The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

City Council executes agreement for next phase of Downtown Project

City council holds first meeting after rearranging of meeting schedule, hears presentation on council priorities
Matt Gillis, Welch Comer Vice President, explaining the contractual relationship between the parties of the Downtown Project

The Pullman City Council approved the authorization for the execution of a professional services agreement with Welch Comer at this week’s meeting.

Mayor Francis Benjamin said this meeting was the first with the new order of agenda, placing community comments near the beginning of the meeting. These comments are related to items not on the agenda.

Benjamin said a section has also been added to include council member comments. In addition, there have been some problems with the technology broadcasting the meetings live on YouTube, causing the video and audio to occasionally skip. They are currently working on fixing this technology.

During the public comment section, Nikiforos Pitsilionis, The Black Cypress owner and chef said the construction manager from Apollo Inc. seems like a good man and looks forward to working with him.

Pitsilionis said he also hopes that anything that can maximize Main St. for use during Project Downtown Pullman should be considered.

“In the broad sense in terms of communications, it is a small community and people are connected,” Pitsilionis said. “I would simply say that when we deploy people to do work for the community, whether it’s in an official status or not when it functions as such, it’s not done so in some sneaky stealthy goofy way that poisons the well for future work. I have high faith that people that I’ve seen people create content for the city could do extremely good work for the city.”

Council member Carla De Lira said she has met with the student local advocacy RSO at WSU and had a good discussion on public transportation.

“Definitely love the ideas they had and they seemed really energized and excited to be engaged with local government,” De Lira said. “I’m hoping we can collaborate with them in the future.”

The council moved on to community comments on final action items. Resident Jandi Utzman said she wanted to talk about advertising for downtown during the construction period. She said she thinks many more businesses in Pullman could be more successful if they had an asset of someone helping on social media.

“If you could implement some kind of plan I think that would carry forward decades for these businesses,” Utzman said. “I think they could improve their revenues by 30% if they would do social media.”

In addition, Utzman said she would like to see weekly updates on construction and businesses that are open as well as those that are not. She said there are more businesses downtown than some people know and hopes people can become more aware of them during the process.

The council heard presentations next. City administrator Mike Urban gave a presentation on council priorities. Urban said in February 2022 the city council had a retreat, followed in March by the first goal-setting session.

Urban said the final document adopted by city council on their priorities was in May 2022.

“As part of that document … there was quarterly updates that were asked to be provided,” Urban said.

Urban said a few of the priorities included finding ways to aid businesses during the Downtown improvements construction, establishing a name and brand for the improvement plan and cleaning up public spaces and fixtures.

In addition, the council aims to improve communications, with a few goals including harmonizing the city website, increasing public feedback and ensuring early notifications of construction activities, he said.

“I look forward to city council setting their goals for the next biennial budget so staff and I can start putting that in the budget and get working on continuing to make Pullman great,” Urban said.

Council member Nathan Weller said he thinks Urban’s work is extremely important. Before his tenure, this sort of organizing had not been done.

“I appreciate what you’re doing, I appreciate you, so thank you so much for this,” Weller said.

Council member Megan Guido said she reciprocates Weller’s praise. She asked Urban about the issue of homelessness around the faith community in Pullman and how they look at this issue. 

Guido said there are homeless people within the community and the city often runs into liability issues and volunteers who are willing to do this.

“I have heard from citizens who have asked about the warming center here in city hall and accessibility 24/7 is an issue. So we just want to continue to try to look into what we can do as a community to address that,” Guido said.

The council moved on to the regular agenda. After reviewing the appearance of fairness doctrine, Community Decvelopment Director RJ Lott presented a preliminary plan for West End Villas that divides about 5.26 acres into 65 lots.

“This would consist of 60 townhouses, four lots for open space and one lot for a private road,” Lott said.

The current zoning designation is R-2 low-density multi-family residential, Lott said. A planned residential development allows for creativity and flexibility in the layout and design of new residential developments.

A public hearing was held by the planning commission on June 28, 2023 and the proposal was voted to be advanced to the city council, he said. However, numerous individuals spoke against the proposal, citing traffic and parking among the chief concerns.

This item originally appeared before the city council on July 11, 2023. The city council voted to send this proposal back to staff to analyze potential traffic impacts, Lott said. A review of the analysis by staff from the public work department concluded there was no significant impact in regard to traffic.

“At this time, staff recommends a motion to approve the preliminary plan of West End Villas,” Lott said.

Guido said there have been concerns regarding the narrowness of the streets, primarily concerning if a fire truck would be able to drive through the streets. Lott said the fire department reviewed the proposal and found no issue.

The resolution was approved by the council. They then reviewed a resolution presented by Lott for the council to approve the preliminary plat of the West End Villas’s planned residential development. The council approved this resolution as well.

Urban presented a resolution to authorize the execution of a professional services agreement with Welch Comer for phase three of the Downtown Pullman project.

Urban said Welch Comer is meant to make sure the contractor is on time and keep the project moving. Welch Comer will also be in charge of outreach.

Matt Gillis, Welch Comer Vice President, presented a construction phase services contract. To recap, the city of Pullman will sign a contract with Apollo Inc. and a separate contract with Welch Comer. Apollo and Welch Comer have no professional relationship in this project.

Gillis said Welch Comer’s primary duties include protecting and informing the public, enforcing the contract and ensuring the project is constructed in accordance with the contract documents.

“By enforcing that document, we’re ensuring that the construction of Main St is done in accordance with the exact documents,” Gillis said.

For upcoming outreach, plans are made for a pre-construction neighborhood meeting sometime in the next two or three weeks, Gillis said. The venue and format is still being decided on.

“After that, we will host an open house workshop,” he said. “My vision is we have roll plots of the design. We lay it out and we look people in the eye and we have a conversation. We’re not going to promise that anything will change but we will promise that we’ll listen and that we’ll consider changes and answer questions where we can.”

Guido said meeting with the public and businesses are important and a good development. In addition, she emphasized the importance of the communications aspect.

“We didn’t do it enough and we’ve got to over-communicate and the more you can tell people what you’re going to tell them and how many times you’re going to tell them and the frequency … that’s how you’re going to build the trust,” Guido said.

Council member Ann Parks said the council is also committed to being communicators and those on the council are willing to visit businesses if necessary. They will follow whatever the rubric is in terms of communication, but they feel it is important they get out as well.

Council member Pat Wright said it is important for the council to be more involved than it ever has in the project at this point.

“We have put a lot on the line to get to this point and I don’t think any of us are willing to step back and abandon,” Wright said. “The buck stops here.”

De Lira asked if community members had ideas that may require a change in plans, what the reaction from Welch Comer would be. Gillis said it would depend on what that change may be, with requests such as widening the road too late to make.

“If it’s a no … we’ll give them a good technical reason,” he said.

De Lira said in some cases there is a language barrier when it comes to communication and asked if there would be staff who could have the conversations in different languages. Gillis said there would be to an extent, but could not give a definite answer at the moment. The motion was passed by the Senate.

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About the Contributor
JOSIAH PIKE, Evergreen news co-editor
Josiah is a sophomore broadcast journalism and broadcast production double major. He is from Lakewood, Washington and began working for the Evergreen in Fall 2021.