Citizen Journalism: Whatcom County Council Meeting Report for April 23, 2019

In News, Whatcom County Council by CTNW News

The County Executive’s State of the County Address and a heated discussion over apprenticeship programs were the main point of interest at the Whatcom County Council meeting on April 23, 2019.

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

Link to April 23, 2019WhatcomCounty Council meeting agenda
https://whatcom.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=A&ID=657000&GUID=957C14E2-08BC-479B-82B0-D53BC1CA5B7F

Link to April 23, 2019WhatcomCounty Council meeting action taken
https://whatcom.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=E2&ID=657000&GUID=957C14E2-08BC-479B-82B0-D53BC1CA5B7F

Video of the full April 23, 2019WhatcomCounty Council meeting
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhAypd3C4Jk


One set of minutes was on the consent agenda. The following was approved by consent 6-0 with one excused:

A. Approve the minutes of the Board of Health meeting for April 2, 2019.


Special Presentation – State of the County Address

Whatcom County Executive Jack Louws gave his last State of the County Address focusing on some of the successes and disappointments of his time in office. Some successes Louws mentioned are his efforts to improve customer service and make county government more efficient and transparent. One of his biggest disappointments is not being able to move forward with a new jail.

“Financially, I can report that the County is in sound condition,” Louws said. A new administration will take over the County Executive office in January.

Video starting at the State of the County address
https://youtu.be/UhAypd3C4Jk?t=120


Public Hearings –

The first public hearing was over an Ordinance establishing temporary installation of stop signs during construction of the West Badger Road/Bertrand Creek Bridge No 50 Replacement Project. No one spoke to this issue.

Passed 6-0 with 1 excused.

The second public hearing was about an Ordinance adopting amendments to WCC Title 20 Zoning, amending the lot coverage limits for public community facilities in the Residential Rural (RR), Rural (R), and Point Roberts Transitional Zone (TZ) districts.

Mount Baker School District Superintendent Mary Sewright said continuing growth at the school district – which is almost entirely rural – has resulted in maximum use of its school buildings. The district is currently modernizing some buildings but as the ordinance stands they are not able to expand lot coverage or change the footprint of any buildings.

“We need flexibility to expand to meet the needs of our students and our community,” Sewright told the council. “This will enable our district to serve our rural community for years to come.”

Passed 6-0 with 1 excused.

Video starting at Mary Sewright’s comments on zoning amendments for rural schools
https://youtu.be/UhAypd3C4Jk?t=1179


Open Public Comment Session –

Bellingham resident Bob Burr spoke about the United Nations World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) recently released Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2018. The report says 2018 saw record high temperatures and sea level rise, with extreme weather events displacing more that 2 million people. Burr asked the council once again to declare a climate emergency.

Video starting at Bob Burr’s comments
https://youtu.be/UhAypd3C4Jk?t=1461

Bellingham resident Doug Revell also spoke about the global climate crisis. He said increasing rates of extinction – especially among pollinating insects – is a threat to humans and a threat to national security. Revell said he no longer owns a car and has changed to a vegan diet.

Video starting at Doug Revell’s comments
https://youtu.be/UhAypd3C4Jk?t=1694

Bellingham resident Rachel Duval spoke about her experience at Winter Haven, the temporary homeless camp run by HomesNOW! that was opened behind City Hall over the winter. She called it a life-saving experience, and thanked the Council and HomesNOW! for giving her life back.

Video starting at Rachel Duval’s comments
https://youtu.be/UhAypd3C4Jk?t=1893

Doug Gustafson from the nonprofit HomesNOW! spoke about Winter Haven and shared some of the data they collected about the people that stayed there. He said 70 percent of Winter Haven residents have a source of income, 60 percent have a chronic medical condition, and 42 percent were living in a rental apartment before becoming homeless. HomesNOW! has helped 6 residents at the camp find permanent housing.

Video starting at Doug Gustafson’s comments
https://youtu.be/UhAypd3C4Jk?t=2067

Jim Peterson, President of HomesNOW!, spoke about the need for a tiny-home village to house the homeless. He asked the council to help find some land for a tiny-home community and said they now have a green light from the Planning Dept. to build one inside Bellingham city limits. He’s asking for a quarter-acre with access to water and electric, and to use it for a year or possibly two.

Video starting at Jim Peterson’s comments
https://youtu.be/UhAypd3C4Jk?t=2299

Robert Bartel, Training Director for the Northwest Washington Electrical Industry Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee, spoke about the importance of apprenticeships. He said an apprenticeship changed his life, and after July 2023 an apprenticeship will be required by the state to become a general certified electrician.

Video starting at Robert Bartel’s comments
https://youtu.be/UhAypd3C4Jk?t=2516

Lummi Island resident Rhayma Blake, a member of the Lummi Island Ferry Advisory Committee, spoke about the progress of the ferry replacement plan. She asked the council to approve the Committee’s proposed Comp Plan amendments relating to the ferry’s level of service that is scheduled for a public hearing on May 7.

Video starting at Rhayma Blake’s comments
https://youtu.be/UhAypd3C4Jk?t=3202

Bob Gay with the Electrical Workers Union Local 191 spoke about the importance of apprenticeships, saying “that journeyman status is really a journey to the middle class.” The county is currently in the process of creating a Local Employee and Apprenticeship Program (LEAP).

Video starting at Bob Gay’s comments
https://youtu.be/UhAypd3C4Jk?t=3337

Birch Bay resident Patrick Alesse brought council members some chocolate bunny ears – after providing full disclosure of their value – and thanked them for being good listeners.

Video starting at Patrick Alesse’s comments
https://youtu.be/UhAypd3C4Jk?t=3896

James Demerez, a third year apprentice, spoke about the benefits of apprenticeship programs and how it has changed his life.

Video starting at James Demerez’s comments
https://youtu.be/UhAypd3C4Jk?t=4026

Greg Merkel and Todd Epps from the Custer Sportsmen’s Club spoke to the council to express an interest in the future of the county-owned Plantation Gun Range. They offered to help facilitate the continued operation of the gun range and asked the council how they could help. The Plantation Gun Range needs a new roof and ventilation system and the Council has to decide if it’s in the county’s best interests to continue to operate it. Council members expressed an openness in bringing the Custer Sportsmen’s Club into the discussion.

Video starting at Custer Sportsmen’s Club
https://youtu.be/UhAypd3C4Jk?t=4229


Seven items were on the consent agenda. The following were authorized by consent on a 6-0 vote (with 1 excused):

1. Request authorization for the County Executive to enter into a contract between Whatcom County and Pacific Surveying and Engineering, Inc. to provide on-call professional land surveying services for 2019-2020 in the amount not-to-exceed $100,000

2. Request authorization for the County Executive to award Bid #19-24 and enter into a contract between Whatcom County and Lakeside Industries, Inc., for annual hot mix asphalt prelevel work in an amount not to exceed $1,137,999.00.

3. Request authorization for the County Executive to enter into the 2019-2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement between Whatcom County and Teamsters Local 231 representing Master employees.

4. Request authorization for the County Executive to enter into the 2019-2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement between Whatcom County and Washington State Nurses Association.

5. Request authorization for the County Executive to enter into a contract between Whatcom County and the Whatcom Humane Society to provide animal control and shelter services, in the amount of $398,130.

6. Request approval for the County Executive to award Bid #19-15 Rental Rates for Maintenance and Construction Equipment Without Operator to all bidders. The purpose of this bid is to establish prices and identify firms that are interested in providing maintenance and construction equipment for rent to the County on an on-call basis.

7. Request approval to use Pierce County’s RFP #2007, and authorization for the County Executive to enter into a 3-year contract with K&H Integrated Printing Solutions for the printing and processing services for elections, in an amount not to exceed $750,000.00 annually.


Other Items –

(This item was from the Council Natural Resources Committee):

Item 1: Ordinance amending WCC 2.120.040 Membership- Term of Office for Surface Mining Advisory Committee.

Passed 6-0 with 1 excused.

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

Item 2: Request authorization for the County Executive to enter in to an Interlocal Agreement between Whatcom County Flood Control Zone District and Diking District #2 to provide cost-share funding for the Sande-Williams Levee Rehabilitation in the net amount of $68,000. (Council acting as the Whatcom County Flood Control Zone District Board of Supervisors).

Passed 6-0 with 1 excused.

Item 3: Ordinance amending the 2019 Whatcom County Budget, request no. 5, in the amount of $1,613,991.

Passed 6-0 with 1 excused.

Item 4: Ordinance amending the project budget for the Jail Improvement Fund, request no. 4.

Passed 6-0 with 1 excused.

Item 5: Ordinance amending the project budget for the New Jail Fund 2013-2014, request no. 4. Councilmember Sidhu said this is the old budget for the new jail – that’s what it was called at that time – and this ordinance will allow the county to be able to use that money from that fund. The money will be used to supplement the detention door and hardware replacement project plus various other additional improvements at the current jail.

Passed 6-0 with 1 excused.

Item 6: Ordinance amending the 2019 Whatcom County Budget, sixth request, in the amount of $836,000.

Approved 5-1 with Councilmember Frazey voting no and Donovan excused.

Item 7: 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.

Councilmember Sidhu said this item was held in committee to get more information, and will not be voted on at this time.

Item 8: Request authorization for the County Executive to enter into an Interlocal agreement between Whatcom County and North Sound Behavioral Health Administrative Services Organization for participation in the Integrated Care Network to provide behavioral health services in the North Sound Regional Service Area.

Approved 6-0 with 1 excused.

Item 9: Request authorization for the County Executive to enter into an Interlocal Agreement between Whatcom County and Skagit County for Skagit County’s administration of the Housing Community Development Block Grant, in the amount of $2,000.

Approved 6-0 with 1 excused.

Item 10: Resolution of the Whatcom County Council updating the Appendix of the 2015 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). Councilmember Brenner requested an amendment to add “repair” as an option for the NW Annex Building, saying that its an historic building and she doesn’t want to see it torn down.

Amended version approved 6-0 with 1 excused.

(This item had no committee assignment):

Item 11: Resolution supporting fare share funding bills before the Legislature.

Approved 6-0 with 1 excused.


Councilmember Frazey made a motion to authorize the County Executive acting on the behalf of the Flood Control Zone District Board of Supervisors to move forward with and complete acquisition of 3 properties as long as the purchase price of the 3 properties does not exceed the amount discussed in executive session. There was no discussion.

Approved 6-0 with 1 excused.

Video starting at Councilmember Frazey’s motion:
https://youtu.be/UhAypd3C4Jk?t=5717


Executive Appointment to Boards, Commissions, and Committees

1. Request confirmation of Executive Louws reappointment of Arlene Feld to the North Sound Behavioral Health Organization Advisory Board.

2. Request confirmation of the County Executive’s appointment of Michael Parker to the Whatcom County Housing Advisory Committee.


Introduction Items. The following were approved for introduction 6-0 with 1 excused:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Receipt of application for 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). (Application deadline for this vacancy is 10 a.m. April 30, 2019).

4. Receipt of application for 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) (Application deadline for this vacancy is 10 a.m. April 30, 2019).

5. Receipt of application for 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) (Application deadline for this vacancy is 10:00 a.m. April 30, 2019).

6. Receipt of application for the Business and Commerce Advisory Committee, representing for-profit, retail, applicant:  Mr. Dana Weber (committee advises the Whatcom County Council on issues, including regulations and policies that could impact local businesses, industry, or economic development) (Application deadline for this vacancy is 10:00 a.m. April 30, 2019)


Committee Reports –

During the Finance Committee meeting, Sidhu said Human Resources gave a presentation on the county workforce and how they are implementing their staff succession plan.

During the Committee of the Whole and Executive Session, Councilmember Browne said they discussed the Flood Control Zone District Board of Supervisors’ acquisition of 3 properties.

Councilmember Brenner said the Public Works and Health Committee discussed ideas to help the poor, and had a robust discussion on the Local Employee and Apprenticeship Program (LEAP).

Councilmember Buchanan said the Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee discussed the proposed repeal of the county Standards for Correctional Facilities. Buchanan made a motion to request the prosecutors office to draft an ordinance to temporarily suspend Whatcom County Code 1.28 Standards for Correctional Facilities for no more than 12 months. Current correctional facilities operations manuals will be used for the term of the suspension.

Passed 6-0 with 1 excused.

Video starting at Councilmember Buchanan’s report:
https://youtu.be/UhAypd3C4Jk?t=6031


Other Items –

Councilmember Sidhu talked about the proposed Local Employee and Apprenticeship Program (LEAP). He said the discussion shouldn’t be about the value of apprenticeships or if it’s better than a college degree, but how to do it better and encourage more young people into apprenticeships.

Councilmember Browne then withdrew his LEAP proposal saying it had not gone through the normal rule-making process. Browne said he will take comments they’ve received and reach out to trades people for more feedback, then he will redo the proposal and reintroduce it later. Councilmembers Brenner and Byrd told Browne they didn’t agree with his interpretation of the rule-making process and Byrd asked him to reconsider his withdrawal. Browne stood by his decision.

Video starting at discussion of apprenticeship program:
https://youtu.be/UhAypd3C4Jk?t=6176


Councilmember Updates –

Councilmember Sidhu talked about the Alaska Marine Highway and the idea of making it an extension of the I-5. He said he has met with Representative Rick Larson, who is on the Transportation Committee, to discuss the idea.

Video starting at discussion of Alaska Ferry as an extension of I-5:
https://youtu.be/UhAypd3C4Jk?t=7701

Adjourned