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Ask MRSC Archives

Below are selected “Ask MRSC” inquiries we have received from local governments throughout Washington State in recent months and years. Click on any question to see the answer; use the drop-down menu to browse inquiries by topic.

These questions are for educational purposes only. All questions and answers have been edited and adapted for posting to the MRSC website, and all identifying information, including the inquirer’s name and agency name, has been removed.


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Under the latest OPMA Proclamation and Reopening Plan, can Phase 2 jurisdictions hold a public meeting where staff and the governing body are present in-person, but the public must attend remotely?
Reviewed: 03/21

Under the latest OPMA proclamation, you cannot just have council and staff physically present, with no members of the public. A condition of holding an in-person component to a public meeting is that anyone that wants to attend in person has to be allowed to do so, and if you can’t meet the safety guidelines you have to adjourn the meeting until you can (or reschedule it as a virtual meeting). You can, but are not required to, have an in-person component to a council meeting but must maintain at least a telephonic option for attendance.

We have more specific guidance in this Frequently Asked Question and in this recent blog post, COVID-19 Reopening Plan, Proclamation Extensions, and Government Operations. Since you have to comply with both the requirements of the proclamation and the re-opening guidance for miscellaneous venues, please check those for details.

If you want to have an in-person component to your meetings, you may want to prioritize which staff from the city attends to allow for more members of the public to attend. Or, consider holding the meeting in a larger space if you have access to one (and your technology will allow you to do so).

(Link to this question)

My Board would like to explore adding a consent agenda to our board meetings. Do you have a guide or outline of how to do that and what a consent agenda should be used for?
Reviewed: 02/21

MRSC has information on consent agendas at the bottom of our Council Meeting Agendas webpage. The webpage states:

The consent agenda is a tool used to streamline council meeting procedures by collecting and grouping routine, noncontroversial topics into a single agenda item that can be discussed and passed with a single motion and vote. In some cities, items to be placed on each consent agenda are selected at a meeting of the city’s department heads. In other cities, a special agenda committee chooses the consent items. Commonly, no debate is allowed on items included in the consent agenda.

Consent items may be read by title only in the body of a single consent agenda resolution. However, any councilmember can have an item removed from the consent agenda for separate consideration. In addition, cities may allow any person attending the regular council meeting to request that an item be removed from the consent agenda, read completely, and voted on independently. In such a situation, the remainder of the consent agenda can be voted on, omitting the challenged items. Setting up a consent agenda system usually requires preliminary action by the council in the form of adopting an ordinance or resolution.

The council/board generally has discretion to determine if it wants to have a consent agenda at its meetings, and if so what items to include on the consent agenda. Again, however, the consent agenda is typically reserved for non-controversial, routine items that the council/board may not need to discuss individually before approval.

Most local governments outline their procedures for agenda preparation in their council/board procedure manuals. You can see many examples on MRSC’s Council/Board of Commissioners Rules of Procedures page. You can open any of these sample documents and do a “Ctrl-F” search for “consent” to quickly locate the relevant sections.

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Can a city council increase or decrease the awards to recipients made by their lodging tax advisory committees?
Reviewed: 02/21

If the council wishes to deviate from the amounts recommended by the LTAC it can do so only after following the procedural requirements of RCW 67.28.1817. This interpretation is based on an informal Attorney General opinion issued in 2016, which is discussed on our Lodging Tax (Hotel-Motel Tax) page:

  • What Does the Municipality Do with the LTAC's Recommendations? The legislative body "may choose only recipients from the list of candidates and recommended amounts provided by the local lodging tax advisory committee" (RCW 67.28.1816(2)(b)(ii), emphasis added). However, an informal opinion from the Attorney General's Office in 2016 states that the legislative body may award amounts different from the LTAC’s recommended amounts, but only after satisfying the procedural requirements of RCW 67.28.1817(2). This requires the municipality to submit its proposed change(s) to the LTAC for review and comment at least forty-five days before final action is taken. For more details, see our blog post on Informal AG Opinion Clarifies Lodging Tax Awards.

So, council may accept the recommendation or reject it without any further action – a vote is all that is required. If the council wants to change the amount awarded to a recommended recipient, it must refer the proposed changes to the LTAC for review and comment.

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I am interested in training resources to become more adept with finding what I need in our municipal code and the RCW and WAC. Do you have any suggestions?
Reviewed: 02/21

With respect to municipal code searches, we see that you use Code Publishing for your municipal code. Take a look at their "Tour" page which has some information regarding the "main interface," "printing and saving," and the "advance search" features of their codes. They also offer some YouTube training videos on browsing and searching online codes.

For help with codes hosted by Municode, see their help page, which includes a video tutorial among other resources.

For RCW and WAC searches, take a look at the following pages:

  • RCW Search - allows for searching the RCW, and optionally, dispositions and supplements, as well as historical versions of the code
  • WAC Search - allows for searching the WAC

Each of these pages also include links to a Public LegSearch Help manual that contains guidance on searching both the RCW and WAC including creating basic search queries, viewing and navigating results, and advanced search techniques.

You might also be interested in reviewing MRSC’s custom search tools that include city and county website and combined city/county code search tools. The combined city/county code searches are helpful when you want to locate and view sample code provisions from multiple jurisdictions. The combined website searches are great tools for accessing all sorts of information on what other jurisdictions are doing.

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We are a small city and I get asked from citizens if they can vote on the city keeping our law enforcement contract, or starting our own city police force. Is there a way for citizens to vote in this topic?
Reviewed: 02/21

We believe a city could probably place an advisory vote before the voters to survey sentiment regarding whether the city should contract for law enforcement services or continue with its own police department. Unlike the powers of initiative and referendum, however, there is no provision in state law for advisory votes. The “closest” authority is provided at RCW 35.22.280(1) which gives first class cities the power to provide “for questions to be voted upon.” A second-class city does not have express statutory authority to provide ballot measures to the voters or to establish an initiative or referendum process. Generally, though, I think city councils of second-class cities probably have the authority to request that an advisory vote be placed on the ballot. However, you will want to check with your county elections officials as well as your city attorney about this proposal.

Note that an advisory vote is expensive because it requires an election with a ballot measure. The outcome of an advisory vote is not binding and would act as guidance for the city council to further act (or not act) on a particular matter. Especially in a smaller community, it may be preferable to hold one or more public meetings to receive comments and feedback or, perhaps, to conduct a survey of the citizens of the city.

Ideally, an advisory vote would test public sentiment about a new policy or project, like opening a new park or program, before a city expends funds on it. Sometimes public sentiment is not clear, and a council just wants a better indication about how popular a particular issue is (or isn’t).

For more information regarding options for providing law enforcement services, see the following:

 

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Is a resignation letter disclosable as a public record?
Reviewed: 01/21

Yes, a resignation letter is a public record that is subject to disclosure under the Public Records Act. There is no general exemption that would allow the city to withhold the letter. It’s possible there would be personal information exempt based on RCW 42.56.250(4) or potentially a privacy exemption under RCW 42.56.230 if there are unsubstantiated allegations included in the letter. You will want to review the content of any requested letter to see if there is any information that might fall within such an exemption.

The city could also provide third party notice to the former employee who wrote the letter and/or anyone mentioned within the letter pursuant to RCW 42.56.540, if it felt such individuals would potentially want to seek an injunction preventing the letter’s release.

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When does a budget amendment for a code city require a super-majority vote of the city council?
Reviewed: 01/21

State law only requires a simple majority vote by the city council for a regular budget amendment; changes to wages, hours, and conditions of employment RCW 35A.33.105; and appropriations of funds received in excess of estimated revenues RCW 35A.33.120(4).

A super majority vote is required when council is amending the budget due to "nondebatable emergencies" RCW 35A.33.080; when the council has declared a public emergency that is not one of the ‘nondebatable’ emergencies RCW 35A.33.090; and when the council declares by facts and findings that it is in the best interest of the city to decrease, revoke or recall an appropriation.

Note: this answer is also applicable to budget amendments for Second and Third Class Cities, Towns and First class cities under 300,000 population. See Chapter 35.33 RCW, specifically RCW 35.33.107; RCW 35.33.121(4); RCW 35.33.081; RCW 35.33.091.

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Are Lodging Tax Advisory Committee (LTAC) grant applications a public record?
Reviewed: 01/21

Yes, Lodging Tax Advisory Committee (LTAC) grant applications are considered public records and we are not aware of any exemption within the Public Records Act (PRA) that would prevent their disclosure. An LTAC is an advisory body to the city council, created by statute under RCW 67.28.1817(1). MRSC regards the LTAC as a subagency of the public agency city under RCW 42.30.020 (1)(c). As a subagency, LTAC’s records, including grant applications submitted to LTAC for consideration, are considered public records under the PRA. As you know the definition of public record is extremely broad, encompassing essentially all records of the agency, including their subagencies and committees.

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Can a conversation between an employee and a commissioner be recorded outside of a public meeting without advising the other person?
Reviewed: 01/21

There is a provision in state law that addresses the recording of “private conversations.” RCW 9.73.030(1)(b) (the ‘Privacy Act’) makes it unlawful to record a “private conversation…without first obtaining the consent of all persons engaged in the conversation.”

The nature and location of the meeting or conversation affects whether it is a private conversation requiring consent to record. The key consideration is whether a person has an expectation of privacy in a given situation. If the conversation was held in a public place where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy (such as in the lobby of city hall, the city council meeting chambers before a public meeting, or at the permit counter), then it is possible the meeting is not considered “private.” But, if the discussion or meeting was held in a private area, such as an internal conference room not open to the public, then all participants would need to consent to the recording. Under RCW 9.73.030(3), if an individual announces to the other party that he/she is recording the conversation (and that announcement is also recorded), consent is considered to be obtained.

Under the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA), a municipality cannot prohibit the recording of a public meeting subject to the OPMA. See RCW 42.30.040 and AGO 1998 No. 15.

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Is MRSC aware of any Washington local governments with either COVID-19 testing at their wastewater treatment plants or at the sewer collection systems for individual facilities?
Reviewed: 01/21

We are aware of a couple of testing programs in the cities of Vancouver and Lynden. See this Bellingham Herald story (Here’s where Whatcom sewage is being sampled for COVID-19 and what it might tell us) reporting on the Lynden testing program that includes testing at two schools in the city. Here is a Vancouver press release detailing the testing program there. The Vancouver page includes a few links to additional references. We monitor a lot of the local newspapers in Washington for general local government news and have not noticed any reports other than the Vancouver and Lynden programs. Our guess is that there are probably not a lot who are doing this.

We sent a survey out to public works directors in cities over 20,000 population. You can view the results here. The results so far indicate that one other city, Spokane, has participated in a pilot study for wastewater COVID-19 testing.

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I've been told that the public safety sales tax requires voter approval. Is this correct? 
Reviewed: 01/21

Yes, RCW 82.14.450 provides for a one-tenth of one percent public safety sales tax option for cities or towns. This option is also available to the county with voter approval for up to three-tenths of one percent sales tax. One-third of all money received must be used for “criminal justice purposes, fire protection purposes, or both.” If it is approved countywide then funds are shared with the cities 60/40. If a city adopts it on its own, then it is shared with the county 85/15.

An additional criminal justice sales tax option that is potentially available is RCW 82.14.340. This one-tenth of one percent sales tax option is available only to counties but requires that the counties share with cities within the county using a formula defined within the statute. This sales tax option does not require a vote.

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The city imposes a utility tax of 6%. I’ve been advised that this is the maximum we can impose without voter authorization. Is that correct?
Reviewed: 01/21

The 6% limitation on a utility tax is applicable only on electricity, telephone, natural gas, and steam energy utilities (RCW 35.21.870). Any increase in excess of 6% requires voter approval. In addition, federal law prohibits taxing internet or broadcast satellite TV services and places limitations on local cable television taxes. See MRSC's Utility Taxes page for a summary of maximum utility tax rates by utility type. There is no limit prescribed by state or federal law for other utilities, such as sewer, solid waste, stormwater and water. However, if the city is proposing to increase the tax on one of these utilities a referendum clause may be required.

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Do budget amendments in code cities require a public hearing?
Reviewed: 01/21

No, state law does not require a public hearing for a regular budget amendment. RCW 35A.33.105 provides the ability to adjust wages, hours, and conditions of employment, without a public hearing. RCW 35A.33.120(4) provides the authority to amend the budget if excess of estimated revenues are to be appropriated. RCW 35A.33.080 provides for "nondebatable emergencies" and there is no public hearing required. However, when the council has declared a public emergency that is not one of the "nondebatable emergencies" defined in RCW 35A.33.080 a public hearing is required (RCW 35A.33.090). Note: this answer is also applicable to budget amendments for Second and Third Class Cities, Towns and First class cities under 300,000 population. See Chapter 35.33 RCW, specifically RCW 35.33.107; RCW 35.33.121(4); RCW 35.33.081; RCW 35.33.091.

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Does state law specify when school impact fees need to be collected for development activity?
Reviewed: 12/20

Normally, impact fees are paid before construction begins because they are a condition for receiving a permit. However, RCW 82.02.050 requires cities, towns, and counties to adopt an impact fee payment deferral system for small single-family residential developments, allowing developers to pay the fees after construction instead of beforehand. For details and examples, see MRSC's Impact Fee Payment Deferral Programs page. More general information is on MRSC’s Impact Fees page.

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My Board would like to explore adding a consent agenda to our board meetings. Do you have a guide or outline of how to do that and what a consent agenda should be used for?
Reviewed: 12/20

MRSC has information on consent agendas at the bottom of our Council Meeting Agendas webpage. The webpage states:

  • The consent agenda is a tool used to streamline council meeting procedures by collecting and grouping routine, noncontroversial topics into a single agenda item that can be discussed and passed with a single motion and vote. In some cities, items to be placed on each consent agenda are selected at a meeting of the city’s department heads. In other cities, a special agenda committee chooses the consent items. Commonly, no debate is allowed on items included in the consent agenda.
  • Consent items may be read by title only in the body of a single consent agenda resolution. However, any councilmember can have an item removed from the consent agenda for separate consideration. In addition, cities may allow any person attending the regular council meeting to request that an item be removed from the consent agenda, read completely, and voted on independently. In such a situation, the remainder of the consent agenda can be voted on, omitting the challenged items. Setting up a consent agenda system usually requires preliminary action by the council in the form of adopting an ordinance or resolution.

The council/board generally has discretion to determine if it wants to have a consent agenda at its meetings, and if so what items to include on the consent agenda. Again, however, the consent agenda is typically reserved for non-controversial, routine items that the council/board may not need to discuss individually before approval.

Most local governments outline their procedures for agenda preparation in their council/board procedure manuals. You can see many examples on MRSC’s Council/Board of Commissioners Rules of Procedures page. You can open any of these sample documents and do a “Ctrl-F” search for “consent” to quickly locate the relevant sections.

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If an employee's husband is high risk for COVID, does that mean the employee benefits from the high-risk protections under the Governor's proclamation? This employee has used her FFCRA, accrued, and FMLA leave.
Reviewed: 12/20

We reviewed the Governor’s memo on high risk employees and this only applies to employees who are: (1) 65 years or older; (2) listed by the CDC under the “at increased risk” category; or (3) listed by the CDC under the “might be at increased risk,” with a few additional conditions.

Unless an employee falls under one of the criteria above, they do not qualify for the high risk category and they don’t benefit from the protections of Proclamation 20-46.2. Even if a spouse is considered “high risk,” a spouse doesn’t benefit from the protections of the proclamation – an employee must meet one of the criteria.

If the employee is considered high risk, then the following apply:

  • Employee must be provided with alternative work assignments (even including reassignment) if they request it
  • Employee must be permitted to use unemployment insurance
  • If the employee’s paid time off exhausts during the period of leave, the employee must be permitted to take unpaid leave
  • Employer must maintain their health insurance benefits until they are able to return to work, even if the employee has exhausted their paid leave and are on unpaid leave
  • Employer may not terminate or otherwise take adverse employment action against an employee for not reporting to work

There are a few other allowances detailed in our blog Additional Rights for Employees at High Risk for Coronavirus Complications.

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We are looking for a definition of "Lodging Tax Funds" at the county level. Our county receives “hotel/motel special tax” and “transient rental tax” (2% for each for a total of 4%). We believe that the hotel/motel special tax is considered lodging tax funds but are unsure on the transient rental tax.
Reviewed: 12/20

Lodging tax has two different components. The state shared retail sales tax portion (2%) RCW 67.28.180, and the additional 2% authorized under RCW 67.28.181(1)

Here is a link to the Revenue Guide for WA Counties that explains the two components of lodging tax (aka: Hotel/Motel Tax). These are both excise tax options available to cities and counties that do not require a vote of the citizens.

There is no difference in the allowed use of these two components of the lodging tax, both of which are restricted resources that may only be used for tourism activities or tourism-related facilities. The distribution by the state for lodging tax is always remitted separately for each component of the tax because the statutory authority to impose the taxes are separate.

RCW 67.28.180 is a credit against the state’s sales tax and therefore is not an increase in taxes but rather a sharing of state sales tax with local government, while the additional 2% authorized in RCW 67.28.181 is an increase in the excise tax. All of the remaining definitions, allowed use, and distribution processes are the same.

The state decision to label one of these tax distributions as a ‘transient rental tax’ is only intended to designate a difference between RCW 67.28.180 and RCW 67.28.181.

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Is overpayment to an employee a gift of public funds?
Reviewed: 11/20

Yes, overpayment to an employee is a gift of public funds and should be recovered. State law sets forth a process for an employer to recover the overpayment of wages. See RCW 49.48.200. If recovery of the overpayment is made by deduction from future wages, the deductions cannot exceed 5% of the employee’s disposable earning in any pay period, other than the final pay period, unless the employee agrees to a greater deduction. For more information, see our 2015 blog article, What if We Accidentally Overpaid an Employee?

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Can REET revenues be used for interest payment on a bond issued to fund a capital project?
Reviewed: 11/20

If the capital project was a project listed within the capital facilities plan (CFP) of the city (RCW 82.46.010 (2)(b) and 82.46.035(3)), then yes the city can use its REET funds for debt service. The statute provides for the financing of capital projects as identified within the CFP element of the city’s comprehensive plan.

  • RCW 82.46.010(2)(b) After April 30, 1992, revenues generated from the tax imposed under this subsection (2) in counties over five thousand population and cities over five thousand population that are required or choose to plan under RCW 36.70A.040 must be used solely for financing capital projects specified in a capital facilities plan element of a comprehensive plan and housing relocation assistance under RCW 59.18.440 and 59.18.450.
  • RCW 82.46.035(3) Revenues generated from the tax imposed under subsection (2) of this section must be used by such counties and cities solely for financing capital projects specified in a capital facilities plan element of a comprehensive plan. However, revenues (a) pledged by such counties and cities to debt retirement prior to March 1, 1992, may continue to be used for that purpose until the original debt for which the revenues were pledged is retired, or (b) committed prior to March 1, 1992, by such counties or cities to a project may continue to be used for that purpose until the project is completed.

You did not specify what type of capital project was bonded, so here are the statutory references for the definition of capital projects within REET 1 (RCW 82.46.010(6)(b)) and for REET 2 (RCW 82.46.035(5)).

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Who is required to comply with ADA regulations related to accessible facilities? Do the number of employees an agency has need to be over a certain amount?
Reviewed: 11/20

There is not a threshold number of employees for the ADA accessibility rules for public facilities to apply. Here are some resources you may find helpful:

Several ADA FAQs regarding State and Local Governments

Q. Does title II cover a public entity's employment policies and practices?
A. Yes. Title II prohibits all public entities, regardless of the size of their work force, from discriminating in employment against qualified individuals with disabilities. In addition to title II's employment coverage, title I of the ADA and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibit employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities by certain public entities.

Q. What changes must a public entity make to its existing facilities to make them accessible?
A. A public entity must ensure that individuals with disabilities are not excluded from services, programs, and activities because existing buildings are inaccessible. A State or local government's programs, when viewed in their entirety, must be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. This standard, known as "program accessibility," applies to facilities of a public entity that existed on January 26, 1992. Public entities do not necessarily have to make each of their existing facilities accessible. They may provide program accessibility by a number of methods including alteration of existing facilities, acquisition or construction of additional facilities, relocation of a service or program to an accessible facility, or provision of services at alternate accessible sites.

Q. What does title II require for new construction and alterations?
A. The ADA requires that all new buildings constructed by a State or local government be accessible. In addition, when a State or local government undertakes alterations to a building, it must make the altered portions accessible.

Q. How will a state or local government know that a new building is accessible?
A. A state or local government will be in compliance with the ADA for new construction and alterations if it follows either of two accessibility standards. It can choose either the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards or the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities, which is the standard that must be used for public accommodations and commercial facilities under title III of the ADA. If the state or local government chooses the ADA Accessibility Guidelines, it is not entitled to the elevator exemption (which permits certain private buildings under three stories or under 3,000 square feet per floor to be constructed without an elevator).

Here is a link to MRSC’s Americans with Disabilities Act page.

For more specific questions, there is an ADA Hotline number staffed by Department of Justice accessibility experts (800-514-0301). The ADA has a website with Information and Technical Assistance at www.ada.gov.

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Is audio equipment for remote council meetings eligible for CARES Act CRF reimbursement?
Reviewed: 11/20

This type of expenditure appears to meet the eligibility requirements for use of the currently available CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) program administered by the Washington State Department of Commerce (DOC). Here is a link to the Eligible Cost Test provided by the DOC. There is flexibility and discretion for cities and towns to document the eligibility of a particular expenditure due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. If your city is holding remote council meetings because of COVID-19 and efforts to comply with the Governor’s Proclamation 20-28.11, then this expenditure should be considered necessary. It will be important to document the reasons for the purchase and to meet the other eligibility requirements including that the expense was incurred during the eligibility period of March 27, 2020 through November 30, 2020, and not otherwise budgeted by the city as of March 27, 2020, the effective date of the CARES Act.

Here is a link to the Commerce CRF webpage providing further guidance on Local Government Coronavirus Relief Funds.

You may also want to visit the State Auditor's Office new COVID-19 Guidance Toolkit with information on the CARES Act, auditing guidance, accounting and reporting resources, and more.

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If we wanted to utilize MRSC's rosters, plus enter into an interagency agreement with the State Department of Enterprise Services (DES) to utilize their A&E roster, small works roster, and their job order contract (JOC) roster, would we be able to use both agencies' rosters?
Reviewed: 10/20

No, mixing rosters is not permissible. Additionally, you will confuse contractors and vendors if you try to manage their participation between multiple rosters. It could also lead to a protest if a vendor/contractor did not get a solicitation because you were trying to manage projects between separate lists.

The agency’s contract for the MRSC Rosters service refers to MRSC Rosters as being the exclusive roster for public works projects (and related to certain purchases via a vendor roster if the agency’s contract with MRSC includes that service), so that is our expectation. MRSC Rosters is a service that we provide to agencies, but it’s important for each agency to consult with its legal counsel to ensure that the agency is in compliance with all legal and local policy requirements that apply to that agency specifically.

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We have some folks who would like to purchase property inside the town limits. There are four homes on the property with two homes on each lot. They want to split the ground from two lots to four. Is there any reason why they would not be allowed to do this? To split the ground up would they hire a surveyor?
Reviewed: 10/20

Under state law, a subdivision process is required to divide property into smaller lots. MRSC has a webpage with a lot of information on what is required to subdivide property. The type of process that would apply to the situation you describe is a “short subdivision” or “short plat,” which is a simplified process that can be used for simple subdivisions involving less than five lots. Here is the information from the webpage on short subdivisions:

Short Subdivision Process

No process is set out in state law for approval of short plats. Cities and counties are required by RCW 58.17.060 to adopt by ordinance their own regulations and procedures that provide for "summary approval" of short plats through an administrative process.

Approval Process

Because it must be an administrative process, there is no public hearing for a short plat application, and the legislative body is not involved in the process. To approve a short plat, the administrative personnel assigned to review short plat applications must make the same written findings in RCW 58.17.110 that are required for subdivision (plat) applications.

Time Limitations for Approval

Short plats must be approved, disapproved, or returned to the applicant for modification within 30 days of the filing of the short plat application, unless the applicant consents to an extension. See RCW 58.17.140.

Recording and Filing Requirements

They must be filed with the county auditor and are not deemed "approved" until such filing. See RCW 58.17.065.

Vesting Rules

There is no limitation on the vesting of an approved short plat as there exists with respect to approved final plats. See Noble Manor v. Pierce County, 133 Wn.2d 269, 281-82 (1997).

A drawing prepared by a surveyor is generally required to subdivide property. You should check to see if the Town has a subdivision ordinance that would apply to this situation. The Town will want to be sure that the subdivided lots comply with the Town’s minimum lot size and dimension requirements, and that each lot has access to right of way.

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Do you know of any local government entities that pay participants for serving on an advisory committee or commission? If yes, how much are they being compensated?
Reviewed: 10/20

Most local government advisory board members serve without compensation as you can see in this code search. However, a few cities do compensate members of their planning commissions. After city councilmembers, planning commission members probably devote more time than most other advisory board/commission members. See the following examples (including the amounts paid):

  • Bonney Lake Municipal Code - 2.26.060 Compensation - Each member of the planning commission shall be compensated in the amount of $50.00 per planning commission meeting attended, including joint meetings of the planning commission and the city council; provided, that no planning commission member shall be compensated for attendance at more than two planning commission meetings per calendar month, including attendance at any joint meetings of the planning commission and the city council; and provided further, that the chair or designee of the planning commission shall, in addition, be compensated $25.00 for attendance at a council meeting where such attendance is required by BLMC 2.26.030.
  • Monroe Municipal Code - 4.60.010(C) Planning Commission - Salaries of Commissioners. Each city planning commissioner may be paid for attending commission meetings and workshops an amount not exceeding fifty dollars per meeting for not more than one meeting each week.
  • Duvall Municipal Code - 2.15.040 - Payment to planning commissioners - Beginning on January 1, 1994, each member of the planning commission shall be paid twenty-five dollars ($25.00) for attendance at each regular meeting of the planning commission and twenty-five dollars ($25.00) for attendance at each special meeting of the planning commission but not to exceed three such special meetings for compensation in one calendar year.

Several cities only reimburse for expenses, such as in the following:

  • Goldendale Municipal Code - 2.48.030 - The members of the planning commission shall serve without compensation, but they shall be reimbursed for expenses necessarily incurred in performing their official duties. The city council shall from time to time, as may be necessary, provide by ordinance for funds for the necessary expenditures and costs of operation of such commission.
  • Maple Valley Municipal Code - 2.35.050 - Compensation - The members of the Planning Commission shall serve without compensation, but necessary expenses of the Commission actually incurred shall be paid from appropriate City funds.
  • Kent Municipal Code - 2.57.020(F) Compensation - The appointed members of the land use and planning board shall serve without compensation except that reimbursement for authorized travel and subsistence may be made to the extent such may be budgeted for by the city council. Reimbursement for such shall come from the city budget category designated land use and planning board, travel and mileage and subsistence.

As a personal aside, I served as a member of the city of Kirkland’s planning commission for 8 years and can attest to the large time commitment that is typical of most planning commissions, which are characterized by voluminous meeting packets, many long evenings spent in monthly and often more frequent meetings, and no small amount of stress when controversial land use issues draw large and sometimes angry crowds.

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What are the limitations on the use of funds that are the proceeds from civil forfeiture under RCW 69.50.505? Can such funds be used to purchase a new police car?
Reviewed: 10/20

The limitations are set forth in RCW 69.50.505(10), which provides:

Forfeited property and net proceeds not required to be paid to the state treasurer shall be retained by the seizing law enforcement agency exclusively for the expansion and improvement of controlled substances related law enforcement activity. Money retained under this section may not be used to supplant preexisting funding sources. [emphasis added]

This general question was addressed in a 1995 attorney general opinion, AGO 1995 No. 11. Here’s an excerpt from the AGO:

The focus of RCW 69.50.505(10), and chapter 69.50 RCW as a whole, is regulation of controlled substances. Considering the ordinary meaning of the term “related” and the context in which it appears[], it seems evident that RCW 69.50.505(10) is intended to ensure that law enforcement agencies use drug forfeiture proceeds to enhance and improve law enforcement activities having a close and demonstrable relationship to enforcement of controlled substances laws.

The Attorney General Opinion suggests that you should be cautious before determining how much, if any, proceeds from drug seizure and forfeiture funds are used.

Looking at the statute and its ordinary meaning, we conclude that RCW 69.50.505(10) authorizes use of drug forfeiture proceeds for law enforcement activities having a close connection to controlled substances. Where such a close connection exists, we do not believe that such law enforcement activities become ineligible for drug forfeiture simply because they also relate to additional law enforcement objectives.

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