Citizen Journalism: Whatcom County Council Meeting Report for June 4, 2019

In Local Government, News, Whatcom County Council by CTNW News

Restricting the use of wakeboard boats on Lake Samish and an ADA Transition Plan were the main points of interest at the Whatcom County Council meeting on June 4, 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 June 4, 2019 Whatcom County Council meeting agenda

Link to June 4, 2019 Whatcom County Council meeting action summary

Video of the full June 4, 2019 Whatcom County Council meeting

Public Hearings –

1. Resolution authorizing the sale of surplus personal property pursuant to WCC 1.10.

Councilmember Brenner said she wouldn’t support this resolution because 11 of the surplus items for sale didn’t have adequate information about the miles driven or hours used. Brenner said the County should provide more information so she can tell people why those items were replaced. “I don’t like the idea of us getting rid of stuff just because we can,” she said, “and maybe instead of the Council voting to approve new equipment or vehicles or whatever, we should first find out if there’s something wrong with what we’ve got.” Approved 6-1 with Councilmember Brenner opposed.

Video starting at discussion of sale of surplus property

2. Ordinance establishing a speed limit for several roads in the Bennett Drive area.

After a collision investigation, Public Works Traffic Technician Jason Art said they found several roads that should have their speed limit lowered to 25 miles per hour. Although some of those roads are already marked with a 25 mph sign, Art said this ordinance would codify that speed limit for the area and make it easier to enforce.

Ken from District 2 told the council said this entire conversation will be irrelevant in about a year because the area will likely be annexed into the City of Bellingham. Passed 7-0.

Video starting at staff report on speed limits near Bennett Drive

3. Ordinance establishing a speed limit for Delta Line Road.

Whatcom County resident Max Perry, who owns a business on Delta Line Road, asked the Council what section of the road would have the new speed limit. Jason Art said it’s the section of Delta Line Road between Vista and Grandview. This section was relocated in 2003 and already has a 25 mph sign, and this ordinance would codify that speed limit. Passed 7-0.

Video starting at discussion of speed limit for Delta Line Road

4. Ordinance establishing a speed limit for several roads in the Northwest Drive area. Passed 7-0.

5. Ordinance amending Whatcom County Code Chapters 11.16, 11.20, and 11.32 to protect Lake Samish water quality and shoreline properties.

This ordinance will restrict the use of wakeboard boats on Lake Samish and give it some of the same protections that Lake Whatcom already has. It says “wakes from these boats have been observed traveling to shores of Lake Samish with a force sufficient to damage private property.” The first part imposes a 6 mph speed limit within 300 feet from the shore and extends the area designated as a “no-wake” zone. The second part prohibits wakeboard boats from operating within 300 feet from the shore when water skiing and wake surfing. The third part would phase in a prohibition of some two-stroke engine powered watercraft on Lake Samish.

Several people who live on Lake Samish spoke in favor of the new rules. James Wilson said his property has experienced dock damage and heavy erosion from wakeboard boats operating too close to the shore. “This is the same protection that is currently available for Lake Whatcom,” he said, “we’re only asking for equivalent protection there.”

Mary Hess said keeping wakeboard boats 300 feet away from the shore may not be enough to stop the waves from causing damage. “I almost would like to see us go a step further on Lake Samish and actually ban wake boats,” she said.

Jerry Johnson said the County needs to educate both visitors and homeowners at Lake Samish about the damage that wakeboard boats can cause. “Because some of the worst offenders are our neighbors, and they need to know the new rules and regulations as well,” Johnson said.

Mike Hess agreed that wakeboard boats are a hazard, but said the “one size fits all” ordinance may not do enough to stop the effects of wakeboard boats and would penalize other boat users on the lake.

Penny said education is important because many people don’t realize what these wakes do to the people on the shore. “We’ve had kids knocked over,” she said. “We fortunately haven’t had anybody tossed off the dock yet but some people have.”

Dave Morrow said it costs him almost $2,000 a year to repair the damage done to his dock by the wakes from these boats. He also had concerns about safety. “I’ve got 2-year-old twin grandsons and I don’t feel safe having them on my dock – it’ll heave them off into the water,” he said.

Councilmember Sidhu thinks no motorized boats should be allowed on Lake Samish or Lake Whatcom because the county has plenty of other places for recreation. “There’s ocean – go do all the wakes you like to do and have recreation,” Sidhu said. “I mean this is somebody’s drinking water.”

Councilmember Donavan proposed an amendment striking the third part of this ordinance – the part that would ban two-stroke engines on the lake – because it wasn’t properly introduced. That amendment passed, so two-stroke engines will still be allowed for now. Donavan later admitted that he owns a two-stroke engine watercraft.

Councilmember Browne wanted to hold the ordinance for 2-weeks and bring it back with a full ban on wakeboard boats and 2-stroke engines. He withdrew the idea after being convinced that they shouldn’t wait to take action as the boating season has already begun. Sidhu said maybe by next year they can talk about not having wakeboard boats or any motorized recreation on Whatcom County lakes. Passed as amended 7-0.

Video starting at discussion of new rules for Lake Samish

Open Public Comment Session –

The following people spoke:

Daman Wandke from Bellingham spoke about Americans with Disabilities Act and the importance of having people with disabilities involved in every step of the county planning process.

“I find that a lot of times in planning buildings and sidewalks, the disability voice is not included and is not designed in a way that will work for people with disabilities.”

Daman Wandke
Daman Wandke, owner of AbiliTrek

Wandke started a company called AbiliTrek which provides an online platform (similar to Yelp) for the disability community to rate and review the accessibility of any establishment. He described some of the difficulties he had getting into the courthouse building and other buildings in Bellingham.

Bob Burr from Bellingham once again spoke about climate change and recommended passing a resolution declaring a climate emergency.

Mary Hess, resident of Lake Samish, spoke about possibly creating a water quality review board, the lack of monitoring for invasive species, and banning wakeboard boats.

Mike Hess, resident of Lake Samish, spoke about the dangers of wakeboard boats carrying invasive species in their ballast tank and the importance of doing more rigorous inspections.

County resident Ken spoke about the annexation proposal for the Alderwood neighborhood.

County resident Max Perry spoke about the proposed county employee apprenticeship program.

County resident Carol Perry spoke about the proposed county employee apprenticeship program, as well as drought planning and watershed planning.

Video starting at Open Public Comment Session

Consent Agenda –

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

1. Request authorization for the County Executive to enter into a contract between Whatcom County and Catholic Community Services to provide funding for resident support services at Francis Place, in the amount of $288,916.

2. Request authorization for the County Executive to enter into a contract between Whatcom County and Transpo Group USA, Inc., to develop the Whatcom County ADA Transition Plan, in the amount of $145,251.99.

3. Request authorization for the County Executive to enter into a residential lease agreement between Whatcom County and tenant Emelia Wilson for the apartment at 5236 Nielson Avenue, located above the Tennant Lake Interpretive Center, in the amount of $945 per month.

4. Request authorization for the County Executive to enter in to a contract between Whatcom County and Unique Places LLC to perform GIS mapping, analysis and outreach materials development for the Purchase of Development Rights program, in the amount of $43,000.

5. Request authorization for the County Executive to enter into a 2-year agreement between Whatcom County and West Publishing for online database and software subscriptions.

6. Request authorization for the County Executive to award Bid #19-37 and enter into a subsequent contract between Whatcom County and Herron Valley, Inc., doing business as Bayside Services, for the annual street sweeping and cleaning services of the Lake Whatcom and Lake Samish watershed areas, in the amount of $75,000.

Items 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6 were introduced with a vote of 7-0.

Browne asked to separate Item 2 – develop the Whatcom County ADA Transition Plan – and proposed holding the contract for 2-weeks in order to hold a public hearing to give members of the Disabled Community an opportunity to give their input.

“I want to give them the courtesy of participating before we issue the contract,” Browne said, “and second I want to invite them to make sure we’re asking the right questions.”

Councilmember Rud Browne

John from Public Works told the Council that this contract is just about roads, sidewalks, and crosswalks right-of-way to get Whatcom County into compliance with Federal law.

“We’re in this sort of strange place where we have a body of federal law that requires certain standards to be met for the construction of facilities and those standards came in after many of the facilities were put into place, and we under the law were required to make certain improvements to meet those standards and most jurisdictions are behind – and in fact the federal government is behind in pursuing or enforcing the ADA,” he said. “So in order to turn the screws to state and local governments, they have required that each local jurisdiction put together a plan that identifies those facilities that aren’t meeting standards and disclose those and then come up with a plan for remedying those deficiencies.”

John said the contract as written has opportunities for stakeholder input written into the process, and if they wanted to make changes they would need a new contract.

Other Council members were reluctant to hold a public hearing over concerns that it would get people’s hopes up and start a broader conversation about ADA than this contract covers.

“When you invite the community to give input on ADA, you give them the expectation that we’re coming up with a ADA plan for the county, and we’re not.”

Councilmember Satpal Sidhu

“In the almost 5 and a half years I’ve been on the county council we have had zero initiations extended to the ADA community to talk to us about their issues or the way we should approach what we do – zero,” Browne said. “It may change nothing in terms of the outcome except maybe a minor change in scope of work.”

John from Public Works said the council needs to approve a contract very similar to this one in order to meet the federal requirements. He asked: “If there’s an outpouring of concern, where do we go with that, and do we let it color if we move forward with this contract?”

After a long discussion Council members settled on an amendment to hold the item for 2-weeks and “hold a public hearing on the proposed scope of work of Task 3 – Stakeholder Engagement Support – related to the Whatcom County ADA Public Roads Transition Plan.” The item was introduced as amended with a vote of  7-0.

Video starting at discussion of Whatcom County ADA Transition Plan

Other Items –

(From the Council Finance and Administrative Services Committee):

1. Request authorization for the County Executive to enter into a 35 year lease agreement between Whatcom County and Whatcom County Search and Rescue Council, to provide for the Whatcom County Search and Rescue usage of real property to house their operation in furtherance of their public service, for the annual amount of $1. Passed 7-0.

Councilmember Buchanan introduced 2 new resolutions regarding the Crisis Stabilization Facility. Buchanan said the finance committee heard a presentation on the facility that morning and the County Executive told them he would like to move ahead with construction.

The first resolution is to move forward with the construction of the crisis stabilization facility. Passed 7-0.

The second resolution is to order the furnishings for the crisis stabilization facility to utilize the North Sound Behavioral Health Organization’s dedication of $104,880. The county has until June 30th to encumber the grant. Passed 7-0.

(No Committee Assignment):

2. A Resolution regarding reducing incarceration of young adults (the Council acting as the Health Board). Buchanan said they have a letter of support for this resolution from the Bellingham City Council and the Mayor.

Video starting at discussion of Other Items

Executive Appointment to Boards, Commissions, and Committees

1. Request confirmation of the County Executive’s appointment of Sonja Max to the Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee. Confirmed 7-0.

2. Request confirmation of the County Executive’s appointment of Arrissia Owen Turner to the Whatcom County Developmental Disabilities Board. Confirmed 7-0.

Introduction Items. The following were approved for introduction 7-0:

1. Ordinance suspending Whatcom County Code 1.28 to update the correctional facilities operational standards.

2. Ordinance amending the 2019 Whatcom County Budget, request no. 8, in the amount of $508,163.

3. Ordinance amending Whatcom County Charter Sections 4.20 (Qualifications) and 6.90 (Illegal Contracts).

4. A Resolution amending the 2019 Flood Control Zone District and Subzones Budget, request no. 3, in the amount of $1,560,000 (Council acting as the Whatcom County Flood Control Zone District Board of Supervisors).

Committee Reports –

Councilmember Donovan said the Special Committee of the Whole held a hearing on a proposal to require public funds used for construction projects to do double-duty by also providing apprentices with job training. The committee held it for 2-weeks for further discussion.

Councilmember Sidhu said the Finance Committee saw a presentation of the Whatcom County Finance Dept. first quarter financial report. He said the only highlight was that sales tax revenues are going up and permit fees have been reduced.

Councilmember Brenner said the Public Works Committee saw a presentation of the Public Works Dept. quarterly report, and praised John Hutchings for the quality presentation. She said they also got more information from staff about the East Smith Road and Hannegan Road improvements, and held two ordinances granting water service franchises.

Other Business –

Councilmember Frazey said the Business and Commerce Advisory Committee met last week and discussed the housing crisis and how they can’t get businesses to move here because there’s no workforce housing. She said Don Goldberg will be bringing forward some ideas from the advisory committee that the County might try to incorporate.

Councilmember Brenner said she found a letter that is part of the application for the Drought Contingency Plan stating that Whatcom County supports the PUD’s application. She said the Council never knew about or agreed to support anything like that, and is very concerned that the PUD may be trying to go around the Council.

Councilmember Byrd reported on the Finance Committee’s quarterly report contained incorrect labeling on page 14 and they’ll be posting an updated version with the correction.

Councilmember Browne said last week he visited the Human Services Campus in downtown Phoenix, Arizona – a centralized facility for helping the homeless. He said it was quite impressive. He went there to learn more about their Homeless ID Project, and said the number one barrier to accessing social services is the requirement to have a photo ID and Social Security card.

Meeting Adjourned