Business Briefs — September 2019

State OKs Kadlec to add 67 inpatient hospital beds

Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland received state approval to add 67 inpatient beds to its hospital license.

This raises Kadlec’s capacity to 337 beds. Under the approved certificate of need from the state Department of Health, Kadlec plans to phase in the additional beds over the next few years.

Kadlec’s acute care bed occupancy rate has been increasing steadily. Coupled with the community’s projected population growth of nearly 2 percent per year for the next seven years, gaining state approval of this expansion is important, according to Kadlec officials.

The population growth is driven primarily by growth in the number of residents age 65 years and older which increased, on average, 5 percent per year from 2010-15, and is forecasted to grow more than 4 percent per year from 2015-20 and 3.7 percent per year from 2020-25. This high rate of growth in the number of aging residents is important because this population has a much greater inpatient utilization rate than younger residents. In turn, this translates into much greater demand for inpatient care.

At the same time, Kadlec is strongly focused on growing its outpatient services to meet ever- increasing demand and evolving capabilities in the outpatient arena.


Kennewick to live-stream city council meetings

Kennewick residents can now watch gavel-to-gavel coverage of Kennewick City Council meetings online.

To watch the live video stream of city council proceedings, go to go2kennewick.com/1256/Council-Meeting-Broadcasts.

In addition, the live video stream of city council, commission and specialty meetings will be archived and available for on-demand viewing on the city’s website.

With four cameras in the city’s council chambers, residents will receive a high definition and dynamic viewing experience. The streaming video includes lower-third graphics, to help identify who is speaking and on camera, plus full screen graphics of digital presentations.

The broadcast of the council meetings is hands-free, meaning it doesn’t require the city to staff a production team, with the help of Dallas, Texas-based Swagit Productions and its Avior hands-free broadcast system.

The city’s meetings are at 6:30 p.m. the first and the third Tuesday of every month.

 The meeting videos will be indexed with the agenda and archived for accessible on-demand viewing. Once a meeting is archived, the on-demand feature allows viewers to choose which meeting agenda items or conversations they wish to watch, and then jumps directly to that specific point within the video.


Labor and Industries extends public comment period on overtime rules

Driven by a high level of interest, the state Department of Labor and Industries is extending the public comment period on its proposed changes to the state’s overtime rules by two weeks.

Comments now will be accepted through Sept. 20.

The Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors voted to oppose the new overtime proposal. The chamber said the rules will have a big effect on employers, particularly nonprofits and small businesses.

In June, Labor and Industries proposed an incremental increase in the minimum salary threshold for employees to be considered exempt from overtime. Under current federal guidelines, to be overtime exempt, an employee must perform certain types of managerial duties and be paid a salary of at least $455 a week. That figure would climb under the proposed rule.

Along with the salary threshold, an overtime-exempt employee also must meet a job duties test. Labor and Industries’ proposed rules would more closely align the state’s test with federal standards. The proposal covers employees defined as executive, administrative and professional, as well as outside salespeople and computer professionals.

This would be the first update of the state rules since 1976.

“We’ve seen an outpouring of people interested in these changes, and we want to make sure they all have a chance to tell us what they think,” said Elizabeth Smith, Labor and Industries deputy director. “With so many people focused on vacations and family events through the late summer, we want to give people more time to comment as they return to their fall schedules.”

Labor and Industries has already received more than 1,450 comments on the proposal, and took testimony from more than 180 people at seven public hearings held around the state, including in Kennewick, in July and August.

The proposed changes would significantly increase the minimum amount employees must earn before they can be exempt from receiving overtime pay and other protections under the state’s Minimum Wage Act. The proposal would restore overtime eligibility to more than 250,000 employees when fully implemented.

Comments can be sent by email to EAPrules@Lni.wa.gov or by fax to 360-902-5300. Find details on the proposed rules at Lni.wa.gov/OvertimeRulemaking.


Company receives 6 patents for innovations

Framatome, which has an office in Richland, received six patent awards for nuclear innovations.

The patents cover inventions to improve safety and operational excellence in nuclear energy facilities.

Three of the awards were in fuels for utilities: a strip for a nuclear fuel assembly spacer grid, composite fuel rod cladding and nuclear fuel rod cladding including a metal nanomaterial layer.

Three other awards were for: boiling water reactor feedwater sparger end bracket pin clamp, excavation and weld repair methodology for pressurized water reactor piping and vessel nozzles, and control rod drive mechanism inner diameter annulus ultra-high-pressure cavitation peening.


State opens use for drug to fight opioid overdose

The state is making it easier to get access to an overdose reversal drug.

Dr. Kathy Lofy, Washington state health officer, signed a statewide standing order for naloxone, which can reverse an opioid overdose. The standing order allows any person or organization to get naloxone from a pharmacy.

“Making it easier to access and distribute this lifesaving medication to people who need it is an important step in addressing the opioid crisis and reducing overdose deaths in our state,” Lofy said. “In 2018, 710 Washington residents died of an opioid overdose.”

Naloxone can be given as an injection or a nasal spray. It works by temporarily blocking the effects of opioids.


Bigger apple crop ahead for 2019-20 harvest

Washington apple harvest is expected to top 137 million boxes, an increase of nearly 18 percent over the 2017-18 season.

The Aug. 7 forecast aligns with the volume of the previous two years’ harvests, according to the Washington Apple Commission.

Varieties grown in Washington have grown diverse, providing consumers with more than 56 varieties available. The organic category represents 13 percent of the total crop.

About a third of Washington’s fresh apple crop is exported each year and accounts for 95 percent of all U.S. apple exports, the commission said.


Benton PUD offers low-income advocate workshop

Benton PUD is holding a low-income advocate workshop for Tri-City area organizations, human service groups and community partners.

The PUD wants to share information about its programs and services.

The following topics will be discussed:

• Benton PUD’s low-income discounts, which are available to income qualified senior, disabled and veteran/active military customers.

• SmartHub, a customer portal, and how it can help customers monitor electric usage and make changes to lower electric consumption.

• Pay As You Go, a new program that allows customers to pay for electricity in advance, similar to minutes on a prepaid cellphone, and avoid fees and security deposits.

• Conservation programs for low-income customers.

The meeting is at 9 a.m. Sept. 26 at the Benton PUD Auditorium, 2721 W. 10th Ave., Kennewick. RSVP to Katie Timmerman by Sept. 20 at timmermk@bentonpud.org or at 509-582-1286.


Gesa Credit Union unveils new Local Heroes card

Gesa Credit Union announced its Gesa Local Heroes Affinity Debit Card program, supporting first responders, veterans and teachers.

With each use of the cards, Gesa will make a small donation to its Local Heroes Fund. The money will be used to fund grants for fire departments, police departments, teachers’ groups and veterans’ organizations, as well as organizations that support those services.

Organizations interested in applying for grants can do so at gesa.com/local-heroes.

Gesa already has 13 Affinity debit cards, which have raised more than $300,000 for Washington schools and youth sports.


Bond for firetruck, station renovation on Nov. 5 ballot

Benton Fire District 1 is asking voters to consider a capital improvement bond on the Nov. 5 ballot.

This bond would last for 20 years and be an estimated 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. The estimated cost to a homeowner would be $2.92 per month, or $35 a year, for property valued at $350,000. 

If approved, funding from the bond would provide significant renovations to accommodate staff at Station 150 in Badger Canyon and replace a fire ladder truck at Station 120 in Finley. Replacing the ladder truck will help maintain the fire district’s current insurance rating for fire district apparatus. Renovations to accommodate 24-hour staffing will improve response times district-wide and lower the fire district’s insurance rating.

Benton Fire District 1 funds daily operations through a fire levy of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value, which voters renew every six years. Capital projects – such as stations and apparatus replacement – are funded through voter-approved bonds. In the last two years, the fire district paid off two such bonds.

The fire district asked voters to renew funding for the fire district levy and bond on the August ballot. Voters renewed their fire levy, and a majority of voters (54.38 percent) supported the bond on the ballot, but it was not enough to pass with the super-majority, or 60 percent, requirement.

More information about the bond, including an estimated cost based on assessed value, can be found online at bentonone.org.


Social Security goes far in Benton County, study says

Benton County residents are receiving among the highest annual Social Security payments in the state.

That’s according to research by New York financial technology company SmartAsset.

The average annual Social Security income in Benton County is $20,110. The county ranked No. 10 in the state for places where Social Security goes furthest.

Franklin County ranked 30th in the state, with annual Social Security income at $18,795.

Smart Asset subtracted the county-level cost of typical living expenses from each county’s net Social Security income, among other calculations, to determine the rankings.


Ecology fine-tunes wastewater training

The state Department of Ecology has added three group levels to its Operator-in-Training program, hoping to increase viable candidates for an increase in openings among top positions at wastewater treatment plants.

Plant operators must be certified by Ecology. A recent survey of wastewater plant operators found there were not enough workers certified to replace a growing number of retiring plant managers.

The new group levels in the OIT program are for workers who can pass the next higher group level exam, but have not yet met requirements for full certification at the next level.


Task force to set cannabis testing standards

A state Cannabis Science Task Force is being put together to ensure cannabis labs can produce reliable results when testing consumer and medical products.

A number of state agencies, including the Department of Ecology, are forming the task force in response to state law intended to improve testing.

The Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board and the Department of Health require products to be tested by an accredited lab.

For more information, go to bit.ly/2lBgbZf.


Friends group offers giant book sale in Kennewick

The Friends of Mid-Columbia Libraries’ semi-annual giant book sale is Sept. 25-29 at the Kennewick branch, 1620 S. Union St.

Members get a full day of early access from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25. The cost of membership is $5 a year, and new members can sign up at the door or online.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sept. 26; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 27; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 28; and 1-4 p.m. Sept. 29, when all items are half off.

The event offers used books, DVDs, CDs, audiobooks, and more. All money raised provide support for local libraries. Debit and credit card payments are accepted.


Women Helping Women fundraiser set for Oct. 10

The annual Women Helping Women Fund Tri-Cities luncheon is noon to 1:30 p.m. Oct. 10 at The HAPO Center, formerly TRAC, in Pasco.

This year’s speaker is Maja Kazaaic, a survivor of the Bosnian genocide in the 1990s.

A donation of $100 is needed to attend the event, with 100 percent of the money staying in the community and going to local nonprofits.

Women Helping Women provides grants aimed at addressing the unmet needs of women and children throughout the Columbia Basin.

For more information, go to whwftc.org/annual-luncheon/.


Benton REA holding blood drive on Oct. 24

Benton REA will hold a blood drive on Oct. 24.

The drive will be 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Benton REA’s Prosser office at 402 Seventh St.

All blood types are needed, especially O negative, B negative and A negative.

For more information or to sign up, call 509-781-6753 or go to redcrossblood.org and use sponsor code BREA.


Plan in place for state’s clean electricity law

The state Utilities and Transportation Commission has finalized a plan to implement the state’s new 100 percent clean electricity law.

The plan outlines a process and schedule to come into compliance with the Washington Clean Energy Transformation Act. The act, passed in the 2019 legislative session, requires the state’s electric utilities to produce 100 percent clean power by 2045.

The bill directs electric utilities to eliminate coal power from rates by 2025 and to provide carbon offsets from power generation after 2030.


Comments sought on Pasco landfill cleanup plan

One of Washington’s most challenging contaminated sites soon could see the worst of the waste removed in a major cleanup operation.

A draft plan recommends excavating 35,000 drums of industrial waste from the Pasco landfill, located north of Kahlotus Road and Highway 12, while continuing to safely contain what stays put.

The state Department of Ecology and more than 30 parties responsible for cleanup have collaborated since late 2018 to bring a decades-long process to this final, pivotal step.

The industrial waste in one area requires a permanent solution to control ongoing releases of hazardous substances to air, soil and groundwater. Under the proposed plan, the drums would be excavated, characterized, segregated by waste type and then moved off site for treatment or disposal.

About 5,000 drums of herbicide-manufacturing waste from another area were dug up and sent off site for incineration and disposal in 2002. Because of this source removal and 2013 engineering upgrades to the cover system, the contaminants do not appear to intermix with contamination from other disposal areas. This July, Ecology granted a request from Bayer CropScience Inc. to establish a distinct cleanup site. Separate cleanup documents for this area will be presented later for public review.

Household and commercial waste buried at the landfill from 1958 until 1993 would be left in place. Gases from decomposing waste would continue to be collected and burned off by a flare.

Ecology seeks comments on the cleanup plan through Oct. 3.

Documents can be reviewed on Ecology’s website, the Pasco branch of  Mid-Columbia Libraries, 1320 W. Hopkins St., Pasco, or the Ecology Eastern Regional Office, 4601 N. Monroe St., Spokane.

Comments can be submitted online, emailed to charles.gruenenfelder@ecy.wa.gov, or mailed to: Charles Gruenenfelder, Department of Ecology, 4601 N. Monroe, Spokane, WA 99205.


Dick’s Sporting Goods hires team for September opening

Dick’s Sporting Goods said it would hire five full-time and 40 part-time workers for its store in Kennewick when it opens at Columbia Center mall.

Along with the associate positions, the store said it needed about 30 temporary workers.

The store’s grand opening is Sept. 20-22.


BIAW reaches agreement over workers compensation

The Building Industry Association of Washington announced Aug. 15 that it reached an agreement on a lawsuit over using Workers’ Compensation Funds to implement the Clean Energy Bill.

The BIAW filed suit against the state Department of Labor and Industries to bar workers’ comp from being used for non-worker injury purposes. The agreement stays the suit to give Labor and Industries and the Legislature time to make budget changes in the 2020 legislative session, BIAW said in a press release.

Senate Bill 5116 was passed this year as part of a package of environmental bills.

“This is not a dispute over the policy in the bill,” said Jackson Maynard, BIAW general counsel, in a release. “However, taking $625,000 from the Workers’ Compensation Fund for the bill’s implementation is not allowed under the state Constitution. We hope this case will deter policymakers from siphoning these funds away from injured workers in the future.”


Latter-day Saints meetinghouse opens in West Richland

A newly completed meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently opened in West Richland.

Located at 5885 Holly Way, the 17,000-square-foot facility will serve about 3,800 Latter-day Saint members who live in the vicinity.

It is the 16th meetinghouse in the Tri-City area, in addition to the temple, seminaries and bishop’s storehouse.

The decision to build meetinghouses is based on growth of membership in the area.

All church buildings are paid for by member tithing contributions. The church teaches its members to avoid debt as much as possible and operates in this same manner. This building has no debt.


Builder fined $2,500 by Ecology Department

Hayden Homes was fined $2,500 by the state Department of Ecology at a site in Walla Walla.

Ecology reported the company “repeatedly placed concrete waste on the ground next to a swale causing wastewater to flow over the curb.”

Ecology issued $46,500 in environmental penalties to 12 parties from April to June. The largest was to the city of Seattle for water quality permit violations.


Hollister reopens at Columbia Center mall

Clothing store Hollister is open again at the Columbia Center mall after a six-month remodel.

The store opened its doors again Aug. 15. It is located near the play area between Auntie Anne’s and Coach.

Hollister is owned by Abercrombie & Fitch Co.


Tank wash facility breaks ground in Grandview

Chino Valley Truck Wash broke ground Aug. 26 on an agricultural food-grade tank wash facility in Grandview.

It will be the second tank wash facility for owners John and Theresa Loueiro, who also have a facility in Ontario, California.

The Port of Grandview said in a news release that the facility will sit on a seven-acre site at Stover and Puterbaugh roads and is the first business to move into Puterbaugh Business Park.

Nineteen employees are expected to be hired within three years.


Construction underway on administration center in West Richland

Construction is underway on the Richland School District’s new teacher and administration center in West Richland.

The Teaching, Learning and Administration Center at 6972 Keene Road near Leona Libby Middle School is expected to be completed in September 2020.

The $11.6 million building will be 41,000 square feet, with offices for six district departments, school board meeting space and three classrooms.

Money for the project was approved by voters in 2017.

Voters approved a $99 million bond for this project and several others in 2017.

Bouten Construction of Richland is the general contractor.


Tri-Cities Farm Hall event set for Nov. 14

Washington Policy Center’s Tri-Cities Farm Hall event is from noon to 2 p.m. Nov. 14 in Pasco.

The event will be at The HAPO Center, formerly TRAC, at 6600 Burden Blvd. in Pasco.

Attendees can hear directly from elected officials and industry experts about some of the key agriculture and farming policy issues in Washington state.

This event is free and open to the community. Boxed lunches are available to those who register early. Register online at washingtonpolicy.org under the events tab.


ACT plans fundraiser with construction update

Construction of the 300-seat Academy of Children’s Theatre is underway with occupancy planned for late 2020.

The new theater is at the rear of ACT’s existing facility at 213 Wellsian Way in Richland.

ACT will provide a community update on the progress of its expansion project at an annual fundraising luncheon at noon Sept. 26.   

ACT board member Cathy Kelly and Executive Director Anne Spilman will provide details about the progress. The event is being held at the new theater site. 

Entertainment by youth actors participating in ACT’s upcoming production of “Frozen Jr.” also will be featured. 

To attend the event, there is a suggested minimum donation of $100 per person. In addition, guests will have an opportunity to make a pledge for a theater chair naming sponsorship for a $1,000 contribution.  For details, contact ACT at info@actstaff.org or call 509-943-6027.


Tri-Cities Cancer Center opens Hermiston office

Tri-Cities Cancer Center opened an office in Hermiston on Aug. 21.

The new office is at 600 NW 11th St., Suite E-23 at Good Shepherd Medical Center. It is open for patient consultations, follow-up visits, support services and survivorship appointments.

It will be open on Mondays. Call 509-783-9894 to schedule an appointment.

“We want to ensure that our patients are served well across the region,” said Chuck DeGooyer, chief executive officer of the Tri-Cities Cancer Center. “With many of our patients coming from Hermiston and the surrounding communities, we want to make it easier for them to receive their cancer care and support close to their home.”


Homebridge acquires Kennewick HomeStreet loan center

The Kennewick HomeStreet loan center was acquired as part of a broader acquisition by Homebridge, a large independent mortgage-specific lender.

Forty-seven of HomeStreet Bank’s stand-alone home loan offices were included in the acquisition, raising Homebridge’s profile to include more than 240 retail branches and 2,300 associates throughout the company, according to a news release.

The Kennewick branch is at 8203 W. Quinault Ave. Suite 700.

HomeStreet announced in February that it would seek buyers to acquire its stand-alone home loan centers and related mortgage origination personnel.

Homebridge offers borrowers and the residential builder communities an array of mortgage products, including Federal Housing Administration, Fannie Mae and jumbo loans.


WSU Tri-Cities opens center for student inclusion

Washington State University Tri-Cities recently celebrated the grand opening for its new MOSAIC Center for Student Inclusion in Richland.

It will be a home to student resources to enhance equity and inclusion, a place to discover more about various cultures and a central location for students to talk and learn about current social issues.

Students will have access to workshops on social issues, a library on equity and diversity topics, book clubs, documentary showings on diversity-related topics, advocacy opportunities, celebrations and more.

First introduced by Israa Alshaikhli, former president of the Associated Students of WSU Tri-Cities, the project is coming to fruition under the leadership of Savanna Navarro Kresse, current vice president for ASWSUTC. The students worked directly with university administration, faculty and staff to start conversations about the importance of having a center focused on equity and inclusion, what that center could look like and how they could make the center a reality.

Last spring, WSU Tri-Cities held a soft opening for the center, welcoming student input on what they would like to see.


PNNL report shows shift in wind power usage

The U.S. is shifting to smaller turbines when it comes to distributed wind power, according to a report from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

The study by the U.S. Department of Energy lab in Richland found that 99 percent of distributed wind power projects in 2018 used turbines that generate 1 kilowatt or less.

Distributed power is created where it is consumed, such as at homes, schools, farms and businesses. It is not power that is sent through transmission lines and substations.

More than 83,000 turbines were used for distributed power, up more than 2,000 from 2017. Small turbines accounted for 47 percent of the 1,127 megawatts generated for distributed power.

All of that distributed increase has come from turbines of 1 kilowatt or less, as use of larger turbines is decreasing.


TV program highlights Pasco African Americans’ contributions

Pasco City Television has premiered a program that documents some of the significant sites and people in the community’s African-American population.

As part of a grant from the state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, financed in part with federal dollars from the National Park Service, the program features interviews with members of Pasco’s African-American community at significant sites in east Pasco that are central to the deep history of African Americans in the Tri-Cities.

The main objective of the grant was to document properties in east Pasco historically associated with African-Americans.

“As the population ages and we lose the sites associated with the period when east Pasco was home to a vibrant, African-American community, recognizing this history through place becomes critical,” said Tanya Bowers, producer of the program and member of the city’s Planning Commission, in a news release.

The program is on the city’s YouTube channel and will be running on PSC-TV, Channel 191, on Charter/Spectrum Cable in Pasco and Richland. 

For the schedule, go to pasco-wa.gov/psctvschedule for the schedule.

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Tri-Cities Diversity Summit

October 16 @ 8:00 am - 1:30 pm

Seminar on how to do business with Corps of Engineers

October 16 @ 8:00 am - 4:00 pm

6th Annual Building Bridges & Breaking Down Barriers

October 17 @ 8:00 am - 3:30 pm
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