AN OPPORTUNITY TO REMAKE OUR COMMUNITY IN OUR MIDST
The business of the City of Yelm has been mishandled and indications are now this will cost the Yelm taxpayer dearly, as issues have been happening away from public view.
Thurston Highlands, LLC is in default on the entire Highlands property and the records show that the amount to be collected is almost $12 1/2 million dollars. If you recall, Thurston Highlands is a 1,200 acre property in southwest Yelm that proposed 5,000 residential units with up to 1.5 million sq. ft. of commercial space (comparable to the square footage of 8 Super Wal-Marts), including massive new additions to the citys water & sewer systems. This proposed development is one of the largest in the state, and that would quadruple the size of Yelm. In order to accomplish this, the city has proposed to obtain enormous new water rights by application to the State. The City of Yelm has been working under contract with these developers by hiring extra staff to support the added workload. With the developers in default since September, 2008, the city has assumed great costs to the taxpayer, yet has not provided this information to the public.
Now, according to my investigation of public records, I assert there is an appearance the city is not providing oversight of public funds the way that we, the citizens, would expect and therefore city officials are not looking after the best interests of the community. My assessment is that city management have been hiding all of this, continually denying the facts when they know differently.
These following public documents will demonstrate the city has uncollected reimbursements, from which you can read to draw your own conclusions:
– The City of Yelm has not been reimbursed for services rendered and invoiced to Thurston Highlands, LLC for 2008 in the amount of $121,500.00. The City of Yelm sent a letter to Thurston Highlands, LLC dated November 5, 2008 saying the firm was behind in their remittance, however that is the only documented attempt by the city to recoup those expenses.
CLICK HERE for the Nov., 2008 letter.
CLICK HERE for the Aug., 2008 invoice.
– Email response from City Administrator Shelley Badger to me dated January 29, 2007 indicating the city had no contract for the taxpayer to get reimbursed for the $550,003 authorized for a water study the City Council funded for the purpose of a development on private property.
Mrs. Badger said the pro-rata share for the water study will be determined from the Thurston Highlands impact analysis completed during the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and stated as a condition of the Conceptual Master Plan.” However, the city continued working on the Thurston Highlands EIS until the November, 2008 EIS public release, two months after Thurston Highlands, LLC entered into default and three months after the city invoiced Thurston Highlands, LLC for services rendered, yet remained unpaid in violation of the Agreement for Conceptual Master Site Plan.
CLICK HERE for the Thurston Highlands, LLC Final EIS.
– The City of Yelm has done little to get almost 2/3 of a million dollars of taxpayers’ money returned, as demonstrated by the city’s response to the question of water study reimbursements.
Four key questions to consider:
1. Why is the City of Yelm proceeding with the Water System Plan when the whole premise of the Plan is no longer valid, since the citys water system expansion is based on serving Master Planned Communities (MPC), the largest one being in default?
2. Why did the City of Yelm, who knew this firm was in default, not tell the public some 8 months ago?
3. Why did the City of Yelm not tell their constituents the status of this default or the amount the city was owed by Thurston Highlands, LLC?
4. Why has the City of Yelm done little or nothing to get taxpayer dollars reimbursed?
By assessing all of this information, I have ascertained the following:
– The Yelm City Council authorized taxpayer monies ($550,003) to fund a private developers water study, with no contract to be reimbursed or any protections for the city to get taxpayers money returned should the development not come to fruition.
– The City of Yelm is not even one of the lien holders in an attempt to get taxpayer money returned. If the city wanted to get this money recouped, then they would have had to follow the procedure of filing a lien on the Highlands properties and get in line with the other lien holders ahead of them to seek their funds.
– The City of Yelm has not been reimbursed for services rendered and invoiced to Thurston Highlands, LLC for 2008 in the amount of $121,500.00. With the $121,500 added to the Water Study funds ($550,003), thats over two-thirds of a million dollars in monies on these two issues alone Yelm taxpayers are now left holding the bag.
– The City of Yelm knew that Thurston Highlands, LLC was in default and in arrears on paying the citys August, 2008 Invoice, as indicated by a November 5, 2008 letter asking Thurston Highlands, LLC. to remit their overdue payment.
– The City of Yelm has been in total denial of all of the facts presented them and continued to operate against the rules.
– People are hurting and wondering why they have to pay for a water plan through increased rates to expand the citys water system to handle a large development and the developers are now out of the picture.
– City of Yelm officials have done little to nothing to protect taxpayers resources in dealing with Thurston Highlands, LLC.
This situation raises many questions for our community to ponder:
– Is the citys job to be finding water and funding a private developers water plan?
– Why have City of Yelm officials done nothing to protect their constituents who elected them as servants of the public trust in obtaining proper contractual relationships with developers such as Thurston Highlands, LLC, especially after being warned about not having a contract for a private developers water study by me over 2 years ago?
– Where was the city management’s oversight?
– Shouldnt the city have become a lien holder against the property to recoup their funds?
It appears they are not, which means the city and taxpayer have no recourse.
– How long does this kind of conduct continue by City of Yelm officials before the city will wake up and say NO to the hurt and pain that they, the taxpayer, will have to endure?
– Over 2/3 of a million dollars has been spent that may not be recovered, which could have been a down payment on a new library building or money in your pocket that should never have been spent by the city, instead of being funded totally by the developer if there was a contract.
– How long will the behavior of city officials be tolerated here where unrepresented interests never get aired or are squelched by a Mayor and City Council that continually restricts and condemns the public who do speak up?
– Isnt this just bad business, poor management, negligence or far worst as Yelm’s City Council, city administrators, directors and managers have no contract for repayment for services on a water project for a private developer and then no filings of liens, when invoices are unpaid on contractual services rendered by the Citys Community Development Dept.?
NOW is the time for the City of Yelm to wake-up and change their government and the way of doing business.
The Thurston Highlands, LLC parcels are available to the to the highest and best bidder on June 5, 2009. (“The default… must be cured by the 25th day of May, 2009 to cause a discontinuance of the sale,” according to the Notice of Trustees Sale to Thurston Highlands Associates.)
Lets get this land rezoned. This land has not been developed in conformity with the 1995 Yelm Vision Plan in allowing such a large commercial area to be built outside of the downtown core and making this such a large bedroom community.
Shouldn’t this property’s development follow the Vision Plan?
If not, then we should change the Vision Plan, don’t you think?
What do you say?
The choice is in your hands:
do nothing and continued to get kicked in the wallet and gut,
or vote for change?!
Will those wanting this town to change step-up and run for Mayor and City Council positions this Fall?
Maybe this is just what we need to stand back and all have a look at what wed like our town to look like in the future?
The city’s government will most likely deny this, however you can see the official public documents below for yourself, which are undeniable:
1. The Agreement for Conceptual Master Site Plan Application Fees between the City of Yelm and Thurston Highlands, LLC.
2. The Thurston Highlands impact analysis completed with the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which says nothing about Yelm getting reimbursed for the Water Study if the developer does not build or pulls out of the project. The developers are now gone and the city taxpayer is left with the bill.
3. City of Yelm Invoices to Thurston Highlands, LLC from the start of the Agreement for Conceptual Master Site Plan Application Fees effective July 1, 2006 and receipts for payments on account through the end of 2007.
4. City of Yelm Invoices to Thurston Highlands, LLC from the Agreement for Conceptual Master Site Plan Application Fees for 2008, and no receipts.
5. Notice of Trustees Sale to Thurston Highlands Associates, LLC on March 6, 2009 notifying the 7 Thurston Highlands, LLC parcels will sell at public auction to the highest and best bidder on June 5, 2009.
6. Lien of Robinson, Noble & Saltbush, Inc. against Thurston Highlands, LLC for unpaid professional services totaling $4,091.61.
7. Lien of Pacific Groundwater Group, Inc. against Thurston Highlands, LLC for unpaid professional services totaling $59,843.20.
UPDATE: May 15, 2009
The Olympian published a front-page story today about this issue after being sent the aforementioned Yelm Community Blog report.