Bellingham City Council

Action Taken at May 10, 2021 Meeting

Update on COVID-19 Response
Erika Lautenbach, Whatcom County Health Department Director, provided an update on Washington state’s Roadmap to Recovery. She explained that as a whole, Whatcom County is not seeing a slowing in the Covid-19 case count. In the past two weeks, there have been 20 people hospitalized at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center.. The mean age has gone down and is now at 49 years of age. Over 100,000 people in Whatcom County have initiated vaccine, and demand has slowed down. Last weekend, there were 500 slots available for vaccine appointments and only 62 persons showed up for a first dose. The Community Vaccination Clinic is accepting drop-ins and no appointment is needed. The potential to move backward into a lower phase of the Roadmap to Recovery was mentioned. She stated that our vaccination rate is not where it needs to be to meet benchmarks of vaccination that have been discussed at a state level. On social media there has been a change in the tone and social shaming is occurring on both sides of the vaccine argument. (AB22593)

Mayor’s Report
Rick Sepler, Planning and Community Development Director, will be retiring, effective 6/30/2021. An interim plan for the Planning Department is being developed for use until a new director can be hired.

Shall the council:
80. Authorize the mayor to sign a lease with The Pedal Project doing business as the HUB Community Bike Shop? The lease is for 2,400 square feet at 1320 Commercial Street: the rent will be $0.25 per square foot, which equates to $50 per month/$600 per year. The bike shop is consistent with the city’s policy goals to promote bicycles as an alternative mode of transportation. The lease requires: a. collect used and discarded bicycle parts from the waste stream and process them into useable bicycling products, selling them at an affordable and sometimes sliding scale value; b. continue relationships with outside agencies to provide low-income people, and people without permanent housing, low cost (or free) access to bicycles as alternative forms of transportation; c. regularly provide bicycle maintenance and repair sessions, community events and mentoring programs, open to all, free of charge; d. provide free flat tire repair and bicycle safety inspections for low-income people, residents of downtown Bellingham (regardless of income level), and persons who bike commute to work in downtown Bellingham. The Hub Community Bike Shop will track and report annually total flat tire repair and bicycle safety inspection numbers. (AB22928) Approved 7-0

81. Authorize the mayor to sign an agreement with the Whatcom Conservation District to support the risk reduction of wildfires in the Lake Whatcom Watershed? The risk of wildfires is increasing throughout the region as the changing climate alters temperature and precipitation conditions within forests. Wildfires not only have the obvious impacts of threatening public safety, destroying forests, and harming ecosystems, but wildfires also create conditions that can increase soil erosion. In the Lake Whatcom Watershed, soil erosion due to severe wildfire could compromise the progress made towards meeting the city’s TMDL obligations. The wildfire reduction program will provide outreach and wildfire preparedness assistance to watershed residents with an emphasis on residents adjacent to city acquisition program properties. The district will perform its services through administration, education and outreach by partnering with the city to provide wildfire risk reduction information to all residents in the Lake Whatcom Watershed and through conducting two workshops, as well as wildfire risk assessments and concurrent action plans at the request of property owners adjacent to city acquisition lands. The city will not pay the Whatcom Conservation District more than $8,000 for the service. The agreement expires on 12/31/2021. (AB22981) Approved 7-0

82. Appropriate $3,863,568 for payroll checks issued from April 1 through April 15, 2021? (AB22988) Approved 7-0

83. Appropriate $5,404,072 for goods and services checks issued from April 16 through April 29, 2021? (AB22989/22990) Approved 7-0

84. Set June 9 as the date for a public hearing before the Bellingham Hearing Examiner to consider a street vacation for a portion of Stuart Road between Northwest Drive and Interstate-5? AB22991 (Resolution 2021-11) Approved 7-0

85. Authorize the mayor to award the low bid of $142,070 to Apply-A-Line Inc. of Pacific, WA, for annual pavement marking? The engineer’s estimate was between $100,000 and $140,000. This bid award is for the annual re-striping, painting and placement of reflective materials that the traffic division sources through a vendor for the maintenance and repair of pavement markings throughout the city. The city received three bids: the high bid was $261,500. (AB22992) Approved 7-0

86. Authorize the mayor to sign a cooperative purchasing agreement with the 1 Government Procurement Alliance? The agreement allows the city to piggyback onto the competitive bidding process conducted by other governmental agencies in lieu of self-performing its own bidding process. This ability is made possible through the Interlocal Cooperation Act granting two or more public agencies the ability to exercise powers cooperatively, including purchasing. In addition to establishing an interlocal agreement, the city intends to use this agreement to piggyback on the cooperative’s cybersecurity contract and other professional services as needed. (AB22993) Approved 7-0

87. Extend the moratorium on development applications and permits for redevelopment of existing mobile home or manufactured home parks? (Public hearing held at June 8 meeting.) At the 6/3/2019 meeting, vote #114, the council adopted an emergency ordinance establishing a one-year moratorium on the acceptance or processing of development applications or permits relating to the redevelopment of any of the 10 mobile home parks in Bellingham. These parks, and the units they contain totaling about 900 spaces, are some of the most affordable housing in the city. Therefore, it is appropriate to try to preserve all of them. Goals and policies identified in the amendment encourage the preservation of existing manufactured home parks to ensure their continued provision of affordable housing. A six-month extension of the moratorium is needed to allow staff to finalize recommendations and conduct a Type IV legislative review process. AB22025 (Ordinance 2021-05-015) Approved 7-0

88. 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 (Ordinance 2021-05-016) Approved 7-0

89. Enact a $4 per hour hazard pay increase for grocery store workers employed in the city of Bellingham? (Public hearing held at April 26 meeting.) Recognizing the ongoing threat to frontline grocery employees, several Washington cities, including Seattle, Edmonds, Olympia and Burien as well as King and Pierce Counties, have announced legislative efforts to require hazard pay of $4 to $5 per hour for grocery employees during the Covid-19 emergency. The store must employ 40 or more employees in the city of Bellingham and 500 or more employees worldwide. AB22953 (Ordinance 2021-05-017) Approved 5-2, Gene Knutson and Pinky Vargus opposed.

90. Amend the 2021-2022 budget increasing revenues and expenditures for paramedic training classes? The budget included the lead instructor for the program, but did not identify the revenue or other expenses associated with the program since program funding was still under negotiation. Because the budget already includes the staff member for both years and because the fire department expects the program to continue into 2022, this ordinance adds revenues of $1,158,306 and expenditures of $789,400 for both 2021 and 2022. Revenues exceeding expenditures will reimburse the city for the previously budgeted staff member. AB22970 (Ordinance 2021-05-018) Approved 7-0

91. Amend the 2021-2022 biennial budget to reconcile differences between estimated 2021 beginning reserve balances and actual 2021 beginning reserve balances? During the budget process, the finance department estimates reserves based on anticipated expenditures and revenues for the year in which the budget is developed. Pursuant to city financial policy, at the beginning of each biennium the city must update the biennial budget with actual beginning reserves and estimate new ending reserves for the biennium. The finance department undertakes this process in tandem with the reappropriations process to ensure the various funds’ reserves are expected to remain in balance at the end of the biennium. The increase to the reserve balance is $37,022,093. AB22973 (Ordinance 2021-05-019) Approved 7-0

92. Increase appropriations in the 2021-2022 biennial budget by reappropriating unused budget authority totaling $31,938,305 from the 2019-2020 biennium to pay for goods and services previously authorized? At the end of each biennium, all remaining budget authority lapses, even if it is under contract for a project, program or product. To pay those contracts and continue projects authorized in the previous biennium, the City Council must reappropriate the funds. Reappropriations fall into two categories, encumbered and unencumbered. Encumbered funds are those that are associated with open purchase orders or contracts at the end of 2020. In many cases, departments have spent these funds in early 2021 completing contractual obligations. This ordinance ensures they are not expending 2021 budget on 2020 expenses. AB22974 (Ordinance 2021-05-020) Approved 7-0

93. Amend the 2021-2022 biennial budget increasing revenues and expenditures consistent with updated revenue forecasts and to ensure balanced fund budgets? This ordinance amends the biennial budget, increasing revenues by $20,575,817 across several funds and reducing appropriations in the technology replacement fund by $796,534, including shifting funding for two employees from that fund to the general fund for $416,264. This ordinance is part of a series of ordinances to reconcile fund reserve balances and reappropriate budget from the previous biennium. The revenue increase is $20,575,817 and the expenses decrease is $380,270. AB22975 (Ordinance 2021-05-021) Approved 7-0

Action Taken at May 24, 2021 Meeting

Update on Covid-19 Response
Erika Lautenbach, Whatcom County Health Department Director, explained that a milestone of 50 percent of the Whatcom County residents have initiated vaccination, as of 5/21/2021. She relayed that there has been conflicting guidance and information from various sources, such as directives for those who are vaccinated or not to mask. Because of this, the Health Department is recommending that businesses keep up their mask policy. Additionally, the Health Department is working on a Covid-19 impact assessment, which should be available in July. It is the hope that stories and experiences surrounding the pandemic will be captured. (AB22593)

The city will receive $21 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds and has until 2024 to program funds and outline the process of spending. The county will be receiving almost twice the amount. May 25 was the one-year anniversary of the death and tragedy of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and a planning group has worked to form a racial equity commission in partnership with the county. On 5/24, a community blessing event took place to bless the Red Road to Washington D.C. Totem Pole Journey, the 20th Anniversary for Totem Pole journeys sponsored by the House of Tears carvers.

Shall the council:
94. Authorize the mayor to sign a contract with outside legal counsel to assist the city attorney’s office in representing a city employee named in the Bianchi v. City of Bellingham, et al lawsuit? The following is from a Claim for Damages. The claim amount requested is $13,538,000. Plaintiff Brian James Bianchi’s company dba Bianchi Construction was a subcontractor on a street improvement project. Bianchi Construction (Brian Bianchi is of Argentine descent) is designed as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The street project used federal funds requiring certain subcontractors to be a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise. Mr. Bianchi claims a city site supervisor was hostile to him, harassed him and did not not allow him to complete his work. At one point, the city supervisor got into a physical fight with one of Bianchi’s workers. The construction foreman quit because of harassment by the city supervisor. Bianchi Construction was terminated as a subcontractor resulting in the business being shut down. The lawsuit claims that the plaintiff was harassed due to national origin. (Discussed in Executive Session.) Approved 6-0, Dan Hammill excused.

95. Approve the mayor’s appointment of Barbara Plaskett to her first term on the Planning and Development Commission? The commission conducts hearings on the 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. A Bellingham resident for the past 27 years, Barbara Plaskett spent approximately 15 years on the Bellingham/Whatcom County Housing Authorities Board of Commissioners and 17 years as a caregiver with Catholic Community Services, Visiting Angels, and Always Care (formerly ResCare). She has spent eight years with Quicksilver Photography documenting Whatcom County history for the Bellingham Museum. Her term will expire on 5/24/2025, at which time she may be reappointed. (AB22996) Approved 6-0, Dan Hammill excused.

96. Authorize the mayor to accept a $980,000 federal grant for the Little Squalicum estuary project? A city match of $101,658 is required, bringing the total to $1,081,658. The National Coastal Wetlands Conservation grant is funded by taxes or import duties collected from the sale of recreational fishing equipment, boats, electric motors, and motorboat and small engine fuels under the authority of the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1950. The Little Squalicum Estuary restoration project will help address the need for estuarine habitat in Bellingham Bay by restoring 4.85 total acres of coastal wetland habitat, including a 2.4-acre estuary, and removing a fish passage barrier at the mouth of Little Squalicum Creek, just two miles east of the Nooksack River Delta, in Whatcom County. The estuary will provide juvenile rearing, refuge, foraging, and osmoregulatory habitats for multiple salmonid species, including ESA-listed Puget Sound Chinook. Other priority and listed species supported by this project include steelhead, coho, bull trout and southern resident killer whales. This grant is one of five anticipated state and federal grants to complete full project funding. (AB22997) Approved 6-0, Dan Hammill excused.

97. Authorize the mayor to award the low bid of $2,795,644 to Hawk Mechanical Contractors of Monroe to replace the Post Point chlorine gas system? The engineer’s estimate was $2,400,000. A sodium hypochlorite system will replace the existing chlorine gas system at the city’s resource recovery (sewer treatment) plant. Replacing the chlorine gas system reduces the risk of exposure to toxic gas for both employees and the public. The contract includes layout and design activities, furnishing of equipment, construction of ancillary improvements, startup and testing of the new system. The sodium hypochlorite system utilizes readily available inert raw products that are much safer for staff and the public, and have limited regulatory requirements. The city received four bids: the high bid was $3,714,823. (AB22999) Approved 6-0, Dan Hammill excused.

98. Adopt interim housing strategies (i.e. shelter) for those experiencing homelessness as the city’s short- and long-term practices? At the 10/24/2017 meeting, vote #205, the Whatcom County Council voted to establish a Homeless Strategies Workgroup to identify solutions to reduce the population of unsheltered individuals. At the 7/23/2019 meeting, vote #150, membership was increased from 10 to 17 members. Staff from the city of Bellingham and county human services, with guidance from the county’s Homeless Strategies Workgroup (HSW), completed a needs assessment that included an inventory of current shelter options operated throughout the county and available to people who are experiencing homelessness. Upon completion of the inventory of services, a set of recommendations was created for the HSW’s consideration. The workgroup approved the recommendations at their 4/16/2021 meeting. The County Council accepted the recommendations at the 5/4/2021 meeting. Not all strategies are funded at this time. The City Council may be asked for additional budget authority at future council meetings. Measures proposed include continued utilization and improvement to the Base Camp (with intent for eventual relocation), support for overflow winter shelters and severe weather shelters, and continued utilization of the tiny home encampments. (AB23000) Approved 6-0, Dan Hammill excused.

99. Appropriate $3,879,354 for payroll checks issued from April 16 through April 30, 2021? (AB23005) Approved 6-0, Dan Hammill excused.

100. Appropriate $4,363,898 for goods and services checks issued from April 30 through May 06, 2021? (AB23006) Approved 6-0, Dan Hammill excused.

101. Authorize the mayor to sign a joint resolution to develop a countywide public safety radio system? The joint resolution is with the Whatcom County Council and the Whatcom Transportation Authority. Public agencies across Whatcom County use a variety of UHF, VHF and 800MHz radio systems operated by both public agencies and private operators. The systems are maintained through a combination of public agencies and private contractors. Currently configured, the loosely organized system does not provide coverage for many areas of the county. In addition, interagency communications with the current legacy systems are difficult and hinder joint operations, especially during first responder activities. Radio communications from 911 centers are used daily by first responders. Multiple studies commissioned by the city of Bellingham and Whatcom County have all concluded that a countywide public safety radio system is necessary and that partnering and sharing of resources is necessary. Specifically, these studies recommend the development of a countywide trunked 800 MHz digital radio system, or network, to supplement and enhance all existing radio systems. AB22998 (Resolution 2021-12) Approved 6-0, Dan Hammill excused.

102. Authorize the issuance of up to $21 million in general obligation bonds to fund the construction of a four-story building on Pacific Street? At the 4/26/2021 meeting, vote #70, the council authorized the mayor to award the low bid of $19,963,299 for the facility on Pacific Street. It will house Public Works, Parks operations and the Natural Resources staff and equipment. This ordinance authorizes $21 million to cover issuance costs and ensure sufficient flexibility. The debt will be repaid from the street, water, wastewater and stormwater funds. The Parks portion of the facility is funded with a $4.5 million contribution from real estate excise tax and will not be part of the bond financing. The full cost of the project is expected to be $24.6 million, including $20 million in construction, $1 million for furnishings and equipment and $3.6 million in contingency. AB22985 (Ordinance 2021-05-022) Approved 6-0, Dan Hammill excused.

103. Reduce single-use plastic waste in Bellingham and encourage compostable or reusable alternatives? Single-use plastic products also make up a large proportion of the municipal solid waste stream and many single-use products are not effectively recycled. On 3/9/2020, the council discussed an ordinance to reduce single-use plastic products in food service and lodging establishments. Further consideration of the ordinance was put on hold as a result of the coronavirus emergency. In 2021, the state Legislature passed SSB 5022, mandating increased recycled content and prohibiting the sale and distribution of certain expanded polystyrene products (commonly known as styrofoam) starting on 6/1/2024. The bill would also restrict the provision of single-use food service products to only those customers who request them, starting 1/1/2022. While generally beneficial, this bill, if signed into law, would preempt cities from regulating expanded polystyrene. However, local ordinances introduced by 4/1/2021 and enacted by 6/1/2021 are exempt from this preemption. By passing the proposed ordinance now, the city’s ban on single-use plastic food service items, which would take effect 7/31/2022, can include expanded polystyrene products, which otherwise won’t be prohibited at the state level until mid-2024. The following restrictions will be enacted: starting 7/31/2022, most types of single-use plastic food service products (plates, utensils, bowls, etc.) are no longer allowed, and dine-in establishments are required to provide durable dishes and utensils if food is to be eaten on the premises; and the distribution of certain single-use personal care products such as shampoo and soap will be prohibited for hotels. Certain exemptions will apply, such as for prepackaged and repackaged food service items, and for items needed for disability accommodation, or if a hardship can be demonstrated. AB22596 (Ordinance 2021-05-023) Approved 6-0, Dan Hammill excused.   

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