Police cameras back on the Richland council agenda, Randy’s Rundown Sept. 06

Richland City Council meetings are back to remote.

The Richland City Council meeting will be conducted remotely. Information on how to view the meeting and comment during hearings or during the public comment section of the meeting appears at the top of the agenda.

The page numbers below correspond to the pages in the packet.

On Tuesday night, Chief John Bruce will discuss amending the 2021 city budget to match the $235,259 in one-time funding received from the state for police cameras.

At the June 15, 2021, meeting, Chief John Bruce asked the council to approve joining other local jurisdictions in applying for a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice for a grant. The Observer does not know the status of this grant proposal.

1.Mayor Ryan Lukson will read a proclamation “Recognizing Constitution Week.” Pg. 4-5

2. Allied Arts Association’s 70th Anniversary of Art in the Park will also be recognized with a proclamation. Pg. 6-7

3. New hires and retirements will be recognized. Pg. 8

Public Hearings

4.The city proposes relinquishing a utility easement at 1311 Winslow to the homeowner as the easement is no longer needed.  According to a real estate listing for the property earlier this year that appeared on the website Zillow, this could possibly give the homeowners the ability to divide the property into two lots. Pg. 104-107

5.The proposed amendment would create off-street parking requirements for a new classification of uses referred to as “specialized athletic training facilities.”  Wave Design Group wants to lower the parking from one spot for every 350 sq. ft. of floor space to one per 150 sq. ft. of floor space. The staff proposed cutting the difference and making it 1 per 250 sq. ft. of floor space. The council will debate.

Take this opportunity to read our almost one hundred pages of codes on parking. By the way, two parking places in tandem only count as one. Pg. 174-282.

Public Comments

6. Approving the minutes of the Aug. 17 meeting and the Aug. 24 workshop. Please note that on Aug. 17 when Councilmember Terry Christensen proposed reinstituting pre-meetings, there was no second to his motion.  Pg. 11-21

7. Police Chief John Bruce proposes adding appropriations from the city general fund to the 2021 budget to match the $235,259 grant received from the state for police cameras. Pg. 22-24

8. The Firefighter’s Pension Board membership is largely directed by the state. The fund is required to have a city treasurer. The city’s ordinances had named the Administrative Services Director to be the treasurer, but the city no longer has someone with that title. Therefore, the City’s Finance Director will be designated the treasurer instead. Pg. 25-27

9. See item above. Same thing with the Police Pension Board. Pg. 28-30

10. The annexed property at Zinsli, Allenwhite and Badger Mountain Winery had solid waste service with Waste Management of Washington. This is a transition contract with those companies. Pg. 31-58

11. This is another solid waste transition contract with Basin Disposal, Inc. and Ed’s Disposal, Inc. connected to the annexations mentioned above. Pg. 59-86

12. This solid waste transition contract is connected to the Lorayne J. Annexation. Pg. 87-103

13. See Item 4. Pg. 104-107

14. This approves the final plat of Westcliffe Heights – Phase 4. It will have 62.7 acres with 48 houses and 7 tracts. Pg. 108-163.

15. This authorizes an agreement with Kennewick, Pasco and West Richland for a stormwater effectiveness study and water quality stormwater grant application.  Let’s hope we have some stormwater to control, and soon! Pg. 164-169.

16. Approving up to $5000 in relocation expenses for our new library manager.

17. Let’s call this the humoring Christensen resolution. It opposes local income tax on the residents and businesses of the city of Richland. It would have no effect on a state-wide income tax. There are about 17 states with cities that have some kind of income tax. Eight of them are in the liberal bastions of Mississippi, Alabama, Kansas, West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky, Iowa and Ohio.

18. See Item 5. Pg.  174-182.

Interim City Manager and city council members BLAH, BLAH, BLAH

Before they go into executive session to discuss current or potential litigation.

Man shot by Richland police charged in the case

A special prosecutor appointed by Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller has charged Charlie Suarez with driving under the influence and driving with a suspended license the night he was shot by a Richland police officer.

On Feb. 1 Suarez rolled his vehicle on the I-182 Wellsian Way exit near Fred Meyer and ran from the scene. Police Officer Christian Jabri shot at him five times after spotting him on a pedestrian path.  Jabri said that he thought Suarez was reaching for a gun. Suarez said he had his hands up. 

According to Miller, he appointed Kennewick City Attorney Lisa Beaton to review the Washington State Patrol report which recommended criminal charges against Suarez “to avoid any conflict of interest or appearance of conflict of interest.”

Beaton’s office reported that Suarez has been charged with the two gross misdemeanors.

The next pre-trial hearing for Suarez is scheduled for Sept. 23 at 1:00 p.m. in Benton County District Court.

Fantasy taxes, resurrection of the pre-meeting, school children vs. developers – Randy’s Rundown on the Richland Council’s August 17 meeting

Update Tue. morning: Interim City Manager Jon Amundson confirms that the city will retain a 30′ easement on the Davenport Road extension property as a pedestrian path that can be improved in the future.

Councilmember Terry Christensen hasn’t worried about ignoring the city charter on ethics committees, city manager’s place of residence and other issues. Now he’s ready to re-write the whole thing to address his fantasy problem. According to Christensen, IF the Washington State Supreme Court decides that city income taxes are constitutional and IF Richland decides to have an income tax, it would be bad for business.

While the IF, IF, IF thing is giving him nightmares, he has sweet dreams about resurrecting the pre-meeting that most residents thought was a private, councilmembers only affair before it was axed almost two years ago. Because, gosh, if you don’t read your packet, you need that meeting to have the agenda explained to you.

These two Christensen initiatives will be discussed at the end of the city council meeting. Try to stay awake until then.

The promised 30-foot easement that children who live near Wellsian Way use to walk to school may be on the chopping block. No mention is made of it in the notice for a public hearing to approve the giveaway of the unused Davenport Road right-of-way, Item 8.

To be one step ahead of Christensen, read the packet. Page numbers following the items below correspond to the pages in the packet. Instructions for commenting are at the top of the agenda.

1.Richland Police Chief John Bruce will explain that now that the Washington State Legislature has banned chokeholds and high speed chase he had no choice but to hire an officer with experience firing 27 times at a fleeing vehicle.

2. Picking up where former City Manager Cindy Reents left off, Interim City Manager Jon Amundson will give a COVID-19 update.

PUBLIC HEARING If you follow the rules on the agenda you can comment on Item 3.

3. This amends the 2022-2027 Transportation Improvement Program to include a grants for $1,494,449. These funds will go to the Stevens Drive pavement preservation and the Vantage Highway Pathway. Pg. 52-57.

4. Approval of the minutes from the August 2 and August 9 meetings. Pg. 8-15

5. New rules for accepting gifts. This describes what the city manager will have authority to accept and what the council must approve. Pg.16-20

6. Amendments to the 2021 budget to add solid waste environmental funding (the landfill), sidewalk repair, pavement stripping truck, and repayment to a developer for a street. Pg. 21-25

7. Brad Tapani will pay $828,141 for 8.09 acres on Logan Street in the Horn Rapids Business Center. His price was based on 2018 appraisals. New appraisals are on the agenda. Pg. 26-44

8. This sets September 21, 2021 as the public hearing date for the giveaway of the Davenport right-of-way. The paperwork here makes NO mention of the promised preservation of the 30-foot easement that neighborhood school children use to walk to the crossing light to Carmichael Middle School and Richland High School. We’ll soon see if the councilmembers really care about families. Pg. 45-47

9. There’s a new price list for the city’s Horn Rapids business property, Tapani got in under the wire. Prices went up. Pg. 48-52

10. See Item 3.

11. Tri-City Development Corporation has filed a final plat approval to divide 26.2 acres into 109 residential lots in the Badger Mountain South development. Pg. 58-87

12. An agreement with WRH associates related to the Horn Rapids Landfill Gas-to-Fuel Project. The city will make $100,000 a year for the next 30 years. Pg. 88-94

13. Wendy Higgins is re-appointed to the Tri-City Regional Hotel-Motel Commission. Pg. 95-96

14. July checks. Page. 97-172.

15. Pre-meeting Pg. 173

16. Prohibition on Local Income Tax. Pg. 174-176

City Manager and City Councilmembers do more blah, blah, blah.

Richland Council to vote on reducing bus funding, Randy’s Rundown of the August 9 special meeting

The Richland City Council will hold a special meeting on Monday, Aug. 9 to decide whether to support a proposal from the Benton County and Franklin County Commissions to fund new mental health services by reducing funding for Ben Franklin Transit.

Councilmember Phil Lemley represents the city on the Ben Franklin Transit Board. At the Aug. 2 council meeting Lemley asked the council to decide how they want him to vote on the issue when it comes before the board.

The agenda for the special meeting includes Ben Franklin’s 2022 budget and tax revenue projections.

The county commissions propose reducing the .6% in sales tax that the agency currently receives to .5%. The reduction would require a referendum on the November 2, 2021 ballot.

Under state law, the commissions could raise the sales tax .1% or about a penny on $10.00 without a referendum.

Opponents of the change argue that while a .1% reduction doesn’t sound like much, it represents about $7 million or approximately 17% of the $44 million budget based on 2021 figures. About $35 million of that came from the transit tax.

Opponents also argue that cutting funding for public transit hurts many of the people that the community seeks to help with improved mental health services.

The resolution on the Ben Franklin agenda for Aug. 12 is to DECLINE placing the matter on the Nov. 2 ballot.

This spring Benton County received $2.7 million from the state to study building a mental health facility on 4 acres the county already owns.

The plan to rehab the old Kennewick General Hospital for the facility collapsed when the current owner of the building, LifePoint Health, wanted non-compete restrictions on the sale. LifePoint, a for-profit corporation, owns both Trios Hospital in Kennewick and Lourdes Hospital in Pasco. Lourdes provides some mental health services. LifePoint is owned by Apollo Global Management which currently sells on the New York Stock Exchange for $61.40 a share.

The council will meet at 6:00 p.m. for the special meeting that can be viewed in person at city hall, by ZOOM, or by watching City View Channel 192.

Randy’s Rundown: the Richland council’s Aug. 2 special meeting explained

The council is having their first meeting of the month on Monday instead of Tuesday so councilmembers and staff can attend the National Night Out on Tuesday night. Since the meeting is not at the regular time, it’s considered a “special meeting.”

According to the National Night Out organization: “National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live.”

Information on how to watch the meeting and how to comment for both the hearings and the public comment section are on the top of the agenda.  The page numbers below correspond to the pages in the packet that are included with the agenda.

1.Mayor Lukson will recognize the retirement of Fire & Emergency Services Captain/Paramedic Ryan Nielsen, who retired after 31 years with the City of Richland. Pg. 4

2, Newly hired employees and those retiring are invited to attend the first meeting each month to be introduced to Council. Pg. 5

Public Hearing

3. The 2021 budget will be amended to move around funding for sidewalks, the paving stripe truck, the solid waste operation, and a payback to a developer for a road. Page. 23-27

Consent Calendar

4. Approval of the minutes from the July 20 and July 27 meetings. Pg. 7-17

5. On occasion, citizens desire to make donations to the City of Richland. Donations to the City typically come in the form of cash, property, or equipment, and may be conditional or unconditional. The municipal code will be amended to allow the city manager to make decisions about small donations. The city council will still consider large donations. Pg. 18-22

6. This amends the zoning to allow the waterfront district to have parks and to increase the residential density in the waterfront district and the commercial use districts. Pg. 28-93

7. To authorize carrying over $66,774,494 of unexpended appropriations to the 2021 budget.  Page 93-99

8. This authorizes submission of grant applications to the Washington State Transportation Improvement Board for the Downtown Connectivity Improvements project and the Marcus Whitman School Walking Routes Improvements project. The school project is for sidewalks.  Both grants require matching funds. The Connectivity grant requires matching funds for about $2,000,000 over two years. Public Works Director Pete Rogalsky suggested that the city might have a better chance at the grant if it doubles the match and makes it $4 million. The Marcus Whitman sidewalks match is $100,000. Pg. 100-102

9. Calvin Matson wants to buy 5 acres in North Horn Rapids next to the five he was approved to purchase at the July 27 meeting. The price is $511, 830. Matson must build something on the property within the next 18 months are the sale is null and void. 103-119

10. The council will accept a Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation Grant for External Automated Defibrillators. A gift!! See Item 5.   Page 120

City manager and city council blah, blah, blah. If Bob Thompson is absent again, it will only be blah, blah.

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.