Walla Walla City Council worries dog joint agency

The city-county planning agency, already facing an uncertain start date, appears to have waning support from the city.

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WALLA WALLA -- City Council members voiced serious concerns Wednesday night over the proposed Walla Walla Joint Community Development Agency, which was expected to open for service early next month but now faces delays and waning support.

And one of the most concerned voices at the Wednesday night Council meeting was that of Council member Jim Barrow, who also is a member of the joint agency committee.

"There reaches a time in every relationship when it just isn't working and we need to move on ... We either need to move forward and or we, the city, need to move on. And in my opinion they (county commissioners) opted for plan B."

On Tuesday, county commissioners voted 2-1 against moving forward with the opening of the joint agency by Jan. 10.

As a result of the delay, City Manager Nabiel Shawa said the city is now in a "precarious" situation when it comes to being able to provide building permits and other development services starting Jan. 3.

"The county's lack of a firm commitment ... makes it unwise for the city to proceed with the joint development committee," Shawa said, noting that the city has already given layoff notices to department employees.

"I need to go back to those employees now and rescind those layoff notices. Not only am I going to have to eat crow, but I am going to have to decide who is going to stay and who is not going to stay," Shawa added. And he said that if the city has to run its own development services come the first of the year, that department will most likely be seriously underbudgeted and understaffed.

In the end, the Council decided to delay any decision on the joint agency and wait to see if county commissioners take another vote early next week.

The joint agency's board of directors will meet at 3 p.m. Monday. County Commissioner Greg Tompkins, who represents the county on the board, said he will discuss the commissioners' concerns with Barrow and Bill Clemens, the board chairman, at that time.

Tompkins will then report the results of that meeting to his fellow commissioners' the next morning at their regular work session. The Council will hold a special meeting later that night, 7 p.m. on Tuesday, to consider moving ahead with the joint agency.

The Council was expected to vote on passing a new ordinance on Wednesday night in relation to the joint agency, but instead took no action.

But council members did approve naming current interim joint agency director Tom Glover as the future permanent director, just in case the agency is formed and opened next year. County commissioners, who also need to approve the appointment, have continued action on the matter until next week.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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