Benton-Franklin Crisis Response Unit could move into new home soon

Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 15, 2014 

The Benton-Franklin Crisis Response Unit could move into a new home on North Morain Street in Kennewick in the next few months.

Commissioners from the two counties approved a lease Wednesday during a special meeting. The session also included talk of ways to make operations run more smoothly for bicounty departments like Benton-Franklin Human Services.

The Crisis Response Unit falls within that department.

The lease caps months of back-and-forth between the two counties. The pact still must be signed, but the term is seven years, with an opt-out clause after three years. The base monthly rent is $9,863.

The facility is at 500 N. Morain St. Along with the Crisis Response Unit, it also will be home to human services' coordinated entry housing team.

The vote by Benton and Franklin county commissioners to approve the lease was unanimous.

Franklin County Commissioner Brad Peck, who raised concerns about the previous proposed lease, thanked the human services director for his work to improve the pact and bring forward a the revised document.

Both counties endorsed a plan to move the Crisis Response Unit to a new home, and Benton County commissioners signed off on a lease for the Morain Street site. But Franklin County commissioners didn't like the terms, particularly the lack of an opt-out clause like the one in the updated agreement.

That situation highlighted issues -- from different positions on labor negotiations to different priorities -- that can rear up in an agency that answers to two elected bodies.

"Talking to our staff in Benton County, I think there is some frustration when it comes to joint county operations," said Benton County Commissioner Jerome Delvin. He suggested ideas ranging from moving away from the current model to establishing a memorandum of understanding to both sets of commissioners meeting together more often.

Benton County Commissioner Jim Beaver noted the two counties have different opinions, approaches, budgets and constituents, but said his goal at the meeting was to find a way to strengthen bicounty operations.

Franklin County Commissioner Rick Miller agreed, but said "here's the problem that I see: we don't have enough (bicounty) meetings."

That's ultimately the route the six commissioners opted to take -- to start with gathering more regularly, possibly after the monthly Benton-Franklin Board of Health meeting, which all the commissioners attend.

Leaders of departments like human services also will be asked to compile their thoughts on issues in a bicounty system.

-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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