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

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

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

Declaring Property at Lawless and Thayer Surplus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transportation Grant Opportunities

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

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

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

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

North Horn Rapids Transmission Planning & Scheduling

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the information provided by Amundson:

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

Also up for discussion:

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

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

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

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

Linemen

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

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

One dollar property sale

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

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

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

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

Boring also mention the need for a homeless shelter.

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

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

Christensen Complains about voting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Washington State Capitol in Olympia

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

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

RICHLAND 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DoE property proposed for annexation.

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

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

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

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

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

Consent Calendar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Electric Rental Scooters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wheeled All-Terrain Vehicles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So back to the all-terrain vehicles…

According to state law:

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

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

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

A discussion of the budget process follows.

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

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

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

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

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

Presentations

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

Public Hearing

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

3. Approval of the June 1 meeting minutes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

16. Checks for May.  Pg. 218-298

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

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

Blah, blah, blah by interim city manager and councilmembers

End of meeting

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

Richland Days Inn Hotel

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

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

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

Elsahili has several other similar projects in the Pacific Northwest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Juneteenth Celebration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Public Safety Facilities Planning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dwelling Unit Size

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

Hotel conversions have become a new thing.

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

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

Public Art Survey Discussed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m sure everyone looks forward to these discussions.

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

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

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

Public Hearing

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

Public Comments

Consent Calendar (no discussion, one vote)

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. See Item 1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15.April Checks – Pg. 233-335

Blah, blah, blah.

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

Interim City Manager Jon Amundson
National Infertility Awareness Week

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshot from May 4 Council meeting

Screenshot from May 4 council meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PUBLIC HEARINGS

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

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

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

PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD

CONSENT CALENDAR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ITEMS OF BUSINESS

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

Council will BLAH, BLAH. BLAH