City council plans for bus surveillance improvements, in-person meetings

Current monitoring systems have 75 to 80 percent success rate



Councilmember Al Sorenson asked whether the monitoring and video surveillance system has failed. His question was answered with an affirmative.

SYDNEY BROWN, Evergreen reporter

The Pullman City Council rejected a bid 6-1 that would resurface streets near Pioneer Hill because the bid did not satisfy requirements to hire more construction firms owned by members of underserved communities to work on local projects. 

The naysayer was councilmember Al Sorensen. 

Before the vote, Public Works Director Kevin Gardes said the reason for the rejection would primarily be because the company that made the sole bid did not meet the mandatory Underutilized Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Condition of Award goal for this project. 

The UDBE works to give equal opportunity to construction firms in order to “prioritize and target” some companies who did not receive fair treatment or a proportionate number of commissions, Gardes said.

The company that bid for the Pioneer Hill renovations presented a zero percent commitment to the UDBE. Washington Department of Transportation rejected the proposal because the state offers many chances to reach the four percent mandatory commitment to UDBE, Gardes said.

Sorensen said it might be more expensive to reach out further than the Eastern Washington area to find companies that fit into this specific UDBE. He said it would possibly benefit the city to leave the $1.6 million in the summer budget for shortfalls. 

“Checking into this just a little bit, I’m finding that the types of businesses that would’ve needed to be used for this project, that there isn’t any within a 200-mile radius,” Sorensen said. “[This makes] it quite difficult for a project in Pullman to be done.” 

Gardes said there are fewer firms owned by people of underserved communities in Eastern Washington compared to the west side, but the state has ways of encouraging those firms to circumvent this extra cost. 

“We’re gonna work with WASHDOT to see whether that requirement is really achievable,” Gardes said. 

The city council also approved a project to improve monitoring and video surveillance systems within public transportation.

The vote was 5-2. Naysayers were councilmembers Brandon Chapman and Sorensen. 

The current systems have a 75 to 80 percent success rate, said Pullman Transit Manager Wayne Thompson. 

Sorensen said he was concerned with the fiscal effects of the project. He asked whether the system had ever failed at a crucial moment, to which Thompson said it had. 

The city acquired 80 percent of the grant money for the project last year and has one more year before that money expires. This contract with AngelTrax is “invaluable,” Thompson said, because the current video systems cannot be repaired.

“A 20 to 25 percent chance that you might have a liability issue, too, is pretty expensive in the long run,” said Mayor Glenn Johnson.

The mayor does not vote on these matters. 

The council also approved the 2020-21 biennial budget schedule for the city. The schedule, listing other public and budgetary city meetings, confirms the final budget hearing will occur on Nov. 17. 

Johnson confirmed the council will meet in person for the next meeting.

Sorensen also expressed concerns with the recent back-angled parking pop-up trials on Main Street, which were approved on June 9

Though he supports the project, Sorensen said many residents have stated their disapproval about how the lines were painted and the confusion about how to park in those spots. 

Councilmember Pat Wright said people have also been concerned about how the exhaust from cars affects local businesses as they back into the spots. 

“I think we failed in regard to letting our local residents know what was going to be happening,” Sorensen said.

Johnson and Chapman agreed there should be signage for the parking. Councilmember Dan Records said he thought there would be a transitional period to let citizens know the trial was happening but said there have been studies on how back-angled parking is actually safer. 

“It’s early, and it happened quickly,” Chapman said. “Our role is to tell folks, it is for a few months and we are soliciting that feedback.”

The point of the pop-up, Records said, is to experience the trial and make informed opinions.