Business Briefs — May 2019

West Richland voters say yes to $12.5M police station

West Richland voters approved a $12.5 million bond to build a larger police station during the April 23 special election.

The bond will add 42 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to property taxes. That means owners of a $200,000 home will pay $84 a year.

The measure passed 61.4 percent to 38.76 percent. A 60 percent majority was needed to pass.

The bond will pay for 22,500-square-foot police building that will have a secure armory and evidence room and a safer lobby for visitors and staff. It will also provide more space, including for officer training, community meetings and an improved kennel for animal control.

The location for the station isn’t set in stone, but two properties are under consideration: a 2.5-acre Bureau of Land Management-owned lot just east of Bombing Range Road off Morab Street and a privately-owned, 2.5-acre lot off Mount Adams View Drive. Both properties are near the Benton Fire District 4 station on Bombing Range Road.


Benton Fire District 4 improves insurance rating

The Washington Surveying and Rating Bureau recently notified Benton Fire District 4 that it has earned water tender credits. 

This means some homeowners may see lower insurance premiums.

A water tender is a piece of apparatus that can hold up to 3,000 gallons of water to provide a consistent water source when fire hydrants aren’t available.

The credit applies to properties within five road miles of a responding fire station but not having a standard fire hydrant within 1,000 feet.

The credits will apply June 1, 2019. Homeowners are encouraged to contact their insurance companies or agents to see if it applies to their insurance policies.


Annual service day open for businesses to adopt project

Tri-Citians and Tri-City businesses are encouraged to gather together to work on a community service project of their choice from 8 a.m. to noon June 21. 

A barbecue rib-eye steak luncheon will be provided at Columbia Park near the bandshell area at noon for the first 500 people who RSVP to participate in the third annual George and Pat Jones Community Service day. 

Here’s how it works: Your company chooses a community service project to work on June 21. If you can’t think of one, there is a variety of opportunities listed at communityserviceday.com. If you need additional people for your project, make a note of that in the notes section of your RSVP and the committee will try to find people who can help.

Any business or individual wanting to attend the luncheon also needs to RSVP online.

Last year, more than 300 people came together to participate in more than 20 projects around the Tri Cities. 


Yakima Valley health care system files for bankruptcy

The parent company of hospitals in Sunnyside, Toppenish and Yakima has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Astria Health and 13 related companies, including Astria Sunnyside Hospital, Astria Toppenish Hospital, and Astria Regional Medical Center in Yakima, filed for Chapter 11 protection May 6 to restructure its finances, give it time to replace its existing corporate billing office with another company and develop a reorganization plan with its creditors.

The court’s has approved $28 million in debtor-in-possession financing to allow Astria to address supply and staff shortfalls and pay off two lenders.

The health system had $71.7 million in outstanding unsecured debt, according to court documents.

Astria pointed to running into financial issues after converting to a new electronic health record system last year after buying the Yakima and Toppenish hospitals.

Astria Regional Medical Center, Astria Toppenish Hospital, Astria Sunnyside Hospital and Astria Health Centers will remain open and continue to care for patients as usual as the organization moves through the process. 

There is no plan to close facilities. Employee jobs and wages will not be impacted, according to a news release from Astria Health. 

Astria Health’s goal is to emerge from Chapter 11 by year end 2019.


New motorcycle liability law takes effect in July

Motorcycle operators across the state are now required to be insured under a motor vehicle liability policy.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1014, sponsored by Rep. Bill Jenkin, R-Prosser, into law in April. The bill requires all motorcycle operators to be insured under a motor vehicle liability policy or the allowed equivalent, according to the terms required by current law.

“People are surprised to learn that motorcycle operators are not required to have liability insurance. My bill simply requires those operating a motorcycle to meet the insurance requirements, or equivalent for registered motor vehicles under current law,” Jenkin said. “When someone gets property damage, or in an accident, with an uninsured motorcyclist, they are stuck filing a claim and potentially paying a higher premium. Having motorcycles insured, just like other vehicles, makes sense.”

The law goes into effect July 28.


WSU rolls out new business education curriculum

Washington State University’s Carson College of Business has announced a revised undergraduate program, called the Next Carson Coug, which will roll out to undergraduate students beginning this fall.

A college task force developed the program to transform undergraduate business education at WSU.

The The Next Carson Coug program will add new business courses to introduce freshman and sophomores to the college earlier, and students will declare a major at the end of freshman year versus at the end of sophomore year.

Carson Coug curriculum will focus on communication, critical thinking, teamwork and professional development.

The new program will reduce class sizes from an average of 500 to about 70 students per class.

Students will be required to participate in co-curricular activities through a new milestone system that provides a menu of options and tracks involvement.

Co-curricular activities include joining clubs, participating in recruitment activities and internships and effectively using professional networking platforms such as LinkedIn. These options will provide students an opportunity to build professional skills and develop a portfolio of activities that are documented, as well as make connections throughout the business community.


Columbia Park train back in service for summer

The J&S Dreamland Express is now running weekends, holidays and special events through September at Columbia Park in Kennewick.

Hours of operation are from 1 to 5:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Rides are about 15 minutes and cost $1. Infants ride free. The ticket station is between the Playground of Dreams and family fishing pond on the east end of the park.

Operated by the Kiwanis Club of Horse Heaven Hills for 12 years, the train relies on volunteers to operate.

Money raised from ticket sales go toward college scholarships and school supplies for students from low-income families.

The J&S Dreamland Express’ namesake is James Saunders, a Washington State Patrol trooper killed in the line of duty in 1999.

For more information, contact Pat Loomis at 509-731-0822 or gploomis@ymail.com.


Tour seven gardens during annual event June 8

The Academy of Children’s Theatre Garden Arts Tour is June 8 and
features seven gardens throughout
the Tri Cities.

The self-guided tour runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a finale garden party from 3 to 5 p.m. at a historic Richland riverfront estate.

Showcasing a variety of diverse gardens, the 2019 tour features an inside look at the fruits of gardening expertise from amateur horticulturists and landscape architects. 

This year’s tour features unique gardens in downtown Kennewick, the Street of Dreams, Rancho Reata, Horn Rapids and north Richland. 

Complementing the gardens this year will be performances and demonstrations from a variety of artists, musicians and performers, including the Mid-Columbia Mastersingers.

Tickets are $30 each and may be bought at academyofchildrenstheatre.org or at the ACT office, 213 Wellsian Way, Richland.

Tickets also are available at McCurley Integrity Honda, 1775 Fowler St., Richland; Wild Birds Unlimited, 74 Keene Road, Richland; and Beaver Bark Gift and Garden, 607 Aaron Drive, Richland.

This event is the only garden tour in the area, and has been held annually for 10 years.

Money raised from the tour supports ongoing education classes and programs at the Academy of Children’s Theatre.


New food delivery service launches in Tri-Cities

A new restaurant delivery service option has arrived in the Tri-Cities.

Postmates has launched in more than 1,000 cities across the country, effective April 23.

Customers can order from their favorite restaurants and have their order brought to their door in minutes. The current delivery area includes Pasco, Kennewick and Richland.

Postmates joins Instacart, UberEATS and other local couriers who offer food, grocery and other pickup and delivery services in the Tri-Cities.

The San Francisco-based Postmates touts that it serves more than 70 percent of U.S. households.

Customers pay no delivery fees when they subscribe to the company’s unlimited subscription service for $9.99 per month, or $7.99 per month when paid annually.

In bigger cities, Postmates also delivers groceries and other items.

Postmates, which launched in 2011, has more than 800 employees. It operates in more than 3,500 cities in 50 states and Mexico and estimates it makes five million deliveries each month.


Fowler lands bid to build new Tapteal Elementary School

The Richland School Board recently awarded Fowler General Construction of Richland the project bid to build a new Tapteal Elementary School.

Fowler provided the lowest bid for the new school at $20 million, which is more than $500,000 less than initial cost estimates for the project.

The old Tapteal building at 705 N. 62nd Ave. in West Richland, will be demolished this summer before construction begins at the site. Tapteal students and staff will be moved temporarily to the new elementary near the corner of Keene Road and Belmont Boulevard in West Richland.

Design West Architects designed the new school.

The two-story building will be more than 65,000-square feet, have more than 30 classrooms, a multipurpose space, library, art and music rooms, gym and a new playground.

The new school is scheduled to open in August 2020.

Fowler also constructed the new Jefferson Elementary, which opened in August 2018.

A bond approved by voters in February 2017 is paying for the Tapteal project.


National construction job growth strong in April

The national construction industry added 33,000 net new jobs in April, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released May 3.

Compared to the same time last year, industry employment is up by 256,000 jobs, an increase of 3.5 percent.

Non-residential construction employment added 32,400 net new jobs in April, although the non-residential building sub-segment added just 400 net new jobs. Non-residential specialty trade contractors led the segment, adding 22,100 net new jobs compared to March and 114,300 net new jobs year over year.

Overall, the construction industry unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent, down 2.2 percentage points from the same time last year, which represents the lowest April rate since the series began in the year 2000. The national unemployment rate for all industries fell to 3.6 percent in April.


Grant helps food processor expand, add jobs in Othello

The state Department of Commerce provided a $100,000 grant to the Adams County Development Council from Gov. Jay Inslee’s Economic Development Strategic Reserve Fund to support the expansion of SVZ-USA Washington Inc., the only North American subsidiary of Netherlands-based specialty food processor SVZ International B.V.

The company plans to invest $4.8 million to increase capacity at its Othello facility that opened in 2000, adding 17 new manufacturing jobs to its 90 existing employees. The expansion also means increasing ag supply needs by about 30 million pounds.

SVZ-USA specializes in processing fruit and vegetable juices, concentrates and purees for food and beverage manufacturers around the world.

The grant will help offset the cost of sewer system improvements required by the city of Othello for the expansion. This will also extend the new sewer line well beyond SVZ’s building, facilitating future municipal connections and growth.


Futurewise, Benton County reach settlement agreement

Futurewise recently announced a settlement agreement with Benton County that will safeguard water resources, plan for improved state highway and transit service, and plan for adequate wildfire fighting capabilities.

Futurewise, a Seattle-based land-use group, said that for more than a year it has been working with Benton County to strengthen the county’s comprehensive plan update, which was appealed by Futurewise in early 2018. The resulting settlement agreement includes three key updates to safeguard water resources in the county, including consideration of:

4 Adopting a water mitigation program for new rural development in the Yakima River Basin. Water used by new rural homes will be offset with senior water rights purchased by the county, allowing the water to stay in the main stem of the Yakima River.

4 Limiting new rural residential impervious surfaces that are not infiltrated on-site to no more than 10 percent.

4 Requiring 45 percent vegetative cover – including native or non-native species – with the goal of improving the quality of stormwater runoff within rural residential zones.

Under the agreement, the county also will analyze the impact of planned growth on the state highway system and transit services, and identify the facilities and services needed to serve an increasing population, with the goal of improving capital facility planning efforts with state and regional transit partners, Futurewise said in a news release.

The county also will conduct an analysis of the adequacy of countywide firefighting capabilities and consider amendments to its capital facilities plan that may be needed within the rural areas of the county — particularly those areas on the border of the Urban Growth Area that can be a long distance from services, Futurewise said


New car, booster seat laws go into effect in 2020

Gov. Jay Inslee has signed into law updated regulations on car seat and booster seat use in Washington. 

The updated law will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

Children under age 2 must use rear-facing car seats. Children should remain in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight and height allowed by their seat.

Children ages 2 to at least 4 years old should use a forward-facing, age-appropriate child harness seat – and do so as long as possible, until they reach the seat’s height and weight limits. Many seats can accommodate children up to 65 pounds.

Children older than 4 but shorter than 4-foot-9 who have outgrown the child harness seat must use booster seats.  Most kids will need a booster seat until 10 to 12 years of age.

When children are old enough and large enough to use the vehicle seat belt alone, they should use lap and shoulder seat belts for optimal protection.

As with the previous law, drivers can be ticketed if a passenger under 16 is not using the correct car seat, booster seat, or seat belt based on their age, height or weight.

The changes align Washington state’s law with the most recent guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, issued in 2011.

More information on car seats and booster seats, including a directory of free seat checks in Washington, is available at boosterseat.org.


Survey asks state businesses for feedback

Businesses from across Washington are being sent the 2019 Washington State Employer Needs and Practices Survey this month—electronically and by mail.

Survey results will help shape state education and training programs to better meet business needs. About 30,000 businesses were randomly selected to participate. The survey takes around 10 minutes to complete and asks about hiring challenges, training needs and other issues. It’s conducted every few years by the state’s Workforce Board, along with the Association of Washington Business and the Washington Chamber of Commerce.

The survey and its data are used by the state’s education, training and workforce development systems to evaluate, modify and expand course and certificate offerings. The state’s Workforce Board, which evaluates the state’s largest workforce program and provides policy recommendations to the governor and Legislature, issues this comprehensive employer survey every few years.

For more information, contact Workforce Board Research Investigator Chris Dula at chris.dula@wtb.wa.gov or go to wtb.wa.gov/EmployerSurvey.asp.


Connell to mark electric car charging station installation

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the sixth of nine electric vehicle charging stations across Eastern Washington is planned for 11 a.m. May 23 at 222 S. Columbia Ave. in Connell.

Driving an electric vehicle across Washington has become easier than ever, thanks to a five-year electric vehicle infrastructure initiative led by Energy Northwest.

The Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Transportation Alliance, or EVITA, was formed in 2017 to bridge the electric vehicle range gap between eastern and western Washington, support electric transportation infrastructure and help reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector.

Core alliance partners are Benton PUD, Franklin PUD, Benton Rural Electric Association, the cities of Richland and Ellensburg, TRIDEC, Energy Northwest and Greenlots, an EV equipment supplier. 

Greenlots, in addition to supplying all of the equipment, will operate all of the stations tied to the project, except for the Pasco station that is owned privately.

The Washington state charging stations will be in Kennewick, Richland, Pasco, Connell, Prosser, Yakima, Ellensburg, Cle Elum and George.


Real estate philanthropist named Tri-Citian of the Year

The 2019 Tri-Citian of the Year award went to Dave Retter, owner of Retter & Co. Sotheby’s International in Kennewick.

Retter is well-known for his philanthropic work, which includes his role in helping launch the Kennewick Police Community Cares Fund, which empowers police officers to pay for minor expenses to help those in need.

He was nominated by Kennewick police Chief Ken Hohenberg, who received the honor in 2009.

The award ceremony was May 2 at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick.


Upgraded database ready for spring recycling

Every spring as Washington residents begin their annual cleaning rites, the same question is asked: where can I recycle this?

And every spring since 1976, the state Department of Ecology has answered through its 800-RECYCLE line (800-732-9253) as residents search for drop-off services or for collectors who will pick up hard-to-recycle items.

In addition to calling, customers can search at https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/warecycle.

The list includes 1,578 Washington recycling services and more than 70 types of recyclable materials, including large appliances like dishwashers, water heaters, stoves, washing machines and dryers.

Type in your location and material type, and the upgraded database will find nearby services that accept them.

The site will provide an address, phone number, business hours, website and Google Maps location, along with a full list of acceptable materials.


It’s fresh produce time at area farmers markets

The Tri-City’s favorite farmers markets open for business in May and June.

Here’s the schedule:

Prosser Farmers Market: Open from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays, starting May 4, Prosser City Park.

Pasco Farmers Market: Open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays, starting May 11, corner of South Fourth Avenue and West Columbia Street.

Historic Downtown Kennewick Farmers Market: Open from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursdays, starting May 30, Flag Plaza, intersection of Benton Street and Kennewick Avenue.

Richland’s Market at the Parkway: Open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays, starting June 7, Lee Boulevard between Jadwin Boulevard and George Washington Way.


Richland hires Texan as new police chief

The city of Richland has hired a Texan with more than 30 years of law enforcement experience as its new police chief.

John W. Bruce of Frisco, Texas, is scheduled to begin his Richland post in early June.

Bruce replaces Chris Skinner, who last year accepted a position as police chief in Eugene, Oregon. Jeff Taylor had been serving as interim police chief

Bruce has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience and comes to Richland after climbing the ranks within the city of Frisco’s police department, where he has served since 1996. He was named police chief there in January 2013, leading a department of 215 sworn personnel and 115 civilians in the fast-growing community, which has a population of more than 185,000 residents.

Bruce earned a bachelor’s in sociology in 1992 and a master’s degree in public affairs in 1994, both from the University of Texas at Dallas. Among his other educational accomplishments, Bruce completed Session 216 of the FBI National Academy and is an alumnus of the Leadership and Command College.

In addition, Bruce is committed to community involvement and participating on professional boards and organizations. He has served as an executive partner for the Children’s Advocacy Center since 2013.

John is an avid runner and outdoorsman. He is married to his wife, Anita, and they have two sons, who also are public safety professionals.

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