Randy’s Recap: Full of surprises, March 23 Richland Council workshop

Editor’s Note: This article has been edited to include a list of the city’s ten infrastructure priorities that Interim City Manager Jon Amundson provided.

Here’s a quick summary of expected and surprise items discussed at the March 23 Richland City Council Workshop. You can watch a video of the meeting at Richland CityView.

Richland police chief supports body and dashboard cameras for officers

Richland Police Chief John Bruce supports body and dashboard cameras for his officers.“They improve behavior of officers and citizens,” he said.  He added that the cameras worked well for the department in Texas that he previously headed. According to Bruce, it could take a year to put the program in place in Richland. He estimated that for five years the program would cost $1,303,951.26.

Most of the city councilmembers agreed with Bruce except Councilmember Michael Alvarez who favored a public vote in November, a suggestion that was ridiculed by Councilmember Terry Christensen.

Guess who’s paying for American Cruise Line’s new dock

ACL will pay $45,000 for the first year of a 15-year contract to have priority docking at the Lee Street dock.

Surprise!! Mexico isn’t paying for the wall and American Cruise Line (ACL) isn’t paying for their new dock at Columbia Point. Your tax dollars will. Richland Parks and Public Facilities Director Joe Schiessl said that either the city or the Corps of Engineers would build the dock and lease it to ACL. I wonder which one it will be (-:

Council doubts promises made by developer of the Columbia River tract (promises, promises ^^^)

Councilmembers wonder whether Pacific Partners out of Eagle, Idaho will compete the project they promised on the D, E and Q tracts near the Columbia Point Golf Course or will they just build apartments and skip out of town without building the offices and retail promised for Phase 2.  Remember, ACL promised to build a new dock.

Water wars

Councilmembers ponder whether the city should make a little extra from water rights assistance to Battelle and West Richland.

The state has a pot of money for trails

The city’s sudden interest in the Island View to Vista Field bicycle and pedestrian trail stems from the Washington state’s special funding pot for such projects. The trail also branches to Meadow Springs. A preliminary package will be submitted in cooperation with Kennewick for $16 million which will include the bridge over Highway 240.

Ten “secret” priority projects

Surprise!! The city has submitted 10 “secret” priority projects to Senator Patty Murray for potential federal funding. I say “secret” because Councilmember Bob Thompson said he didn’t know what they were and added, “They might not be my priorities.” After the meeting Interim City Manager Jon Amundson provided the list below:

R240 / Aaron Drive Interchange Modifications – This project will resolve a regionally significant traffic congestion issue and enable both the City’s downtown redevelopment vision and the regional industrial economic expansion.  The total cost is $30,000,000

Fire Station 76 in Badger Mountain South – The project will enable achieving the City’s standard for response time in this rapidly growing area of the City.  The total estimated cost is $6.5 million for facility and equipment.

Downtown Connectivity Improvements – This project will modify the main streets in downtown Richland to one-way streets so that improved bicycle, pedestrian, and parking options can be provided.  This is the critical infrastructure investment the City plans to make to jump-start the remaking of central Richland into a vibrant downtown that leverages the nearby Columbia River shoreline and park system.  The total cost is $16,600,000, with the possibility of implementing it in phases.  The first phase is estimated to cost $5,000,000.

Island View to Vista Field Trail Bridge – This project will provide pedestrian and bicycle connectivity across SR240 near Columbia Center Boulevard between the  Columbia River waterfront and residential and commercial development south of SR240.  The lack of pedestrian and bicycle connectivity in this area has been identified as the highest priority obstacle in the Tri-Cities to overcome to enable non-motorized travel.  The total cost is approximately $16,000,000.

1,341 Acre Transmission Line – This is a new pair of 115kV transmission lines connecting BPA’s regional transmission system to the newly annexed north Richland properties.  The lines, three miles in length, are needed to support heavy industrial development in this area.  The total cost estimate for this project is $3,000,000.

1,341 Acre Sewer Pipeline – The City and Port of Benton are developing this land transferred from the U.S. Department of Energy to local control several years ago.  The development objective is to recruit large site industrial companies to locate in the Tri-Cities on this unique property.  The sewer pipeline will provide City sewer service to the property, thus enabling it to be near shovel ready for the right industrial development client.  The total cost is estimated at $4,000,000.

Wastewater Treatment Plant Aeration System Upgrade – The City’s 35-year-old wastewater treatment plant requires an upgrade to its aeration treatment process.  The needed upgrade will position the City to continue to support residential, commercial, and industrial development for years to come.  The total cost is estimated at $8,400,000.

Dallas Road Substation – This project will construct a new 25MVA substation on City-owned land in the Badger South area.  The substation is needed to support the rapid growth of this area.  The total estimated cost is $5,000,000

Water System Resiliency Improvements – Pursuant to the federal America’s Water Infrastructure Act, the City recently completed is required system assessment.  The assessment identified facility improvements for site security and electrical energy supply resiliency that are recommended.  The total cost of these improvements is estimated at $3,200,000.

Street Light Retrofit to LED technology – This project will retrofit approximately 5,400 existing old technology street lights to the most current energy-efficient LED technology.  The total estimated cost is $3,000,000.

Rejected – developer Greg Markel’s plan for the old city hall site

Surprise!! Developer Greg Markel submitted an “urgent” offer and proposed plan to the Richland City Council for development on the old city hall site. Nobody knew why the offer was deemed urgent, but it was quickly panned and rejected. Thompson said it looked like a strip shopping center. Lukson pointed out that the so-called, mixed-use development had a total of 11 apartments. Parking seemed to be the focus, possibly to accommodate Markel’s failed Dupus Boomer’s restaurant building on the corner of Swift and George Washington Way.

Councilmembers pay a lobbyist to do their job

Surprise!! Since at least 2009, Richland has been paying lobbyist Dave Arbaugh a retainer of first $2700 a month and now $3000 a month to lobby Olympia.  Why aren’t city councilmembers, state legislators and state senators doing their job? And, if they are, why are we paying Arbaugh??  This issue merits its own article….coming soon.

State Sen. Sharon Brown’s 2005 postnuptial agreement earns her an exemption from financial disclosure.

State Sen. Sharon Brown

September 29, 2020

Editor’s note: This story is a little unusual because it involves a complaint that I made to the PDC following an article that I wrote in July.

Correction:  Sharon Brown received the second highest number of votes in the primary.

The Washington Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) retroactively granted state Sen. Sharon Brown an exemption for her financial record due to her postnuptial agreement. 

Brown is currently running for a local judgeship.

The decision means that she did not violate state rules when she failed to report her then husband’s assets in 2015, 2016, 2017.  According to the PDC, the period prior to 2015 was beyond the statute of limitations for enforcement action.

“Incredulous,” said Benton County Democratic Chair Judith Johannesen when she learned of the decision.

Johannesen went on to say that if agreements between spouses can be used to avoid full disclosure, it frustrates the purpose of the reporting requirement.

The PDC requires that each year all candidates and elected officials submit financial information about themselves and their spouses as well as report campaign contributions and expenditures.

The reports give the public the opportunity to see if there are any conflicts of interest.

John Trumbo, a former reporter with the Tri-City Herald and a member of the Kennewick City Council, submitted a 50-page complaint to the PDC.

Trumbo listed 14 limited liability companies that belonged to Brown’s husband Fraser Hawley that Brown had not listed on her financial disclosure forms.

In its response the PDC explained the decision for the exemption.  

The commission writes that it can grant an exemption if compliance “causes a manifestly unreasonable hardship on the applicant and that granting the modification would not frustrate the purposes of the Act.”

Brown’s attorney, Mark Lamb of Bothell, Washington wrote the commission that Brown “was unable to fully disclose financial information related to her former spouse due to the restrictions of a postnuptial agreement signed in 2005.”

The commission wrote that it granted her the exemption, “therefore relieving her of the obligation of full disclosure.”

Brown married Hawley in 2004.  They divorced in Walla Walla County in 2018.

The complaint from the Observer addressed the $4 million that a business, partially owned by Brown and Hawley, owed Banner Bank.  Brown had signed as a guarantor on the loan according to court records

The Commission agreed with Lamb who argued that “the debt was not owed personally by Brown.”

In closing, the PDC finds, “no further action is warranted and has dismissed this matter.”

Brown has represented Washington’s Legislative District 9 since she was appointed in 2013.  She served on the Kennewick City Council from 2009 to 2013.

Brown’s senate term will expire in 2022. This year she filed to run for a judgeship on the Benton-Franklin Superior Court.  She received the second highest number of votes in the primary and advanced to the November general election.