Tonight’s Yelm City Council meeting had 4 comments from the public as follows in order:
1. Bill Hashim
Asked for the City Council to add to New Business for a session to reconvene and update the 1995 Yelm Vision Plan with broad citizen input, in light of the recent news of the Thurston Highlands default.
2. Jean Handley
asked that all activity the city has on-going with Thurston Highlands cease and desist given the recent Highlands default news. (see tomorrows Blog entry on this!)
3. Gail Cane
clean drinking water a necessity and Yelm is near limits on pumping capacity – water critical issue.
(see tomorrows Blog entry on this!)
4. Ed Wiltsie
Mr. Wiltsie cites City Ordinance requiring the city put funds in escrow to the amount expended by the city on behalf of a developer and in an interest bearing account. Since the city did not do that, the city is in violation of their own ordinance.
Mayor Harding told Mr. Wiltsie that the $550,003 for the Golder Water Study was only on the city’s behalf to find water for the town.
Mr. Wiltsie told Mr. Harding that was not true, that the money went to fund a water study on behalf of a private developer and that was on land not owned by the city.
Mr. Harding turned to Community Development Director Grant Beck and asked for comment.
Mr. Beck offered none and Mr. Wiltsie sat down.
[Ed. Note: That was quite an embarrassing moment for the city!
From Mr. Harding’s continued response that the Golder Water Study was specifically to find water for the city, I can either ascertain one of four things:
1. The Mayor has not read the water study,
2. The Mayor has not understood the water study and did not seek clarification from other sources outside City Hall,
3. The Mayor has been misled by his Community Development Director [Grant Beck], who he turned to for help in response to Mr. Wiltsie and received a stone-walled face from Mr. Beck,
4. The Mayor just out and out lied.
All four of these options are not indicative of a responsible leader.
Again, Mr Mayor, please verify with Mr. Beck that the Golder Water Study had only one purpose and that was to find water for a private developer to locate water on their private (not city owned/controlled) land and bring to the city with their 3 applications. As a matter of public policy, developers are supposed to pay for their impacts up front, just like schools, roads, traffic and water. However, the public will pay with Thurston Highlands because the city funded the water study up front and has maintained they will be reimbursed by impact fees from building permits in the development. The developers are now gone and left the city with 2/3 of a million dollars the taxpayers will have to swallow, unless the developers somehow cure their default. Mr. Harding, developers are supposed to present all aspects of their project to the city, not the city to the developer. You, your Community Development Dept., City Council and City Administrator Badger lost sight of that three years ago and now that decision has come home to roost!]
City Council member Don Miller asked City Administrator if there was a city audit done recently. Mrs. Badger said 2006-2007. Mr. Miller asked if there was any discrepancy of note. Mrs. Badger said there was none.
[Ed. Note: Several blog readers have reported they have written the State Auditor about the Yelm situation in the last week — i.e. that the city had no contract with a private developer in funding the water study on private land.]
Later in the meeting, Council member John Thompson asked for a study session to discuss the Thurston Highlands issues that have been brought to light by this blog in the last week and the comments of citizens tonight, and in particular, to address an update of the Yelm Vision Plan.
I will let you know when that session will be.
UPDATE: May 13, 2009
Due to the large volume of requests to this blog on how to file a complaint about City of Yelm practices, the WA State Auditor’s website has a citizen’s hotline, where you can submit an electronic form or call an anonymous phone number to express your concern:
For the Washington State Auditor’s Office Hotline
About the WA. State Auditor’s Hotline
Washington Coalition for Open Government could be a helpful resource.