Bellingham City Council

Action Taken at March 8, 2021 Meeting

Mayor’s Report
The mayor reappointed Joan Drinkwin to a second term on the Sehome Hill Arboretum Board of Governors. The arboretum site is 175.5-acres; the university owns 38 acres and the city 137.5 acres. The initial agreement between the city and Western Washington University to develop and coordinate the Sehome Hill arboretum was adopted at the City Council meeting on 8/7/1974. The board works with the city and WWU in planning the use of capital, operating and maintenance funds authorized by the city or WWU, and such endowment funds to the arboretum as may be received by either agency. Joan Drinkwin is a 16-year local resident, is currently employed by Natural Resources Consultants of Seattle and has served in a number of positions related to fish and wildlife habitat ecology and restoration, with emphasis on nearshore and freshwater habitats. She was initially appointed to the board at the 1/22/2018 meeting, vote #12. Her second term will expire on 2/9/2024. (AB22924) Non-voting issue.

Shall the council:
35. Approve the mayor’s appointment of Jed Ballew to a partial term on the Planning and Development Commission? The commission consists of seven members appointed by the mayor. It conducts hearings on the City Comprehensive Plan and its implementation. It reviews and makes recommendations to the City Council on the adoption and enforcement of plans and regulations for the physical development of the city. The commission also advises the council through the planning director. Mr. Ballew is a three-and-a-half year resident of Bellingham and the owner of Zervas Architects with 21 years experience as an architect. He has been involved with the Lighthouse Mission. His term will expire on 3/24/2022, at which time he may be reappointed. (AB22926) Approved 7-0 

36. Approve a 2,400 square feet lease in the Commercial Street Parking Garage (formerly the Parkade) to the HUB Community Bike Shop? A lease at below market rates requires council approval. The space had been leased to the Bellingham Railway Museum since 2003. The non-profit bike shop has been in business since 2002. It was located off the South Bay Trail below State Street until it was displaced in 2018. The lease is for $0.25 per square foot, 98 percent  below fair market rates. (AB22928) Approved 7-0

37. Appropriate $4,526,463 for goods and services checks issued from February 12 through February 25, 2021? (AB22935/22936) Approved 7-0

38. Appropriate $3,699,414 for payroll checks issued from February 1 to February 15, 2021? (AB22937) Approved 7-0

39. Create a Bellingham/Whatcom County Tourism Promotion Area? Lodging businesses have submitted an initiation petition to the City Council to form a tourism promotion area (TPA). State law allows counties, cities, and towns to establish tourism promotion areas and to levy a tourism promotion charge on the furnishing of lodging on certain lodging businesses to fund tourism promotion. Revenue collected for the TPA charge will be used to promote local tourism by preparing a recovery plan to mitigate impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic, market the Bellingham area to the travel industry, sporting, entertainment and cultural events, and by providing marketing and event assistance for those qualifying activities. Signatory businesses in the proposed area will pay 60 percent or more of the proposed charge. This assessment would bring in approximately $1 – $1.5 million per year (post pandemic) and would be allocated to a tourism administrator, while the city would retain a portion of the cost to administer the fund. AB22929 (Resolution 2021-03) Approved 7-0

40. Create an apprenticeship program for Bellingham contracts? This ordinance is based on a similar Whatcom County ordinance as well as the state’s apprenticeship program. This ordinance requires that all city of Bellingham projects greater than $1,000,000 and more than 70 working days utilize an approved apprenticeship program beginning 1/1/2023. Adding requirements to contracts increases the cost of the project. A full-time employee will be needed to administer and track the required elements of the ordinance. AB22329 (Ordinance 2021-03-007) Approved 7-0

42. Increase appropriations for firefighting equipment? This ordinance recognizes a $708,000 federal grant and adds $396,000 in city money for a total of $1,104,000 in fire department expenditures to replace all 130 of the department’s self-contained breathing apparatus. The current complement of breathing equipment reaches the end of its useful life in 2022. This ordinance will ensure the department has the equipment it needs to fight fires as safely as possible. AB22915 (Ordinance 2021-03-008) Approved 7-0

43. Approve revisions to the Immigration Advisory Board? The board was established at the 11/4/2019 meeting, vote #197, and 10 members appointed at the 2/24/2020 meeting, vote #29. The board reviews and evaluates policies regarding compliance with state law and makes specific recommendations regarding policies related to immigration matters, provides for data collection regarding contact between the city of Bellingham, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection and includes periodic updates to council. Revisions to the board will allow for residential requirements to extend to Whatcom County and co-facilitators of monthly meetings to preside over meetings, set the agenda, and oversee the work of the board. AB22430 (Ordinance 2021-03-009) Approved 7-0

44. Renew an emergency ordinance imposing a moratorium on the processing of applications for detached single-family dwelling units in multifamily zones? The council adopted an emergency moratorium on the processing of applications for and the construction of new detached or attached single-family dwelling units at the 3/9/2020 meeting, vote #46. A public hearing is required within 60 days of passage of an emergency ordinance. This ordinance is a 12-month moratorium prohibiting the construction of any new detached or attached single-family dwelling units in multifamily zones or land divisions that create new, detached single-family homes. AB22599 (Emergency Ordinance 2021-03-010) Approved Approved 7-0

Action Taken at March 22, 2021 Meeting

Shall the council
45. Authorize the city attorney’s office and outside legal counsel to take appropriate actions to defend the city in the lawsuit, Bornstein Seafoods v. City of Bellingham, et al, including asserting counter claims and cross claims? At the 1/11/21 meeting, Vote #2, the county authorized the outside law firm Cascadia Law Group of Seattle to be hired. (Discussed in Executive Session) Approved 6-0, Pinky Vargas excused.

46. Approve the mayor’s appointment of Alan Marriner as city attorney? The city attorney serves as the chief legal advisor to the council, the mayor, and all city departments. Mr. Marriner has been employed as a senior assistant city attorney between 2004 and 2013 and the deputy city attorney since 2014. This appointment will be effective on 4/2/2021. (AB22945) Approved 6-0, Pinky Vargas excused. 

47. Authorize the mayor to sign an agreement for $40,000 per year with Whatcom County Fire District 4 for ongoing use of training facilities? Last year District 4 and District 21 notified the city fire department that they would like to cancel the previous agreement and enter into an agreement directly between the city and District 4. For many years the city fire department has been using Whatcom County Fire District 4’s training facility on Britton Loop Rd. for fire and EMS training. This use was allowed through a previous interlocal agreement with Whatcom County Fire District 21 who was operating the facility under contract with District 4. The facility is the only fire training facility in Whatcom County and is used almost daily by members of the fire department. City staff will have offices and classrooms at the site for our recruit academy and paramedic training programs. In addition to the exclusive use of those offices and classroom areas, the department will have access to use the training grounds, training tower, and training props at the site without additional charges. (AB22940) Approved 6-0, Pinky Vargas excused.

48. Authorize the mayor to award the low bid of $1,219,714 to Faber Brothers of Lynden for Phase 4 of the Squalicum Creek Park project? Funding will be a mix of Beyond Greenway levy funds and state grant money. At 2/4/2002 meeting, vote #18, the city purchased the 42-ace former Pacific Concrete site for $4 million. At the 2/7/2005 meeting, votes #24 and #25, the council adopted the park name and master plan. At 3/26/2007 meeting, vote #60, the council awarded the low bid for phase 1. It demolished buildings, constructed restrooms, a baseball diamond and parking lot. At the 3/15/2010 meeting, vote #52, the council awarded the low bid for phase 2, the Willow Spring salmon enhancement project. At the 12/9/2013 meeting, vote #267, the council awarded the low bid for phase 3. It included additional ballfields, parking area, playground, picnic shelter, dog off-leash area, walking paths, sledding hill and utilities. Phase 4 will construct a youth baseball field and infiltration facilities. A field will be constructed in the western section, next to existing field #2, creating one large multipurpose field to accommodate other sports, such as lacrosse and soccer, plus an infiltration basin and minor changes to existing infiltration basins. Six bids were received: The high bid was $1,417,013. The city determined the lowest bid, submitted by Williamson Construction of Deming in the amount of $832,126, should be withdrawn due to a computing error. It is anticipated that phase 4 will be completed in October of this year. (AB22942) Approved 6-0, Pinky Vargas excused. 

49. Authorize the mayor to sign into a land lease with Washington State University for the space known as the “We Grow Garden?” The lease is for city property at 1811 Ellis Street. WSU will use the garden site as an urban garden for public programming, education and other activities that support sustainable horticultural practices, food access and community resilience, in lieu of paying rent and utility charges for the site. The garden is across the street from the Bellingham Food Bank and will continue as a Food Bank Victory Garden by donating fresh produce, piloting a weekly community supported agriculture program, and conducting food preservation workshops. The initial lease term will be one year, with the option to renew for two additional three-year terms. (AB22943) Approved 6-0, Pinky Vargas excused. 

50. Appropriate $3,521,839 for payroll checks issued from February 16 through February 28, 2021? (AB22946) Approved 6-0, Pinky Vargas excused.

51. Appropriate $2,107,487 for goods and services checks issued from February 26 through March 11, 2021? (AB22947/22948) Approved 6-0, Pinky Vargas excused.

52. Honor City Attorney Peter Ruffatto for his outstanding contributions to the city of Bellingham and its residents? He obtained his undergraduate degree in economics and political science from Gonzaga University in 1989 and his law degree from the University of Washington School of Law in 1994. Prior to the city of Bellingham hiring Mr. Ruffatto, he worked for four years as an attorney at a private law firm in Seattle, and for five years as a senior deputy prosecuting attorney (civil division) for King County, Washington. He has served the city of Bellingham for 18 years, starting in 2003 as an assistant city attorney. At the 6/4/2012 meeting, vote #113, the council approved his appointment as city attorney. This resolution recognizes Peter’s leadership, competency, equanimity, sense of humor, and kindness during his service to the city and its residents. AB22944 (Resolution 2021-04) Approved 6-0, Pinky Vargas excused.  

53. Appropriate an additional $193,000 to complete the funding for a tiny-home village? In November, the city issued a request for qualifications for a safe encampment for the unsheltered. In December, the city selected the Low-Income Housing Institute and Road2Home to establish a tiny-house village at the former “Clean Green” facility on Woburn. The project is expected to cost approximately $500,000 to construct and $360,000 to operate from May through December 2021. The real estate excise tax and Community Development Block Grant will provide the majority of funding for the construction and operation of the facility, respectively. The general fund will contribute $125,000 for construction and $68,000 for 2021 operations for line items not eligible for the real estate excise tax and Community Development Block Grant. AB22931 (Ordinance 2021-03-011) Approved 6-0, Pinky Vargas excused.

54. Appropriate an additional $3,759,868 for various operations? This ordinance amends the 2021-2022 biennial budget to eliminate nine of 12 furlough days for impacted employees, correct a budget error, and unfreeze a manager position in the Parks and Recreation Department. The adopted budget included 12 days of furlough for most city staff. Because of the great uncertainty of forecasting during a global pandemic, the city constructed a budget which relied on furloughs and frozen positions, actions that could be undone with minimal disruption to city services. Final fiscal analysis of 2020 finances and a new revenue forecast led the finance department to recommend eliminating the furlough going forward. The ordinance also corrects a budget error that was partially caused by the furlough calculation process. Approximately $800,000 of this adjustment is related to implementing the mid-year COLA for members of Local 1937. AB22933 (Ordinance 2021-03-012) Approved 6-0, Pinky Vargas excused.

55. Impose an additional sales and use tax of one-tenth of one percent for housing and related services? (Public hearing held at March 8 meeting.) The state Legislature in March 2020, enacted legislation allowing cities and counties to enact — without voter approval —  a sales and use tax to fund construction and operation of housing and mental/behavioral health facilities and services. Whatcom County has not imposed the tax. If counties did not impose the tax by 9/30/2020, cities could collect it. AB22934 (Ordinance 2021-03-013) Approved 6-0, Pinky Vargas excused.