Whatcom County Council September meeting roundup


The latest news from September Whatcom County Council meetings.

Alternative 911-response team

Council authorized by consent in a 6-1 vote, with councilmember Ben Elenbaas opposed, to enter into an over $2.2 million agreement with Washington State Health Care Authority to establish an alternative 911-response team pilot program.

The pilot program will assess whether sending behavioral health professionals rather than police officers to non-violent 911 calls benefits those involved. 

The Health Care Authority’s division of behavioral health and recovery provided funding for the project.

Sheriff’s union collective bargaining agreement

Whatcom County entered into a three-year collective bargaining agreement with the Deputy Sheriff’s Guild from January 1, 2023 to December 31, 2025. Council authorized by consent with Elenbaas opposed.

According to the memorandum, the agreement has wages increasing by 6 percent in 2023, 4 percent in 2024 and 3 percent in 2025 along with a $2,000 retention bonus each year for a maximum of $6,000. It also has 2 percent and 1 percent education incentives for bachelor’s and associate’s degrees. Juneteenth was also added as a recognized holiday.

Birch Bay berm monitoring and plant maintenance

Council authorized two contracts, one with Coastal Geological Services, Inc., for five years of monitoring the berm project and its beach improvements for $284,800. The other contract was with Squalicum Mountain Ecological Restoration Inc., for the yearlong maintenance costs of the berm’s plantings in the amount of $64,617. Council authorized the contracts with Elenbaas opposed.

Communications services for the justice project

Council authorized a nearly $150,000 contract with The Vida Agency for phase 2 of communication efforts provided for the county’s justice project. Council authorized by consent with Elenbaas opposed.

The project, which was approved in August 2019 and restarted September 2021, is an effort to improve a stressed criminal justice system from behavioral health services to potentially building a new jail. Through it, the county sets out to prioritize community-based preventative services, maximize successful re-entry and minimize recidivism.

The Vida Agency is a woman and minority-owned, full-service multicultural communications company based in Edmonds, according to its website. The total amount paid for both phases is $186,907.

Diversity, equity and inclusion to be addressed on EMS plan

Council unanimously adopted an ordinance to amend county code to task two new members of the EMS oversight board and EMS technical advisory committee with addressing diversity, equity and inclusion in EMS operations and strategic planning. 

The ordinance also says council “wishes to codify the process and elements of creating the 2023-2029 EMS levy service plan and include additional mechanisms to regularly track progress towards diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

Whatcom Racial Equity Commission

At its next regular meeting, Tuesday, October 11, council will hold a public hearing and vote on whether to establish a county racial equity commission. 

The ordinance to establish the Whatcom Racial Equity Commission in Whatcom County Code was introduced in the September 27 regular meeting by 5-2 vote, with councilmembers Elenbaas and Tyler Byrd opposed. Whatcom County and the city of Bellingham contracted Chuckanut Health Foundation to conduct outreach and consult a group of community stakeholders to form the commission. The group will address the county’s racial equity commitments and priorities.


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