What Services Are Still Running in Columbia County, Wash.?

Some city services have closed or have been restricted since the spread of the coronavirus in Columbia County, Wash., and the surrounding area. There is now a comprehensive list of what changes are taking place.

by Kristin M. Kraemer, Annette Cary, and Cameron Probert, Tri-City Herald / March 20, 2020
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(TNS) — Mid-Columbia cities and counties in Washington State are closing offices, limiting access and restricting services as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

From paying a bill to buying a business license, here’s a look at some of the changes:

Pasco

Pasco City Hall will remain open for now but the city is strongly encouraging customers to use online or phone payment options for Utility BillingDog LicensingParks informationBuilding Permits and other city services.

Pasco council members will use teleconferencing equipment for council meetings and residents are asked to use online/TV viewing, via Facebook or YouTube, or PSC-TV Channel 191 on Spectrum Cable, to watch the meetings.

Comments and questions to the council can be submitted online via Facebook or the city’s website.

Pasco Municipal Court will reschedule all civil and criminal and out of custody hearings, including jury trials. Notices will be mailed to individuals effected by these changes.

Individuals with a contested hearing or mitigation hearing that do not want to appear at a later hearing can request a decision on written documents. The form is found on the city website or contact the clerk with questions.

The Parks and Recreation department is closing all park restrooms and doesn’t expect to book park, shelter and recreation facility rentals until May. Existing rentals on the books between now and the end of April will be refunded.

Richland

Richland City Hall is closed to public access, so officials are asking people to go online or call for the common services.

People can pay utility bills by calling 509-942-1104, going online at www.ci.richland.wa.us/myutilities or by using the drop box in the southwest side of the building.

If they’re looking for a business license or related services, those are available at www.ci.richland.wa.us/businesslicensing.

The Planning and Building Divisions can do much of their work online. Most general questions can be answered over the phone. People can call 509-942-7794. Building inspection requests can be made online.

The landfill remains open during regularly scheduled hours.

The Richland Police Department closed to the public at 1 p.m. Thursday. Business hours via telephone will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at 509-942-7340.

Residents may make police reports by phone that don’t need a police presence.

“We do not undertake this step lightly, but our goal is minimizing risk and spread of infection, as well as keeping our officers healthy and able to respond to emergencies,” the police department posted on its Facebook page as part of the announcement.

Richland closed its community center, closed its park restrooms and started offering only skeleton library services.

Wednesday afternoon the city announced the Richland Public Library would close at 2 p.m. March 20, after saying earlier this week that the library would remain open limited hours to allow customers to pick up items placed on hold.

The only service offered through 2 p.m. Friday is pickup of held materials.

Return drop boxes will remain open.

Kennewick

Kennewick City Council has canceled all of its scheduled meetings through the end of May, except for a meeting April 21.

Special council meetings may be scheduled for essential operational items between now and the end of May.

The public is encouraged to watch any council meetings scheduled online at bit.ly/KennewickBroadcast rather than in person at City Hall.

All city board and commission meetings also are canceled through May unless there are business items that cannot be delayed.

However, a public hearing on an ethics complaint filed against Kennewick Mayor Don Britain has not been canceled. It is set for 6 p.m. April 16 at City Hall, 210 W. Sixth Ave.

The public may attend but no comments will be heard from the audience.

Kennewick city offices have closed to the public through the end of March, but business can be transacted by telephone and e-mail.

A drop box for utility payments is on the east side of City Hall. Payments also can be made through the city’s automated telephone system at 509-585-4266, online or through private bill-payer services.

For non-emergency calls, police can be reached at 509-585-4208 and fire at 509-585-4230. All other city services are at 509-585-4200.

West Richland

The Municipal Services Facility is closed except for “mission-critical functions and duties that do not require close personal contact with the public.”

Utility payments can be submitted online, by calling 800-918-0468 or placed in the city’s utility drop box at 3100 Belmont Blvd. More detailed information and instructions to set up or disconnect a utility account are available at westrichland.org/utilities or by calling 509-967-3431, option 4.

Garbage service through Ed’s Disposal will run as normal without interruption, but the company’s offices in Pasco and Walla Walla are closed to walk-in customers.

Community Development Services will switch to processing planning and building permits online, and building inspections will continue. General questions can be directed to 509-967-5902. For permits and instructions on submitting online applications, call 509-967-7144 or email permits@westrichland.org.

It is business as usual for the Public Works Engineering Department with a few changes. Inspections on all city and private construction projects will continue, but emphasis is being placed on social separation practices.

Civil plan and street cut permit reviews will only be taken electronically. Applicants can email public.works@westrichland.org or call 509-967-7107 for instructions on how to submit.

All communications or meetings with Public Works will be done by email, telephone or tele/videoconferencing.

West Richland’s water supply continues to be monitored and tested, and is safe to drink, the city says.

The police department’s lobby remains open, though staff are not doing fingerprinting services, Department of Corrections check-ins or citizen ride-alongs.

City board and commission meetings have been canceled, and the City Council will not meet April 7.

Benton County

Not all, but most of the county offices are closed to in-person visits from the public. This went into effect at the close of business Tuesday.

While staff will still be in through this week at all county agencies, some offices will then close March 23 except for essential services.

Those offices that remain open will operate in a limited capacity at the discretion of the elected official who heads the office or the county administrator.

All county offices hope to re-open to the public April 6 for normal business hours, unless the closures are extended.

“We are doing everything we can to protect the public and our employees in the midst of this expanding public health crisis,” the county said in a news release. “We will continue to provide essential services to residents but we are monitoring the situation closely and urge the public to follow the guidance of the Benton-Franklin Health DistrictWashington State Department of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”

The sheriff’s office lobbies in Kennewick and Prosser will be open during regular hours of operation. However, people are asked to come in only if it is imperative to public safety.

Deputies will attempt to handle service calls over the phone first to limit in-person contact. Fingerprinting services have been suspended for now, and records requests should be submitted electronically to BCSORecords@co.benton.wa.us.

The Prosecutor’s Office announced Wednesday it is limiting operations, starting with the immediate closure of its Justice Center-based office to in-person visits from the public.

Starting March 23, only essential employees will be on site, with non-essential employees working from home.

Someone who has what they believe is an emergency need for an in-office visit is directed to call 509-735-3591, or 509-735-7316 if it’s a child support matter. They can also email prosecuting@co.benton.wa.us.

The front counters for District Court in Kennewick and Prosser are closed through April 24. The public is directed to communicate with the office via online, email at District.Court@co.benton.wa.us and telephone at 509-735-8476.

Mental Health and Veterans Courts will conduct business telephonically.

Superior Court and Juvenile Court also are operating at a reduced schedule, with all trials canceled until April 24.

The clerk’s office stopped taking passport applications Wednesday, and asked for the public’s understanding for the inconvenience while staff continue to provide other services during the public health crisis.

The Office of Public Defense is available by phone at 509-222-3700 or by email opd@co.benton.wa.us. Public defense attorneys will continue to be available to clients and the public remotely, and provide services in court as needed.

The commissioners and administration offices are monitoring emails and phone calls. However, the commission will continue to hold its regularly scheduled board meetings on Tuesdays, unless otherwise posted.

Human Services is available via phone at 509-783-5284, and the assessor’s office at 509-786-2046 or assessor@co.benton.wa.us.

The treasurer’s office has property tax payment drop boxes at the Kennewick Annex, 5600 W. Canal Drive, and the Benton County Courthouse, 620 Market St., Prosser. Payments also can be made by mail and online at bentoncountytax.com.

People needing assistance with Real Estate Excise Tax or manufactured home transfers or plats should contact 509-735-8505 to schedule an appointment. All other inquiries can be directed to treasurer@co.benton.wa.us.

Appointments can be made with the auditor’s office at 509-736-2727 or auditor@co.benton.wa.us to record documents or apply for marriage licenses. Title companies are encouraged to use e-recording.

For questions about licensing, contact one of the licensing sub-agents.

All events scheduled to take place at the fairgrounds have been canceled through May 1. Event holders will be fully refunded any fees or invited to reschedule their event at no extra cost within 12 months, the county news release said. Contact 509-222-3751 or bc.fairgrounds@co.benton.wa.us.

Canine shelter staff will monitor calls to 509-460-4923 and provide emergency services, but are not allowed to take visitors or facilitate adoptions at this time.

Road maintenance operations will continue without interruption, and building inspections will go forward with certain site restrictions. Inspections can be scheduled at 509-736-2763.

Those hoping to use their free time to get in some practice at the range should be advised the Rattlesnake Mountain Shooting Facility is now closed.

Other county parks, like Badger Mountain and Candy Mountain Preserves, remain open.

Franklin County

Franklin County commissioners are asking officials to close or partially close offices through April 5, but still maintain the continuity of essential operations of county government.

Employees are being asked to work remotely when they can, and administrative leave is being authorized to minimize the economic disruption to the employees.

“While the courthouse remains open on a limited basis, each office and department has been tasked with ensuring appropriate social distancing restrictions are followed and assisting with essential needs of the public,” County Administrator Keith Johnson said.

People are asked to call ahead if they have business at the county. Drop boxes are set up for people to pay property taxes.

The sheriff has limited access to the Franklin County Corrections Center for visitors and volunteers. They are only allowing three visitors at a time to use the kiosks in the front lobby during Saturday and Sunday visiting hours. Once the visits are complete the machines will be wiped down.

All volunteer programs have been canceled. The sheriff’s office staff plans to re-evaluate the situation on March 31.

More information about individual closures are available through county’s website. www.co.franklin.wa.us.

Kennewick Schools

Kennewick’s administration center on Fourth Avenue is closing to the public starting March 20 and lasting through April 3.

District staff will be conducting school business over the phone and through email. Only the in-person appointments that are deemed necessary are going to held.

“We are committed to continuing to serve our staff and families during this temporary closure,” district officials said in a notice Thursday.

The school board met in an emergency session Wednesday and adopted a resolution that suspends board policies so recommendations from the state superintendent’s office can be implemented.

©2020 Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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