Citizen Journalism: Whatcom County Council Meeting Report for May 7, 2019

In News, Whatcom County Councilby CTNW News

A heated discussion over a Local Employee Apprenticeship Program was one of the main points of interest at the Whatcom County Council meeting on May 7, 2019.

The public meeting was called to order at 7:00 pm. Council members Barbara Brenner, Rud Browne, Barry Buchanan, Tyler Byrd, Todd Donovan, Carol Frazey and Satpal Sidhu were all present.

Link to May 7, 2019 Whatcom County Council meeting agenda
https://whatcom.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=A&ID=657001&GUID=C4657A84-A6E7-4EC9-B16B-A036A8100BAC

Link to May 7, 2019 Whatcom County Council meeting action summary
https://whatcom.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=E2&ID=657001&GUID=C4657A84-A6E7-4EC9-B16B-A036A8100BAC

Video of the full May 7, 2019 Whatcom County Council meeting
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_W2neSoW4D8


Public Hearings –

1. An ordinance granting Glenhaven Lakes Club Inc. a franchise and the right, privilege, and authority thereunder to locate, set, erect, lay, construct, extend, support, attach, connect, maintain, repair, replace, enlarge, operate and use facilities in, upon, over, under, along, across and through the franchise area to allow for the provision of water services.

Councilmember Donovan moved to hold the ordinance for consideration until after speaking with legal counsel due to a possible conflict with another franchise agreement. Councilmember Buchanan asked to amend the motion to hold the added language to keep the public record open. No one from the public spoke on this issue. Councilmember Brenner asked about the size of water association. Glenhaven Lakes Water Association Water Manager Al Surratt said it had an area of about 2 square miles.

The motion to hold in council with the added language passed 7-0.

Video starting at discussion of Glenhaven Lakes Club franchise
https://youtu.be/_W2neSoW4D8?t=152

2. Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan amendments concerning the Lummi Island Ferry; the proposal would modify a policy relating to ferry level of service and delete a policy relating to a ferry feasibility study. (The recommended action from staff was to forward for concurrent review. This ordinance could not be adopted this evening. The Council must consider initiated comprehensive plan amendments concurrently so that the cumulative effect of the various proposals can be evaluated. All proposed amendments will be scheduled together for final adoption at a later date.)

Rhayma Blake from the Lummi Island Ferry Advisory Committee said the committee recommends forwarding for further review. She said it’s important to establish metrics and measure the level of service going forward.

A motion to forward for concurrent review passed 7-0.

Video starting at discussion of Lummi Island Ferry
https://youtu.be/_W2neSoW4D8?t=478

3. An ordinance amending the Whatcom County Unified Fee Schedule to include language regarding reducing recidivism, job loss, and education disruption caused by low income County residents serving jail time in other jurisdictions by allowing them to continue to attend school or work if the offense allows for day release in Whatcom County.

No one spoke to this issue. Councilmember Browne said the logic behind it was that if a student is convicted of a low-level offense here a judge can allow them continue going to school and work so they don’t disrupt their education or lose their job. But if the same person is convicted somewhere else, say in Seattle, they can also continue to go to work or school in Whatcom County but they have to pay $116 per day. This allows the County to waive that fee.

Adopted 7-0.

Video starting at discussion of amendment to United Fee Schedule
https://youtu.be/_W2neSoW4D8?t=643


Open Public Comment Session –

The following people spoke:

• Bob Burr spoke about declaring a climate emergency.

• Dana Briggs spoke about declaring a climate emergency.

• Bob Gay spoke about the public participation plan (AB2019-255) regarding the Cherry Point proposed amendment.

• Rod Roth spoke about the public participation plan (AB2019-255) regarding the Cherry Point proposed amendment.

• Miguel Edmondson spoke about the proposed ordinance to require apprentices in County contracts.

• Luis Ergon spoke about the proposed ordinance to require apprentices in County contracts.

• James Demerest spoke about the proposed ordinance to require apprentices in County contracts.

• Ken, a resident from Whatcom County District 2, spoke about the proposed annexation of the Alderwood community.

• Chris Watrobka spoke about the public participation plan (AB2019-255) regarding the Cherry Point proposed amendment.

• Patrick Alesse spoke about protecting the environment.

• Max Perry spoke about water issues and access to information.

Video starting at Open Public Comment Period
https://youtu.be/_W2neSoW4D8?t=809

After the Public Comment Period, council members spoke about the City of Bellingham sharing information regarding annexation plans. Councilmember Byrd said the County and City are communicating. Councilmember Browne said annexation only occurs after a vote of those affected, so any annexation would come up for a public hearing.

Video starting at discussion of annexation plans
https://youtu.be/_W2neSoW4D8?t=2356


Other Items –

(These items were from the Council Finance and Administrative Services Committee):

1. Request authorization for the County Executive to enter into an agreement between Whatcom County, Whatcom Counseling and Psychiatric Clinic, Inc. and T-Mobile West LLC for Third Amendment to Site Easement with Options.

Passed 7-0.

2. Request authorization for the County Executive to enter in to a Cooperative Agreement with the US Army Corps of Engineers for repairs to the Twin View Levee along the left bank of the Nooksack River near the town of Everson in the amount of $357,500 (Council acting as the Whatcom County Flood Control Zone District Board of Supervisors).

Passed 7-0.

3. Request authorization for the County Executive to enter into an Interlocal agreement between Whatcom County and North Sound Behavioral Health Organization to provide match funds for continuing The Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) federal grant activities in Whatcom County, in the amount of $75,469.

Passed 7-0.

4.AB2019-254 Request authorization for the County Executive to award Bid #19-25 and enter into a contract between Whatcom County and Cowden, Inc., for the supply of crushed aggregate to be stockpiled at various Whatcom County pit sites including Point Roberts, Lummi Island and Whatcom County’s Abel Pit and used by the Public Works-Maintenance and Operations Division for the annual chip sealing program; additionally, work shall include hauling of ditching waste material from Point Roberts to Whatcom County mainland, in the amount of $843,248.

Passed 7-0.

5. Request approval of the Economic Development Investment (EDI) Board’s recommendations for funding of the Port of Bellingham’s request for a grant in the amount of $750,000 (for its rural broadband project), and of the Whatcom County Sheriff’s request for a grant in the amount of $515,000 (for its Integrated Public Safety Radio System Project).

Councilmember Donovan had concerns about the Sheriff’s radio program and if it was the best use of EDI funds, but said he’s convinced that it’s an important thing to fund. Councilmember Frazey said the radio program would qualify for EDI funds because it’s an infrastructure project that would bring safety to areas of the county.

Gina Stark with the Port of Bellingham said the rural broadband project would work with Internet Service Providers and “bring jobs to the rural communities.” Councilmember Byrd said he didn’t like how the project would add broadband infrastructure where private companies are already building it. Stark said the Port wants to build a backbone that would reach into areas where private companies won’t build because it’s not profitable. “But if we do this in partnership,” she said, “it works out for us both.”

Several council members said they would prefer if the two projects were not included in the same ordinance. Councilmember Buchanan made a motion to vote on the two items separately. That passed 7-0.

After a little more discussion a motion was made to approve just the rural broadband project. It passed 7-0.

Whatcom County Undersheriff Jeff Parks then told the council that the Public Safety Radio System is in serious need of upgrading. “We probably have the worst system in the state, and that’s no kidding,” Parks said. A motion to approve funding for the radio system passed 6-1 with councilmember Byrd opposed. Byrd said he cant support using EDI funds for the radio system but he does support the project.

Video starting at discussion of funding for broadband project and Sheriff’s radio system
https://youtu.be/_W2neSoW4D8?t=2730

(These items were from the Council Public Works and Health Committee):

6. A resolution in the matter of to consider vacating section of Safsten Road. Councilmember Brenner said the Public Works Committee recommended moving ahead with the engineers’ study on this.

Approved 7-0.

7. Consideration of citizen appeal of address change due to road naming requirement. Frank, a property owner on Loomis Trail Road, wants to keep the address he’s had for 33 years as the road adjacent to his property is being renamed. He told the council he doesn’t think the road needs to be renamed and emergency services have never had a problem finding the area. This appeal only applies to his property.

Request Approved 7-0.

Video starting at Frank’s appeal of address change
https://youtu.be/_W2neSoW4D8?t=5407

(This item was from the Council Planning and Development Committee):

8. Request County Council review and approval of the Public Participation Plan for Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan and Development Regulations (this plan will guide public participation efforts relating to comprehensive plan and development regulation amendments). The draft Public Participation Plan was posted on the County website on March 29 and a public hearing was held April 11. Here is a staff memo describing the program and the proposed changes.

One of the projects in the draft Public Participation Plan was Repeal Cherry Point-Ferndale Subarea Plan. Councilmember Donovan said he received a letter from BP stating that it prefers that the Subarea Plan remain in place. Donovan proposed an amendment to remove that project from the plan. The motion to amend passed 7-0.

The council then approved the substitute draft plan as amended by a vote of 7-0. The final plan as approved by the council is now available on the County web site.

Video starting at discussion of Public Participation Plan
https://youtu.be/_W2neSoW4D8?t=6024


Council Appointment to Boards, Commissions, and Committees

1. Appointment to the Solid Waste Advisory Committee, Business/Industry representative, partial term ending 1/31/2020, applicant: Rodd Pemble (committee provides ongoing public input and advise to Whatcom County on solid waste management issues).

Appointed by a vote of 6-0 with councilmember Byrd out of the room.

2. Appointment to the Wildlife Advisory Committee, applicant: Trevor Delgado (committee advises the Whatcom County Planning and Development Services Department staff and the Whatcom County Council on the value of wildlife and habitat management issues as they relate to the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan).

Appointed 6-0 with councilmember Byrd out of the room.

3. Appointment to the Surface Mining Advisory Committee, representing Forestry, applicant: Aubrey Stargell (committee advises the Whatcom County Planning and Development services Department and the Whatcom County Council on implementing a surface mining regulatory program consistent with the comprehensive Plan).

Appointed 6-0 with councilmember Byrd out of the room.

4. Appointment to fill one vacancy on the Business and Commerce Advisory Committee, representing for-profit, applicants:  Mr. Dana Weber, Ms. Valeri Wade, and Sarah Rothenbuhler. No two appointed members may represent or be employed by the same company or organization.

Mauri Ingram, CEO of the non-profit Whatcom Community Foundation, also applied for the committee. Councilmembers discussed whether or not to consider Ingram, but legal counsel said they would have to amend the ordinance if they want to add a non-profit person. Councilmember Donovan moved to nominate and consider all applicants. That motion passed 4-3.

With four applicants now up for consideration, the Council appointed Sarah Rothenbuhler.

Video starting at discussion of Business and Commerce Advisory Committee applicants
https://youtu.be/_W2neSoW4D8?t=6326


Introduction Items. Items 1 through 6 were approved for introduction 7-0:

1. Ordinance amending Whatcom County Code to restructure the Public Health Advisory Board.

2. Ordinance amending the 2019 Whatcom County Budget, request no. 7, in the amount of $907,787.

3. Ordinance amending the project budget for the Public Safety Radio System Fund, request no. 1.

4. Receipt of application for the Business and Commerce Advisory Committee, representing Health Care Industry, applicant:  Debbie Ahl (committee advises the Whatcom County Council on issues that could impact local businesses, industry, or economic development; application deadline for this vacancy is 10:00 a.m. May 14, 2019).

5. Receipt of applications for the Surface Mining Advisory Committee, applicants: Leslie Dempsey (representing citizen who lives in close proximity to active mining or mineral overlay area),  Harvill Freeland and Scott Hulse (civil or geo-technical engineer with no direct or indirect financial business ties to the industry), Brad Davis (surface mining material user) (this committee advises the Whatcom County Planning and Development Services Department and the Whatcom County Council on implementing a surface mining regulatory program consistent with the comprehensive plan; application deadline for these vacancies is 10 a.m. May 14, 2019).

6. Receipt of application for the Forestry Advisory Committee, forest product manufacturer representative, term ending 1/31/2023, applicant:  Eric Jacoby (committee provides review and recommendations to the Whatcom County Council on issues that affect the forestry industry; application deadline for this vacancy is 10 a.m. May 14, 2019).

Item 7 was introduced in a separate vote:

7. Ordinance amending Whatcom County Code Title 3, requiring that public funds used for construction projects do double duty by also providing apprentices with job training hours to meet the requirements necessary to become the next generation of skilled trades persons. (This was added to the agenda May 6).

Councilmembers got into a heated discussion over which committee should be assigned to review and discuss this item if it gets introduced. Browne, who was the primary writer of the ordinance, said he planned to assign it to the Committee of the Whole but then proposed sending it to the Finance and Administrative Services Committee. Byrd said the last time this item was discussed they voted to assign it to the Public Works Committee. He accused Browne of pulling it from introduction and reintroducing it just so he could put it in a different committee that he would have more control over. “That’s not cool,” he said. “That’s not great public process.”

Video: https://youtu.be/_W2neSoW4D8?t=6882

Browne basically agreed that he pulled the item and reintroduced it because he didn’t like the Council’s decision to assign it to Public Works. “This is about putting it in the committee that it was supposed to be in in the beginning,” Browne said.

“You’re controlling things,” Brenner replied, “just exactly what you’re going to be doing with that if it’s in Committee of the Whole.”

Video: https://youtu.be/_W2neSoW4D8?t=7329

Byrd told Browne he had no reason to pull it and reintroduce it “unless it’s a control issue.”

Video: https://youtu.be/_W2neSoW4D8?t=7789

Councilmember Browne’s proposal to assign the ordinance to the Finance Committee was approved 4-3, but a motion to accept the Introduction Item with Browne’s amendment failed by a vote of 3-3 (with Sidhu abstaining). Councilmember Donovan then moved to introduce the item with no committee assignment and that motion passed by a vote of 6-1 (with Byrd voting no).


Committee Reports –

Councilmember Donavan said the Natural Resources Committee heard an update about the Parks Dept. including their customer relations surveys, tree clearing at the Silver Lake campground, and that they’ve had more than 1 million visitors to the Parks system this year.

Councilmember Brenner said the Public Works Committee discussed the Scottish Highland Games festival at Hovander Park and the requirements that the organizers have had to deal with. They also discussed progress on the Deer Creek Water Association franchise.


Councilmember Updates –

Donavan spoke about getting state money for the Crisis Triage Center project but it’s still not enough to put the project out to bid. “We have state money, we have the site, we have the plans, it’s essentially ready to go.” He said the council needs to move forward with a funding plan to get the center started.

Byrd spoke about donating food to the homeless. He said he attended a buffet recently and afterward they had to throw the leftover food in the garbage. They used to donate it to the Lighthouse Mission for the homeless, but a Health Dept. rule now forbids it. Byrd said they should do something to change that. Councilmembers suggested presenting the idea to the Health Committee or the Public Health Advisory Board.

Video starting at Councilmember Updates
https://youtu.be/_W2neSoW4D8?t=8998

Adjourned