West Richland needs a new name.
At least that's what some council members and the city's mayor say.
But now isn't the time to change it, said Rich Buel, West Richland's mayor pro tem, during a West Richland City Council meeting Tuesday.
He served on a subcommittee that spent the past 11 months researching a potential name change along with Councilwoman Gail Brown and Mayor Brent Gerry.
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"We believe that changing the city's name is probably the right thing to do," Buel said.
But realistically, West Richland doesn't have the money or the staff time for a name change right now, Buel said.
Despite having almost 13,000 residents, West Richland is forgotten about, Buel said. In the long term, it's in the city's best interest to change its name, he said.
But essential services are the city's priority now, Buel said, and a name change doesn't make that list.
Brown said having a chance for success in changing the city's name would require a huge educational campaign. A majority of the city's voters would have to approve it.
Public opinion so far appears mixed, with some endorsing the idea and even suggesting names, and others adamantly opposed, Buel said.
West Richland could remove the "Richland" from its name and become "West" something else, he said. No exact names were proposed.
Such a name change would be costly.
It could cost $11,000 to $80,000 for the city to have the state Department of Transportation change the city's name on signs, he said.
And it could affect businesses, including wineries or breweries that would have to submit paperwork to the federal government to change their labels, which could also be costly, Buel said.
The city also would be responsible to change the name with the U.S. Postal Service, which would happen at no cost, Buel said. The ZIP code is the most important piece used to send mail to the right address, but there could be some delays as the name change occurs, he said.
Buel said the idea of changing West Richland's name isn't anything new. City council minutes from 1975 show discussion on the topic.
And the West Richland Area Chamber of Commerce asked the city councilin 2006 to give voters the option to choose to change the city's name to Red Mountain. Owners of Red Mountain wineries and vineyards then accused the city of trying to steal their name, while some West Richland residents told the council they liked their name just as it was.
While that effort was dropped, it came up again a year later as the council debated how to distinguish West Richland from Richland.
-- The council approved extending a moratorium on recreational pot-related businesses for a full year in a 4-3 vote.
The council had passed a six-month moratorium Oct. 1.
City Attorney Bronson Brown said city staff will either prepare regulations so businesses can operate in city limits or consider other alternatives.
Ruth Swain, the city's community and economic development director, said city staff are already working on this.
State rules would allow one marijuana retailer to open in West Richland.
Local city officials have been waiting for clarification from the state and federal governments on how recreational pot will be treated. Last month, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson ruled that city councils can ban pot businesses within city limits.
West Richland city officials still are expecting more guidance from the state government and state Legislature.
Like West Richland, Kennewick, Pasco and Richland have all approved temporary moratoriums preventing marijuana-related businesses from opening within city limits.
Councilman Ron Hayden, who voted against the extension along with council members Robert Perkes and Brown, questioned why it would take the city so long.
He said he would rather start discussing whether the city should ban recreational pot businesses or allow them. Otherwise, the city is leaving potential businesses in limbo.
-- Byron Martin, owner of IT management company Teknologize of Kennewick, was sworn in as West Richland's newest council member.
Martin, a nine-year resident of West Richland, was unanimously appointed to fill the council's vacant seat last week.
The seat was left vacant when Jay Bowman, who filed for Gerry's former council seat, was elected even though he had withdrawn from the race. Bowman had missed the deadline to have his name removed from the ballot.
The city received 12 applications for the vacant seat, but two applicants withdrew, Gerry said.
-- The council unanimously approved selling property at 4403 Chelan Drive that the city had foreclosed on.
The city received a cash offer from Richard Hendrickson and Lucy Sauers for $32,000. Roscoe Slade, the city's public works director, said that would allow the city to recoup the cost of cleaning up the property.
The sale is expected to close this month, he said.
-- The council also unanimously approved a contract with the new owner of the city's current animal shelter.
The city has leased a 400-square-foot property with a partial enclosure to use as an animal shelter since June 2010. A new lease was needed because the Lewis & Clark Ranch has changed hands and is now owned by Greenridge Farming of Pasco.
City officials are working on plans to find a site for a new animal shelter and to build one. If a new animal shelter is finished when the new lease expires on Dec. 31, 2015, then the lease can be terminated, according to city documents.
The city plans to hold a town hall meeting soon so the public can comment on a future animal shelter, according to city documents. The council plans to identify a permanent site for the shelter no later than July 23.
-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org