Five months after an agreement to create a regional 911 dispatch system failed to get full approval, a revised version is making the rounds.
On Monday, the Pasco City Council gave the green light, making the city the first municipality to do so.
Local officials have worked on plans for a regional dispatch system for the past few years.
The separate dispatch systems in Benton and Franklin counties have been blamed for several problems, including misdirected 911 calls and miscommunication between first responders in emergencies.
The new system would be called the Multi-Agency Three Rivers Information and Communication Services, or MATRICS.
The agreement on consolidation now faces approval by the Richland and Kennewick city councils, and the Benton and Franklin county commissions.
Last winter, the interlocal agreement was stalled when it was not ratified by Benton commissioners.
Pasco City Manager Dave Zabell said this agreement “is substantively pretty much the same” but for some clarifications in the language.
If all agencies agree this time, that will start a four-month clock to establish the bylaws and any memorandums of understanding needed to implement the regional system.
Also on Monday, the council:
• Approved a special permit for Franklin PUD’s proposed community solar project at its downtown headquarters.
The PUD wants to install a 60-kilowatt solar panel array on a new 26-stall car canopy in the 1411 W. Clark St. parking lot.
The project to generate more power is estimated to cost between $325,000 and $480,000.
However, PUD customers can invest in the project, which should pay for the bulk of construction. Each of the 1,600 blocks available through the solar array can be bought for $200.
Securing ownership of a panel’s surface area will equate to units, or kilowatt-hours, of electric energy production. The owner then will get a PUD bill credit and a cash payment from an annual state incentive program.
The utility district office is defined as a community service facility and, since the proposed modification is considered an unclassified use under city code, a special permit review was required before a building permit can be issued.
A city staff report said the solar panels may create some glare, but noted that the properties directly to the south of the installation are commercial businesses and should not be as sensitive to glare as other types of development. Since the panels will be on top of the carport, they will be at least 9 feet off the ground, the report said.
There have been no reports or complaints about glare from existing solar panels that line the south and west walls of the PUD offices, the report said.
“I just think it’s unique that the PUD is actually going to sell these panels to the public and then create a credit to the purchaser of that panel,” said Councilman Al Yenney. “It looks like we should pat them on the back for creating that uniqueness.”
Mayor Matt Watkins agreed that it is an innovative approach.
Councilman Tom Larsen questioned if the Pasco Planning Commission erred by saying there will be no direct impact to the city’s budget with the solar panel array. He suggested the city study it further before the council takes action.
When there was no second to Larsen’s motion, he replied: “Looks like I have to vote ‘no.’”
But in a roll-call vote of the six council members in attendance, Larsen voted “yes” so the resolution passed unanimously.
• Approved a ban on smoking and tobacco use in the downtown Peanuts Park.
Smokers now will have to step outside of the small urban park — which includes the Pasco Farmers Market area and a rectangular strip of land to the north across West Lewis Street.
City staff hope to make the park “a cleaner, healthier, safer and more desirable place to recreate,” and also improve the downtown image and making it more welcoming for all users.
This is the first full ban on a Pasco park. Last year, the council adopted an ordinance prohibiting smoking within 25 feet of all park picnic shelters, playgrounds, water playgrounds and swimming pools.
It will go into effect five days after “passage and publication as required by law.”
Rick Terway, Pasco’s administrative and community services director, said they surveyed the downtown businesses and all but one were in favor of and enthusiastic about the ban.
Councilman Bob Hoffmann said he’s in favor of the ban because it reasonably balances the rights of smokers and non-smokers and is limited in scope to two small areas.
“An undue burden is not placed on smokers to exercise their freedom to smoke in downtown Pasco. They can walk a few steps and light up. They are not ‘injured’ by this ban,” he said. “… This ban represents the least restrictive way to achieve a legitimate city interest for the diverse population of Pasco.”