The Benton-Franklin Department of Human Services is asking for more money from Franklin County to help displaced residents from the Sacajawea Apartments fire find new homes.
The $61,000 would come from document filing fees in the county auditor's office already earmarked for homeless services, Human Services director Ed Thornbrugh said at Wednesday's Franklin commissioners meeting. However, the commissioners will have to approve a contract amendment to release it.
"This is just additional money because of the increased demand," he said.
The Benton Franklin Community Action Committee will use the money to screen former Sacajawea residents to make sure they meet very low-income guidelines, act as case managers to help them find homes and help pay for rent and deposits, Thornbrugh said.
The residents of the building's 60 apartments had their leases terminated after the July 20 fire burned several units and left smoke damage in other parts of the 63-year-old complex.
Thornbrugh also is asking the county to create a reserve fund so Human Services won't have to ask for more money in future emergencies. He suggested a "ballpark" estimate of $100,000.
Commissioners Rick Miller and Bob Koch were receptive to the idea, though they didn't vote on the requests Wednesday. Commissioner Brad Peck didn't attend the meeting because he was on county business in Washington, D.C.
"It's just some money that Human Services has that will help get people back into housing," Koch said.
American Red Cross emergency services director Tawni Solberg told the Herald on Wednesday that around 150 people were initially displaced by the fire. Housing has been found for 16 clients, while 27 people remained as of Tuesday night at a Red Cross shelter at Pasco High School.
The Red Cross still provides services, such as meals, for a total of 59 people, Solberg said.
"Some of those had families they could stay with," she said. "Some of them weren't comfortable in the shelter setting."
The Red Cross will keep the shelter open until it can find homes for everybody, agency fund development specialist Kathye Kilgore said.
"We're looking at next week sometime, but we don't have a crystal ball," she said.
Emergency lighting is being installed in the six-story complex, which the building's owner, Linda Guo of Bellevue, said she hopes to have completed by Friday. That will allow residents, who have only been allowed in briefly to get their belongings, to enter for longer periods of time.
The building has been locked and broken windows have been boarded up, Guo said.
"The insurance company made sure it was secure," she said.
In other business Wednesday, commissioners:
-- Approved a $100,000 Community Block Development Grant imminent threat contract with the Washington State Department of Commerce. The department, with money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is reimbursing the county for emergency work to build a well to replace one that collapsed in the Sunset Domestic Water Association in northwest Franklin County. The collapse caused around 45 people to have to use bottled water for several weeks.
-- Approved the purchase of End Dust magnesium chloride crystal, which the county will use to treat two miles of its nearly 400 miles of gravel road. Public works director Matt Mahoney said it is experimenting with the crystal because it is less expensive than the liquid product it now uses. The crystal costs $2,700 per mile, compared with $4,600 for liquid. That could help the county increase the road mileage it treats each year, which is now between seven and nine miles.
-- Opened bids on an intersection safety improvement project, which will include features like flashing red lights on stop signs and rumble strips to slow drivers down. The low bid of $90,162, which must still be verified, went to Pavement Surface Control of Kennewick. That was just above the engineer's estimate of $90,000.
-- Approved five change orders to the Franklin County jail expansion project. They will add a net of $15,966 to the cost of the $18 million project. Among the costs that had to be paid were burying a TV cable that was found unexpectedly and buying a tap for a 16-inch water main. Initially, workers thought the water main below the project was eight inches.
-- Honored Boy Scout Troop 159, which recently attended the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia. The troop was represented at the meeting by Noah Pickens, 14, Gray Douglas-Lenk, 14, Spencer Fall, 14, and Brandon Merk, 15 -- four of the seven members of the troop to make the trip.