention. Helping younger children saves the community from
potential social unrest and improves everyone’s quality of life. The lack of services in our
community is stressing caregivers, our police officers and our small mental health community. It’s
clear the Board is listening to the community.

Mobile mental health team

The Board and some people in the audience want to see in the budget a quick response mobile mental health team to reduce officers’ time at a scene when they can serve us better elsewhere. Secondly the Board and some community members were clear on providing free services for the everyone who needs it in the first 24 hours.

The Advisory Committee

An Advisory Committee was discussed in some detail and both the Board and the attendees
were in agreement one should be created. The number 13 was discussed before the meeting
for amount of people needed on the committee, all with skills needed for task.

Several audience members offered to help, many very qualified it sounded. You can’t see them on the video stream. One gentleman with over 40 years experience and several degrees in counseling and
rehabilitative services mentioned it sounded like the board was evaluating some old data for inhouse detox/rehab. He said that more recent data has suggested that out-patient detox and rehab were more

Seems like a good thing to know. There was no discussion as to whether the Advisory Committee will
have the luxury of visiting other facilities as the Board did. It does seem apparent a
single provider is in the Board’s mind and that may be something the advisory committee will
help with.

Rehabbing the hospital building

Finally there is the issue of the old building’s health and what will it cost to get it
running. No one from a construction background opened up to being on the advisory board but I
am sure the Board will assign someone. The Wave Design Group did the assessment on the old
hospital and here is what they found. This is a copy from the weekly meeting held at 9 am this
same day.

Architectural Assessment of Building Façade
o Building Roof
o Interior finishes
o ADA Compliance

Structural Assessment o Foundations
o Building frames
o Water damage
o Recommendations

Mechanical Assessment
o HVAC Components
o Maintenance Costs
o Service Water

Electrical assessment
o Lighting and receptacles
o Utility Service
o Emergency Back-up power
o Electrical Power Distribution Equipment

Estimated costs

Could be phased construction and use of the building doors until ADA replacement – $1,000 per door
10 doors= $10K, Wave didn’t say how many. Restrooms – $25,000 per restroom, 4 restrooms = $100K, how many are there? Wave didn’t say. How many need reconfigured? It depends on over all design.
Investigation of water intrusion – $20,000. They could not give an estimate of the
cost of repair until the investigation report was complete, in my home owner experience it will
cost more!
Structural repairs – minimal – $10,000 for fire proofing
Mechanical – $1.4 million – complete like-for-like replacement – end of life (not
necessarily needed to be the same high level as a hospital, but this was “worst case
Electrical – replacement of outdated – $50,000
If this all holds true and we just do 10 doors and four bathrooms it will cost about $1,590,000. I
think the county has 2.5 million. then there is the water issue…..

In all the Board was pleased with the numbers. Now this is me thinking. Notice there is no
number for ambience like paint, lighting and other creatures comfort like chairs, and desk.
Rooms for people that may harm themselves, cameras and a way to process that data. Then
there is security and making areas inaccessible from patients and public. We need workers to
feel safe and able to practice without fear and in comfort. Some of this capital spending we need
upfront with security doors, hard-wired cameras and then bullet-proof windows. I’m not sure
security has been mentioned much.

There is easily another million or two they will need to get the building going before people are in it. It sounds like the .01% tax is just for operational needs. Staff and support staff for such a large facility needs discussion, maybe cities can pitch in. Cities will save resources in areas that the CRC will cover.

Who knows? This is what the planning meetings are for. There are more coming. We need a nice facility to help people move forward in a positive way.

Retraining facility?

Those were the three issues discussed during the meeting. I will add, a lady said she was
worried if we built this the Federal government may take it over and teach people what to think?
She said she wasn’t a conspiracy theorist. I have only heard of Retraining facilities in Russia, N.
Korea and China. No one confirmed this wouldn’t happen, so who knows maybe she is
right…..Everyone at the meeting was in favor of this project with or without Franklin County.

*Meet Mike

Hi, I am Mike Lowery and will be helping the Observer cover events in Benton County. I have
spent about 25 years of my 60 year life in the Tri-Cities, most in Richland. After Army and a
short career working on boats I went on to college at CBC. Then I worked 15 years on
commercial nuclear power plants. We moved back to Tri-Cities and been in Richland for 20
years. I tried to help Hanford for 18 years. I have three degrees from Columbia Basin College,
yes that’s weird. Studied economics and religion at Liberty University, St. Leos College in FL,
University of Illinois, University of Washington more at CBC. House dad now to my working wife,
two cats and a dog. Our boy’s all work and study in the northwest. I spend time riding my eletric
bike or crashing it, building small wood and metal projects, enjoying Electronic Music and
camping. Writing is something I love to do but not very good at it.

Benton County won’t see windfall from Easterday land sale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The PDC has not resolved Torrelli’s complaints.