Whatcom County Council

Compiled by Barry MacHale

Action Taken at the April 9, 2024 Meeting

Shall the council:

83. Authorize the executive to sign a $315,000 agreement with the Whatcom County Library System in support of the Birch Bay library construction project? In April 2017, the library system purchased a historic home to be renovated as a proposed library in Birch Bay. In 2023, the state Legislature designated $2 million to support capital costs associated with construction of the library. In order to spend down American Rescue Plan Act funding, the county will reimburse architectural and engineering expenses, in addition to furniture and equipment purchases. The overall budget for the project is $2,676,477. (AB2024-200) Authorized 7-0

84. Authorize the executive to sign a $115,000 contract with PNW Plateful of Bellingham to distribute weekly meals to low-income households? The contract will provide 250 ready-to-eat, nutritious meals to households already accessing Food Bank services in the county. PNW Plateful has identified areas of Whatcom County with exceptionally high food insecurity rates: the Lummi Food Bank (50 meals weekly), the Nooksack Valley Food Bank (50 meals monthly), and the Foothills Food Bank (200 meals weekly), all of which are among the most poor and infirmed populations in Whatcom County. The contract expires on 3/31/2025. (AB2024-204) Authorized 7-0

85. Fill five vacancies on the Justice Project Oversight and Planning Committee? The committee monitors the Incarceration Prevention and Reduction Task Force and county’s progress towards the implementation plan’s goals, facilitates public engagement and communications, and contributes to the Annual Report to Council. The county received three applications. Appointed: Scott Ryckman is employed as an EMS paramedic; Richard Gleason fills a position for a consumer or family member of a consumer of behavioral health services; and Tawsha Thompson is a currently serving member of law enforcement. (AB2024-211) Carried 7-0

86. Authorize the executive to accept a $245,903 federal grant to provide funding for Justice Project management and data collection needs? Funded by the U. S. Department of Justice/Office of Firearms Safety and Violence Prevention, the activities include: the development of a data dashboard and other assessment and analysis tools; the sourcing of equipment, licenses, and supplies; and the hiring of communications and informatics consultants related to implementation and reform. The grant expires on 12/31/2024. (AB2024-221) Authorized 7-0

87. Fill a vacancy on the Wildlife Advisory Committee? The committee advises county planning and development services and the council on the value of wildlife and habitat management issues as they related to the county comprehensive plan. Appointed: Jay Brueggeman has experience as a wildlife biologist. (AB2024-224) Carried 7-0

88. Authorize the executive to accept a $198,000 state grant (amendment #3) for the Hampton Road pavement rehabilitation project? The council accepted state grants at the 6/15/2021 meeting, vote #136 ($170,100), 6/7/2022 meeting, vote #153 ($690,000), and the 5/23/2023 meeting, vote #135 ($1,092,000). This amendment will incorporate additional state funding for improving rural road networks. The total amended contract is $1,980,000; it expires upon project completion. (AB2024-223) Authorized 7-0

89. Authorize the executive to sign a $200,000 contract with GeoTest Services of Bellingham to provide on-call construction materials testing and inspection services for 2024? This contract will cover material sample collection, on-site material inspection, and lab testing of concrete, hot mix asphalt, aggregates and other construction materials for Whatcom County public parks projects. The contract expires on 12/31/2024. (AB2024-230) Authorized 7-0

90. Authorize the executive to sign a $170,000 contract with Aspect Consulting of Bainbridge Island to provide technical assistance for a state water rights adjudication process? (Council acting as the flood control district board of supervisors.) In the spring of 2024, the state Department of Ecology will begin an inventory of legal water rights in the Nooksack Basin management area, ranking approximately 5,000 surface groundwater document holders and 20,000 permit-exempt well users to determine water rights. This contract will fund the development of public outreach events, materials, and services to support the adjudication process. The contract expires on 6/30/2025. (AB2024-232) Authorized 7-0

91. Confirm the executive’s appointment of Kayla Schott-Bresler as deputy executive effective on 4/10/2024? (AB2024-236) Confirmed 6-0, Todd Donovan temporarily absent.

92. Authorize the executive to award the low bid of $1,180,380 to Lake Union Drydock Company of Seattle for the annual repair and maintenance of the Lummi Island ferry? The engineer’s estimate was $1,241,303. Two representatives attended the pre-bid meeting; two shipyards submitted bids. The high bid was $1,466,071. The repairs are estimated to take up to 28 days, from 5/18 to 6/15. (AB2024-242) Authorized 7-0

93. Authorize the executive to sign a $256,842 contract (amendment #11) with the Opportunity Council to provide housing case management services? At the 6/29/2021 meeting, vote #151, the council approved the original contract for $262,341. The amendment will add funding for targeted eviction prevention services, including case management and assistance with resource navigation in association with the Whatcom Homeless Service Center. The total amended contract is $1,488,823; it expires on 12/31/2024. (AB2024-244) Authorized 4-3, Tyler Byrd, Ben Elenbaas and Mark Stremler opposed.

94. Confirm the executive’s appointment of Andrew Shelton to the Marine Resources Committee? The committee addresses local marine issues and recommends remedial action to local authorities. Appointed: Andrew Shelton was employed for 10 years in Alaskan fisheries and is an associate member of the Whatcom Working Waterfront Coalition. (AB2024-246) Confirmed 7-0

95. Authorize the executive to sign a $3 million contract with the City of Bellingham to provide an EDI loan/grant to support the Old Town Urban Village Improvement Project? The Economic Development Investment Program (EDI) funding will be a $1,500,000 grant /$1,500,000 loan. The project will create approximately eight blocks of commercial, residential, and mixed-use development adjacent to the downtown and waterfront areas of Bellingham. The loan term will be 20 years, with a rate of 1 percent per annum and the final payment due in 2044. (AB2024-257) Authorized 7-0

96. Vacate a portion of a county road and unnamed alley within the amended plat of South Wickersham? (Public hearing held.) On 6/28/2023, Kathryn Nims, Frank and Lynn Handy submitted a petition to vacate portions of a county road that has never been used or maintained. At the 9/12/2023 meeting, vote #240, the council authorized the county engineer to investigate the vacation and issue a report. The 2/21/2024 report by Doug Ranney supports the vacation. The estimated value of the area to be vacated is approximately $3,600. AB2024-155 (Resolution 2024-015) Approved 7-0

97. Docket comprehensive plan and development regulation amendments?1 State and local laws require that the county council review proposed amendments. Six new amendments were proposed, eight completed items were removed, and nine amendments with incomplete reviews were carried over from previous years. The proposals will be submitted for state environmental policy review, planning department review, and public hearing before they are given final approval by the council. AB2024-245 (Resolution 2024-016) Amended and approved 7-0.

98. Recognize the fentanyl crisis as an emergency and identify approaches to the emergency? The fentanyl overdose rate has continued to increase annually in Whatcom County since 2018, with 132 deaths in 2023. Following are some of the nine strategies that will be adopted or continued: advocacy for emergency declarations; encouraging the development of an executive order addressing the crisis; development of a budget and plan to address staffing shortages; provision of regular updates on the response to the public; and improve data tracking. AB2024-090 (Resolution 2024-017) Substitute approved 7-0

99. Modernize the Economic Development Investment (EDI) board? State law grants the county council legislative authority to adopt a sales and use tax to finance public utilities serving economic development purposes and to finance personnel in economic development offices. The function, membership, and purpose of the county board has not been modified since 2003 and housing is not listed as a purpose or priority for EDI revenues. At the 10/24/2023 meeting, vote #296, the council voted to approve and prioritize the use of EDI funding for affordable housing projects. The updates will: explicitly include workforce and affordable housing as priorities for funding; restructure the size and composition of the board; implement term limits and regulary scheduled meetings for board members; and develop code language and procedures to incentivize developments that include new housing construction. AB2024-252 (Resolution 2024-018) Amended and approved 7-0

100. Support the expanding of access to affordable and reliable internet for all residents of Whatcom County? Actions included in the resolution include: code amendments that require notification and coordination during construction projects within county rights-of-way; the development of a system to inform citizens about construction coordination opportunities; recognizing internet as a utility in policy and planning documents and processes; continued use of EDI funding for the development of internet infrastructure; and continued participation in regional broadband development efforts. AB2024-253 (Resolution 2024-019) Adopted 5-2, Ben Elenbaas and Mark Stremler opposed.

101. Adopt amendments to the county code relating to building codes? (Public hearing held.) Every three years the International Code Council updates international building and related codes for reasons of public safety. Code versions to be updated include the: 2021 International Building Code; 2021 International Residential Code; 2021 International Mechanical Code; 2021 International Fire Code; 2021 International Wildland Urban Interface Code; 2021 Uniform Plumbing Code; 2021 International Existing Building Code; 2021 International Swimming Pool and Spa Code; 2021 International Fuel Gas Code; 2021 Washington State Energy Code; 1997 Uniform Code for the Abatement of Dangerous Buildings; and certain Americans with Disabilities Act provisions. AB2024-173 (Ordinance 2024-019) Adopted 4-3, Tyler Byrd, Ben Elenbaas, and Mark Stremler opposed.

102. Adopt amendments to the county code relating to voting precinct precincts? (Public hearing held.) Changes are required in county precinct lines due to annexations by the cities of Blaine, Everson, Ferndale, and Nooksack. Two new precincts – 403 and 702 – will be created, and precincts 108, 113, 114, 115, 122, 128, 129, 150, 151, 303, 306, 402, 501, and 701 will be amended and added to the Book of Election Precinct Maps, available through the Whatcom County Council office, auditor’s office and website. AB2024-201 (Ordinance 2024-020) Adopted 7-0

103. Adopt amendments to the Whatcom County code relating to conditional uses in agriculture zones? The amendments will permit propane reloading, storage, and distribution facilities in areas zoned as light, heavy, and rural impact industrial districts, as well as manufacturing districts. AB2024-208 (Ordinance 2024-021) Adopted 5-2, Todd Donovan and Kaylee Galloway opposed.

104. Approve the election of charter review commissioners at the November 2024 general election? The Whatcom County Home Rule Charter was approved by voters at the 1978 general election. The Charter calls for the election of a charter review commission at least every ten years. It states that the commission shall consist of 15 people, in an equal number in each council district, and serve a one-year term. The Charter was reviewed in 1986 (14 amendments to the charter were proposed), in 1995 (12 amendments were proposed), in 2005 (six amendments were proposed) and last reviewed in 2015 (10 amendments were proposed). There is no filing fee. Registered voters who wish to represent their district must declare their candidacy with the Whatcom Auditor’s Office during the filing week of May 6-10, 2024. AB2024-210 (Ordinance 2024-022) Adopted 7-0


Action Taken at the April 23, 2024 Meeting

Shall the council:

105. Authorize the executive to sign a $108,000 contract with the Washington State Administrative Office of the Courts for reimbursement for a coordinator salary and benefits? The agreement is between the Administrative Office of the Courts and the Whatcom County Superior Court. A full-time coordinator will work with children and families involved in dependency operations as part of the Family and Juvenile Court Improvement Program. The contract expires on 6/30/2025. (AB2024-255) Authorized 6-0, Barry Buchanan absent.

106. Authorize the executive to sign a $180,295 contract with Cascadia Consulting Group of Seattle for tasks associated with developing the 2025 Comprehensive Plan? The tasks are related to new climate change and resiliency elements of the plan, including reports addressing: environmental justice and health disparities; greenhouse gas emissions inventories; local emissions trends and projections; natural hazard mitigation plan audits; and climate hazard and impact assessments. (AB2024-260) Substitute authorized 6-0, Buchanan absent.

107. Authorize the executive to purchase radios and related installation parts in an amount not to exceed $200,000? The purchase is through the local JVC Kenwood dealer and will replace obsolete radios and equipment to be used by the sheriff’s office (30 vehicles: estimated cost per vehicle is $5,823) and Public Works (10 vehicles: estimated cost per vehicle is $800). (AB2024-266) Authorized 6-0, Barry Buchanan absent.

108. Authorize the executive to award the low bid of $227,265 to ScoCon LLC of Bellingham to remodel a courtroom on the 4th floor in the Whatcom County Courthouse? The engineer’s estimated range was $225,000 to $250,000. Four bids were received; the high bid was $362,970. (AB2024-267) Authorized 6-0, Barry Buchanan absent.

109. Authorize the executive to sign a $125,000 contract (amendment #7) with the Northwest Regional Council of Bellingham for a care coordinator? At the 12/3/2019 meeting, vote #286, the original contract for $1,456,501 was approved. This amendment will add one care coordinator position to connect exiting inmates to support basic needs in the community upon their release. The total amended contract is $8,482,536; it expires on 12/31/2024. (AB2024-270) Authorized 6-0, Barry Buchanan absent.

110. Authorize the executive to sign a $74,928 contract with Triangle Associates of Seattle to develop the Forest Resilience Plan? At the 10/10/2023 meeting, vote #284, the council established a task force to develop a Whatcom County Forest Resilience Plan. The plan, which will include a framework for engagement with local, state, federal, and tribal governments and relevant stakeholders on issues relating to forest management and resilience. The plan will sunset on 12/31/2025. The task force has 11 permanent members and eight members appointed by the county council. The eight council members were approved at the 12/3/2023 meeting, vote #378. This vote would develop a resilience plan in accordance with county code. Some members felt the company could not be impartial in their work because of a racial equity statement on their website. (AB2024-271) Failed 2-4, Tyler Byrd, Todd Donovan, Ben Elenbaas and Mark Stremler opposed, Barry Buchanan absent.

111. Declare a county-owned structure located in Hovander Park as worthless? State law permits local authorities to declare county-owned properties as worthless if it is determined in the best interest of the county. The county property management committee has declared the property at 5305 Nielsen Avenue to be worthless and it will be demolished. AB2024-118 (Resolution 2024-020) Approved 4-2, Tyler Byrd and Ben Elenbaas opposed, Barry Buchanan absent.

112. Approve revised business rules of the Whatcom County Hearing Examiner? County code authorizes the hearing examiner to prescribe rules and regulations for the conduct of hearings before them; these rules and regulations have not been updated since 1986. The current hearing examiner has prepared new rules for the public, attorneys, applicants, appellants, and stakeholders interacting with the examiner. AB2024-233 (Resolution 2024-021) Approved 6-0, Barry Buchanan absent.

113. Approve recommendations on application for open space current use assessment? The Chester and Sachiko Haynes application for 19.4 acres of property is being reclassified from farm and agricultural land to farm and agricultural conservation land. AB2024-286 (Resolution 2024-022) Approved 4-1-1. Mark Stremler opposed, Tyler Byrd abstained and Barry Buchan absent.

114. Amend county code related to ferry rates? (Public hearing held.) A 2022 analysis of code addressing fare box revenue found calculation errors resulted in a complete re-write of the code. At the 7/25/2024 meeting, vote #197, the council passed changes to code language which was vetoed by the executive to allow more time for public input. These amendments incorporate comments and suggestions from the Lummi Island community, the Ferry Advisory Committee, and the County Council. AB2024-238 (Ordinance 2024-023) Adopted 6-0, Barry Buchanan absent.

115. Update the county code relating to franchise requirements? (Public hearing held.) The county code relating to franchise requirements was last amended at the 2/26/2008 meeting, vote #39. This votes clarifies the process for reviewing and approving transfers of ownership and/or control of a franchisee. It updates procedures for processing of franchise applications. AB2024-157 (Ordinance 2024-024) Adopted 6-0, Barry Buchanan absent.

116. Establish a $287,375 project-based budget for the Austin Court Stormwater Improvements Project Fund? The project will install a large filter vault to improve water quality by removing sediments and phosphorous from three acres of drainage from the Geneva neighborhood before entering Lake Whatcom. These funds will cover a survey, professional services, permit fees, right-of-way acquisition and other preliminary work. Additional funds will be needed to cover the construction costs. AB2024-217 (Ordinance 2024-025) Adopted 6-0, Barry Buchanan absent.

117. Close the Birch Bay Drive and Pedestrian Facility fund and project-based budget? At the 11/20/2012 meeting, vote #199, the council established a project-based budget of $1,072,324 with $327,324 in federal funds. The total estimated cost of the project in 2021was $15,291,786. A soft-shore roadway protection berm was constructed; the drainage from Lora Lange to Cedar Avenue was upgraded; an ADA-compliant pedestrian pathway between Lora Lane and Cottonwood Avenue was installed. The project is completed and the fund is no longer needed. The balance of $3,509,401 will be returned to the road fund. The March 2021 issue of Whatcom Watch contained an article about the project. AB2024-229 (Ordinance 2024-026) Adopted 6-0, Barry Buchanan absent.

118. Amend the public health, safety and justice facility project budget (request #6) in the amount of $800,000? At the 1/29/2013 meeting, vote #22, the council established the original $406,470 budget and subsequently added funding. Previous funds were spent on site acquisition and consulting contracts. This amendment will add expenditure authority for preliminary permitting, predesign and committee facilitation work. The total amended project budget is $9,816,280. AB2024-235 (Ordinance 2024-027) Adopted 6-0, Barry Buchanan absent.

119. Amend the Way Station project-based budget (request #3) in the amount of $100,000? At the 2/22/2022 meeting, vote #67, the council established a budget of $2,384,322 and subsequently added funding. The building at 1500 N. State St. will host services for individuals living in shelters or those who are unsheltered. This amendment will cover cost increases for the removal of the building exterior and replacement of the roof. The total amended project budget is $14,037,461. AB2024-237 (Ordinance 2024-028) Adopted 6-0, Barry Buchanan absent.

120. Amend the 2024 budget (request #6) in the amount of $8,600,501? Expenditures: $260,930 for criminal justice data; $216,316 to fund Superior Court interpreter and family/juvenile court improvement programs; $283,501 to fund vape settlement youth cannabis and tobacco prevention; $240,000 to fund presidential primary; $1,801,736 to fund targeted eviction prevention; $275,000 to fund Hovander Park Master plan; $400,000 to fund Swift Creek channel maintenance; $250,000 to fund 75 station upgrade reappropriation; $262,375 for Austin Court project; $3 million to fund Bellingham Old Towne urban village. All the other appropriations are below $200,000. AB2024-239 (Ordinance 2024-029) Adopted 6-0, Barry Buchanan absent.

121. Amend the county code on the collection of solid waste and residential recycling services? (Public hearing held at the March 19 meeting.) The code is changed to reflect the City of Bellingham collection process and to remove duplicate requirements. The service provider has modified its collection method within the City of Bellingham from three-bin source-separated recycling to a single-stream recycling system. This vote also removes duplicate requirements in the code. AB2024-116 (Ordinance 2024-030) Adopted 4-2, Todd Donovan and Kaylee Galloway opposed.


Action Taken at the April 30, 2024 Meeting

Shall the council:

122. Conduct a formal investigation into the handling of alligations against former county employee Jon Hutchings? A county employee was paid $225,00 by Whatcom County to settle claims that she was sexually harassed by former Public Works director Jon Hutchings. When Mr. Hutchings resigned in October 2022, all matters surrounding the resignation and the $225,000 settlement were kept from the council and the public until Cascadia PBS revealed an investigation into the alleged improper conduct on April 19, 2024. At the April 7 regular meeting, the council will determine the scope of the investigation. Approved 7-0


Proposed amendments docketed

PLN2024-00001: Amend the capital facilities element of the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan;

PLN2024-00002: Review and revise the county zoning code;

PLN2024-00003: Permit review processing and timelines to comply with SB 5290;

PLN2024-00004: Review Lummi Island height limitations;

PLN2024-00005: Amend county code to support solar, geothermal and hydrogen energy;

PLN2024-00006: Evaluate the licensing of retail cannabis facilities in light impact industrial zones;

From past years:

PLN2023-00001: Review and revise the Whatcom County Comprehensive Plan and development regulation by June 2025;

PLN2023-00007: Define appropriate industrial uses and conditions in heavy impact industrial districts;

PLN2023-00008: Amend the capital facilities and parks elements of the six-year capital improvement plan;

PLN2022-00005: Review and, if necessary, revise county code and the Comprehensive Plan to protect, enhance, and expand public access to the Cherry Point shorelines;

PLN2021-00007: Expand the Bellingham Urban Growth Area;

PLN2019-00002: Mineral resource lands expansion – Breckenridge Road;

PLN2017-00004: Mineral resource lands countywide designation;

PLN2015-00003: Code enforcement amendments;

PLN2012-00007: Agricultural strategic plan implementation;

PLN2012-00009: Mineral resource lands expansion – North Star Road.

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