Bellingham City Council
Action Taken at July 12, 2021 Meeting
Report and Update:
As of 7/12/21, Whatcom County has reached a 70 percent vaccination rate. HS 1510 passed the state Legislature this year and will be effective July 25, 2021, which reduces police use-of force-options. The mayor’s office and team are working on alternative solutions in response to behavioral health calls regarding the recent legislation and hope to put in place safety nets and support for members of the community when they call for help.
Shall the council:
121. Authorize the mayor to sign a $100,000 settlement agreement with Alfredo Juarez? The following was obtained from the Claim for Damages form filed with the city of Bellingham. On June 20, 2015, 15-year-old Alfred Juarez was stopped for a driving infraction. Mr. Juarez produced a vehicle registration with a name and address. Without verifying the vehicle’s owner, the officer called the Border Patrol and told them Alfred Juarez was undocumented and turned him over to them. The family was informed Mr. Juarez was in Tukwila, and, when the didn’t find him in Tukwila, they returned to their home in Mt. Vernon. They were later informed he was in Tacoma where they picked him up. Mr. Juarez returned home because he was not deportable. (Discussed in Executive Session.) Approved 5-0, Dan Hammill and Pinky Vargas excused.
122. Authorize the mayor to sign a contract for outside legal counsel to assist the city attorney’s office in representing the city of Bellingham in Young vs. city of Bellingham? Approved 5-0, Dan Hammill and Pinky Vargas excused.
123. Approve the mayor’s reappointment of Angela Nelson to the Lake Whatcom Watershed Advisory Board? The board advises the city regarding the protection, cleanup, and restoration of the Lake Whatcom Reservoir and the surrounding watershed, the city watershed land acquisition program, and the management, maintenance, and use of acquired property. Angela Nelson is a certified professional in stormwater quality and has lived in Whatcom County and Bellingham for the past 24 years. She was initially appointed to the board at the 7/6/2015 meeting, vote #131; her third term will expire on 7/6/2024, at which time she may be reappointed. (AB23029) Approved 5-0, Dan Hammill and Pinky Vargas excused.
124. Authorize the mayor to award the only bid of $608,104 to Henefin Construction of Bellingham for the West Cemetery Creek water quality improvement project? The engineer’s estimate was $598,119. The project involves the installation of stormwater system components including catch basins, piping, structures, and outfall facilities. Work also includes site restoration and installation of large wood structures. In 2019, the city successfully obtained a $406,314 state grant for the project. The city received a single bid. (AB23039) Approved 5-0, Dan Hammill and Pinky Vargas excused.
125. Approve 2022 allocations for tourism-related facilities and activities? The Lodging Tax Advisory Committee has made a funding recommendation in the amount of $595,181 with an additional $25,000 for start-up grant recommendations. The local tourism industry took a significant hit due to the pandemic and the Lodging Tax fund experienced a loss of $850,000, approximately 45 percent. Supporting this industry in recovery is an eligible use of the American Rescue Plan Act. At vote #134 (this meeting), the City Council approved American Rescue Plan Act funds, including $850,000 for tourism-related programs and activities to accelerate the reopening of our local economy. (AB23042) Approved 5-0, Dan Hammill and Pinky Vargas excused.
126. Appoint Sarah Chaplin as the public records officer? According to state law, each state and local agency shall appoint and publicly identify a public records officer whose responsibility is to serve as a point of contact for members of the public in requesting disclosure of public records and to oversee the agency’s compliance with the public records disclosure requirements. The city recently hired Sarah Chaplin to fill a vacancy in the city attorney’s office. She will serve as the attorney for human resources, ITSD, library, municipal court and museum. Ms. Chaplin will replace James Erb, who has served as the city’s public records officer since 2010. (AB23043) Approved 5-0, Dan Hammill and Pinky Vargas excused.
127. Place a charter amendment on the 11/3/2021 general election ballot to reduce the number of signatures required to amend the city charter? It changes the number of signatures required from ballots cast in the last general state election to ballots cast in the last mayoral race. The number of votes cast in the mayoral race could be smaller than the last general state election, thus reducing the number of signatures required to place a charter amendment on the ballot. AB23050 (Resolution 2021-15) Approved 5-0, Dan Hammill and Pinky Vargas excused.
128. Place a charter amendment on the 11/3/2021 general election ballot to reduce the number of signatures required to place an initiative on the ballot? The city charter currently requires 20 percent of the total number of votes cast for the office of mayor at the last preceding municipal general election. This amendment reduces the number of qualified voters from 20 percent to 10 percent of the votes cast for mayor at the last preceding municipal general election. The city intends to lengthen the timeline for processing initiatives and provide more time for council to consider offering an alternative. AB23051 (Resolution 2021-16) Approved 5-0, Dan Hammill and Pinky Vargas excused.
129. Authorize the mayor to sign an $55,000 agreement with the Bellingham School District for a police officer to be assigned to the school district for the school year 2020-2021? The Bellingham School District will contribute $55,000 toward the officer’s salary and benefits, and the city will pay the rest. This program once included several officers in multiple schools, but, due to funding issues, the school district can only afford one officer for the schools. The district resource officer program is responsible for on-campus law enforcement and protection of lives and property. In addition, the officer will: assist school officials with regulations regarding student conduct; provide security for school functions; respond to major disruptions; investigate and report criminal offenses; cooperate with police investigations; and provide traffic control. (AB23054) Approved 5-0, Dan Hammill and Pinky Vargas excused.
130. Appropriate $3,831,606 for goods and services checks issued from June 11, 2021 through June 17, 2021 and June 25, 2021 through July 1, 2021? (AB23055/23056) Approved 5-0, Dan Hammill and Pinky Vargas excused.
131. Authorize the mayor to accept $87,500 from Whatcom Transportation Authority for the Telegraph Road multimodal safety improvement project? The city is currently designing the project located between James Street and Deemer Road. Telegraph Road is on Whatcom Transportation Authority’s (WTA) GOLD Go Line and the city and WTA have been working together to incorporate WTA facilities into the design. WTA desires to contribute finances to the city’s construction of said public transit improvements. WTA will be enhancing foundation slab elements for the support of four transit shelters along the corridor with the city coordinating property rights acquisition as required to accommodate the transit shelter foundation footprints. The design, procurement and installation of the transit shelters will be separately procured by WTA at its expense of approximately $20,000. Additionally, WTA has committed to a general financial contribution toward the public transit improvements, such as enhanced crossings along the corridor. The city received a $1.65 million federal grant for the project. (AB23057) Approved 5-0, Dan Hammill and Pinky Vargas excused.
132. Appropriate $3,814,130 for payroll checks issued from June 1 through June 15, 2021? (AB23058) Approved 5-0, Dan Hammill and Pinky Vargas excused.
133. Vacate a portion of Queen Street north of Lakeway Drive, east of Puget Street and south of the Civic Field open space? (Closed record hearing.) The Bellingham Hearing Examiner recommended the vacation and $1,000 in compensation. Whatcom Investment Group petitioned the city to vacate a portion of Queen Street north of Lakeway Drive, east of Puget Street and south of the Civic Field open space. The purpose of the vacation is the installation of a private sewer main to facilitate future development of a subdivision. A pump is needed convey wastewater uphill to a nearby public sewer main. The property is burdened with steep slopes and critical areas, and the right-of-way is not necessary for future multimodal transportation and it is bordered by private property on both sides. The section of right-of-way to be vacated was initially a swap with the Civic Field open space, but there was no interest from parks to access that parcel so it will remain as natural as possible. AB23011 (Ordinance 2021-07-027) Approved 5-0, Dan Hammill and Pinky Vargas excused.
134. Amend the 2021-2022 biennial budget to increase revenues and expenditures for American Rescue Plan Act funding? The federal government has allocated approximately $21 million to the city of Bellingham from the Local Fiscal Recovery Funds portion of the American Rescue Plan Act. The funds will be dispersed in two tranches of about $10,500,000. The first in coming weeks and the second 365 days later. This vote will add revenues of $10,463,000 and expenditures of $3,250,000 to account for federal funding related to American Rescue Plan Act. Spending priorities include housing security: $300,000 for continuation of case management and motel stays for families with children through October; $1,375,000 for completion of affordable housing at Samish Commons (former Aloha Motel site) and economic recovery: $725,000 for construction of the childcare facility shell at Samish Commons; $850,000 for tourism-related grants and activities to accelerate the reopening of our local economy. AB23003 (Ordinance 2021-07-028) Approved 5-0, Dan Hammill and Pinky Vargas excused.
135. Amend the 2021-2022 biennial budget to establish the Affordable Housing Sales Tax Fund? The amendment will add revenues and expenditures for the Housing Sales Tax Fund, and a contract specialist to support new programming. At the 3/22/2021 meeting, vote #55, the City Council authorized a one-tenth of one percent sales and use tax increase to be used for housing and related services. At the 5/10/2021 meeting, vote #92, the council voted to ad the revenues associated with this tax to the low-income housing fund. The state will begin collecting the tax on July 1, and the city will begin receiving revenue from it in September. The ordinance names the new fund the Affordable Housing Sales Tax Fund and budgets $3 million of expenditures against approximately $4,500,000 in revenues over the biennium — $240,000 will be allocated to staffing to appropriately capture administrative costs. This ordinance also removes estimated revenues related to this tax that were added to the low-income housing fund in a previous ordinance. The expenditure budget in that fund was not changed by the previous ordinance and remains unchanged. AB23032 (Ordinance 2021-07-029) Approved 5-0, Dan Hammill and Pinky Vargas excused.
Action Taken at July 26, 2021 Meeting
Reports and Announcements
Local governments and law enforcement agencies are working to implement the new policing legislation, but, in some cases, new laws rely on agencies, services, or protocols that have not yet been established or funded. In other cases, emergency service providers will respond to calls for law enforcement service, but actions upon arrival may look different than in the past. Summaries on the legislation, including the most significant 13 bills, are posted on the city’s website. Community members should still call 9-1-1 if they need help and will still receive a response, but tools may be limited in some situations. YouTube recently took down the city’s 7/12/2021 meeting, due to their guidelines being violated. The city’s webpage has a statement posted that addresses the incident. Public comment period is suspended for the time being. The state does not require a public comment period; rather, it is a courtesy provided by the City Council for community feedback. Community members may still contact council members by emailing, calling, or utilizing the Engage Bellingham portal at http://engagebellingham.org.
Shall the council:
136. Authorize the mayor to sign a $231,532 agreement with the Whatcom County Conservation District to administer the homeowner incentive program? It is is a non-regulatory program that provides technical assistance and financial incentives to homeowners who voluntarily install stormwater best management practices to reduce stormwater runoff containing phosphorus into Lake Whatcom. The city and Whatcom County jointly operate the program through the Lake Whatcom Management Program and requested assistance from the Whatcom County Conservation District. At the 3/28/2011 meeting, vote #55, the city received a $500,000 state grant to start the homeowner incentive program. The first agreement with Whatcom County was approved at the 6/17/2013 meeting, vote #117. This agreement runs from 6/1/2021 to 12/31/2023. (AB23065) Approved 7-0
137. Appropriate $4,858,758 for goods and services checks issued from June 18 through June 24, 2021? (AB23066) Approved 7-0
138. Appropriate $4,160,530 for payroll checks issued from June 16 through June 30, 2021? (AB23067) Approved 7-0
139. Appropriate $56,000 to implement emergency traffic and parking control services at Bloedel Donovan Park? The emergency vote dispenses with competitive bidding requirements. At the 6/3/2019 meeting, vote #100, the council accepted a donation (approximate value $500,000) from Docks for Kids to replace the public swimming dock located at Bloedel Donovan Park. In June of this year, the new dock became available to the public, and the following weekend, the city experienced record-setting warm temperatures, causing severe overcrowding at the park. It resulted in public health and safety issues including blocked fire lanes, exits and entrances, trapped cars and danger to pedestrians. An emergency declaration is necessary to bypass typical procurement and contracting rules and implement traffic and parking control measures with parking signage, overflow parking flaggers, and hard boundaries immediately. The work was completed and flaggers are now at the site on weekends through Labor Day, depending on weather. AB23062 (Resolution 2021-17) Approved 7-0
140. Reconsider a street vacation petition for the full width of Douglas Avenue between 21st Street and the alley to the west? (Closed record hearing held at April 26 meeting.) The petitioner Taylor LLC wants to develop the property with housing units. A pedestrian trail has existed on the right-of-way since 1993 – it runs through the right-of-way in a zigzag and extends into the applicant’s property. A city trail map has shown the Douglas Street trail since 1996. City Council held a closed record hearing on 12/7/2020. At the conclusion of the hearing, the council voted 6-1 to remand the petition back to the hearing examiner to supplement the existing record. The hearing examiner held a second public hearing on 3/10/2021 and recommended neither approval nor denial of the petition, leaving the decision to the council. A 30-foot-wide easement for public access shall be retained across the southern portion of the street vacation. AB22834 (Ordinance 2021-007-030) Approved 7-0
141. Increase 2021-2022 budget expenditures by $177,500 to add two staff positions in the finance department for utility billing? The city currently bills utility customers bimonthly. In 2022, the city will send utilities bills monthly. This will result in smaller amounts but more frequently. The finance department has determined that this change will require two additional utility billing staff, bringing the total to five. These positions are funded equally by the water, sewer and stormwater funds. In addition to funding these two new positions in 2022, the ordinance adds funding for three months of 2021 to ensure sufficient time to train new staff before shifting to monthly billing. AB23041 (Ordinance 2021-07-031) Approved 7-0