UPDATE 7/2/2020: COVID-19 Response, Changes in Office Hours & Services
 
Posted on Wednesday June 17, 2020
 
Benton County response to COVID-19, Updated 7/2/2020 5:50PM
 

JOINT MEDIA RELEASE: Benton County Commissioners, Franklin County Commissioners, and Benton-Franklin Health District

Contact:
Benton-Franklin Health District PIO
Eoc.pio@bfhd.wa.gov
509-460-4200

July 2, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Benton and Franklin Counties were approved today to move to modified Phase 1 of the state’s Safe Start Phased Reopening Plan. Washington State Secretary of Health John Weisman’s approval of the counties’ applications allows limited and modified openings for some businesses and personal activities in Benton and Franklin Counties effective at midnight tonight. 

Activities allowed include:

  • Construction as permitted in Phase 2 guidance (new construction projects can occur)
  • Manufacturing as permitted in Phase 2 guidance (non-essential manufacturing)
  • Restaurants for outdoor seating only at 50% of existing outdoor capacity
  • In-store retail at 15% indoor capacity with indoor activities limited to 30 minutes
  • Personal services at 25% indoor capacity
  • Dog groomers at 25% indoor capacity
  • No gatherings with people outside of the household except for small behavioral health support groups of fewer than 5 people

Businesses that are allowed to reopen are required to follow the state Department of Health’s specific guidance but must adjust their occupancy to the levels identified above. Before opening, businesses must do the following:

  1. All businesses must sign a  business pledge that they will following all COVID-19 guidance. Spanish business pledge
  2. Complete a COVID-19 Safety Plan and submit it by email or in person to Benton or Franklin County. Spanish COVID-19 Safety Plan 
  3. Post the COVID-19 Safety Plan at the front of the business
  4. Require face coverings for employees and customers
  5. Post signs stating that face coverings are required.  English Mask Required Sign Spanish Mask Required Sign

Plans must be submitted to the county in which the business is licensed.

  • Benton County – please email to covidplan@co.benton.wa.us or drop in large yellow postal box in the drive lane at the side of Benton-Franklin Health District.
  • Franklin County – please email to covid-19businesssafetyplans@co.franklin.wa.us or use the Franklin County Treasurer drop box located in courthouse parking lot next to security building labeled COVID 19 business plans

Washington Department of Health will continue to closely monitor the status of COVID-19 in Benton and Franklin Counties especially hospitalizations. If hospitalizations for COVID-19 significantly increase throughout the course of implementing this plan, the state will consider a strict lock down of the counties, including closure of nearly all businesses.

The Benton-Franklin Health District Board of Health wants to remind the public to continue to follow all the precautions in Phase 1, including wearing face coverings in public, staying at least six feet away from other people, practicing excellent hand hygiene and staying home when they’re sick. More information on COVID-19 can be found on Benton-Franklin Health District’s website at www.bfhd.wa.gov/covid-19.

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Contact:  Shyanne Palmus    Keith Johnson
Phone:  509-222-3760    509-545-3535
Email:  Shyanne.Palmus@co.benton.wa.us    kjohnson@co.franklin.wa.us

Benton and Franklin Counties Submit Amended Reopening Plan

June 19, 2020

Benton and Franklin Counties submitted a joint amended reopening plan to Washington State Secretary of Health John Weisman on Friday, June 19, 2020.

Benton and Franklin County Commissioners, city managers, mayors, law enforcement and health district staff have been in communication to develop a modified reopening plan that will keep our residents safe as we work to get our counties on the track to reopening. 

The Benton-Franklin Board of Health wants to remind the public to continue to follow all the precautions in Phase 1, including wearing face coverings in public, staying at least six feet away from other people, practicing excellent hand hygiene and staying home when they’re sick. More information on COVID-19 can be found on Benton-Franklin Health District’s website at www.bfhd.wa.gov/covid-19.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 19, 2020


Contact:
Visit Tri-Cities
Karisa Saywers, Director of Marketing, (509) 554-0455

Benton and Franklin County Officials Encourage Use of Face Coverings 
Tri-Cities, Wash.—Cover your face and maintain your space. That’s what local elected officials are encouraging the Tri-Cities community and greater Mid-Columbia region to practice in a new public service announcement (PSA) in effort to lower the transmission rate of COVID-19 in the region.

Benton and Franklin Counties, the cities of Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, West Richland, Benton City and Prosser partnered with Visit Tri-Cities to create the PSA encouraging the residents of the Mid-Columbia region to adopt the wearing of face coverings. According to the Benton Franklin Health District, if everyone who is able to wear a face covering in the community does so, the region’s transmission rates will drop. This will allow Benton and Franklin counties to move into the next phase of the Safe Start Washington plan. In addition, the use of social distance and good hand hygiene will also support lowering transmission rates. These steps are essential to help restore community health, the preservation of business, jobs, our economy and quality of life in the Mid-Columbia.

The PSA is available to be shared with the community and may be found on Visit Tri-Cities’ YouTube page. Local agencies, businesses and individuals are encouraged to share the message on social media, websites and/or any method of communication.  

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 19, 2020 
 
Contact
Visit Tri-Cities
Karisa Saywers, Director of Marketing, (509) 554-0455 
 
Tri-Cities Open & Safe Coalition Reschedules PPE Distribution 
Tri-Cities, Wash.—The Tri-Cities Open & Coalition is rescheduling the personal protection equipment (PPE) distribution for small businesses to June 25-26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Tri-Cities Visitor & Business Center at 7130 W. Grandridge Blvd. in Kennewick. 

The Tri-Cities community rallied to support local small businesses by donating face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer during the Coalition’s PPE Drive earlier this week. Many of the generous donations were provided in bulk, such as the hand sanitizer, and will be repackaged to distribute throughout the community. This caused a brief delay in distribution as smaller containers for repackaging are currently in transit. The Coalition expects to provide PPE packages to approximately 275 businesses, first come, first served. 

To be eligible, businesses must be located in Benton or Franklin Counties, provide a business card and sign the Tri-Cities Open and Safe Pledge. The Tri-Cities Open and Safe Pledge indicates their commitment to following public health district guidelines, enhanced employee safety protocols, frequent cleaning, using face coverings, complying with social distancing guidelines, and encouraging customer hygiene. Business can find and sign the pledge at tcopenandsafe.com. 

PPE Distribution for Small Businesses
DATES: Thursday and Friday, June 25 and June 26 
TIME: Curbside pick-up from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
PLACE: Tri-Cities Business & Visitor Center – 7130 W. Grandridge Blvd., Kennewick

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The Tri-Cities Open and Safe Coalition launched “Tri-Cities Open and Safe,” a region-wide initiative to support and recognize local businesses as the Tri-Cities begins to reopen under the Safe Start Washington proclamation. The intent of the initiative is to protect public health and restore our local economy. The Coalition is comprised of the Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce, TRIDEC, Visit Tri-Cities, Historic Downtown Kennewick Partnership, the Benton-Franklin Health District and other community organizations. 




June 17, 2020

Statement from Benton County Board of Commissioners Regarding Current Status of COVID-19 in our Community

To our community:

We understand the community’s frustration and confusion about where we’re at in the COVID-19 Reopening Plan. We want to stress that this is not intended to be a political issue – it’s not about Republicans or Democrats. It’s about keeping our community safe and healthy, and moving the right direction. Right now, that means we need everyone to work together to get us on a path to recovery.

We understand that people don’t like wearing masks, none of us do – they are uncomfortable. But making that sacrifice is going to help our community move forward to Phase 2 and beyond. Research has shown that wearing masks, social distancing, staying home when you can, and maintaining good hygiene means that the rate of infections goes down. 

Following recommendations also means that our local businesses will get to open sooner. We all know someone who has been financially impacted by this crisis. It’s up to us as a community to do our part to move this process along as quickly as possible so that more local businesses don’t have to shut their doors. Continue to support your local businesses however you can but do so in a way that’s safe.

“I have been wearing masks for about a month in public places. My 16-year-old niece with stage four cancer doesn’t need any more complications. I do it for the safety for her and others and I know folks have similar stories. Together we can reduce the spread of the virus and expedite our counties to the next phase to open the local business, which are so needed to get the work force going again,” said Commissioner Small.

The State Department of Health has told the media that Benton and Franklin Counties’ applications are “on pause.” County officials were not notified of this decision, and neither were Health District officials. We are still trying to figure out what exactly that means for our communities. As soon as we know more, we will be putting out a media release as well as updating our website and social media channels.

Thank you for your continued efforts to keep our community safe and reopening our County.

Sincerely,

Benton County Board of Commissioners
 
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 12, 2020
Update: No Decision Yet Regarding Counties’ Applications to Phase 2

Kennewick, WA – Benton and Franklin Counties have not yet heard from the Washington State Secretary of Health on whether the counties have been approved to move to Phase 2 of the State’s Safe Start Phased Reopening Plan.

At this time, county officials hope to receive a final determination regarding the applications early next week. This means that both counties are still currently in Phase 1.

The Benton-Franklin Board of Health wants to remind the public to continue to follow all necessary precautions, including wearing face coverings in public, staying at least six feet away from other people, practicing excellent hand hygiene and staying home when they’re sick. 

More information about COVID-19 can be found on the Benton-Franklin Health District website at www.bfhd.wa.gov/covid-19.

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Benton County Contact
Shyanne Palmus, Communications Coordinator
Shyanne.Palmus@co.benton.wa.us | 509-222-3760

Franklin County Contact
Keith Johnson, Franklin County Administrator
kjohnson@co.franklin.wa.us | 509-545-3535
 



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 
June 9, 2020

Benton County Commissioners Submit Phase 2 Application
Phase 2 application submitted to Washington State Secretary of Health for review

Kennewick, WA – Today, June 9, 2020, Benton County Commissioners unanimously approved submission of the application for Benton County to move to Phase 2 of the Safe Start Washington Plan and authorized the County Administrator to immediately submit the plan to the Washington State Secretary of Health to be considered for approval.

This plan was prepared in collaboration with the Benton-Franklin Health District, Benton and Franklin Counties, and other local government and community leaders to ensure that all necessary application requirements were met. A copy of the full Benton County Application has been included for reference.

All of us at Benton County would like to extend our deepest gratitude to the staff at the Benton-Franklin Health District for their tireless efforts to get the necessary documents completed for this application.

While we hope that Benton County is approved to move to Phase 2, avoiding a spike in cases is of paramount importance in order to avoid being pushed back into Phase 1, and we will need our community’s help to keep us on track to a safe and healthy recovery. 

Further information will be provided as soon as a final determination is received from the Washington State Secretary of Health on whether Benton County has been approved to move to Phase 2.

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Contact: Shyanne Palmus, Communications Coordinator   
Shyanne.Palmus@co.benton.wa.us | 509-222-3760
 
 
Documents

 



RESOLUTION 2020-378

 

BEFORE THE BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS OF BENTON COUNTY, WASHINGTON:

IN THE MATTER OF SUBMITTING AN APPLICATION FOR BENTON COUNTY TO MOVE TO PHASE 2 OF THE SAFE START WASHINGTON PLAN IN RESPONSE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

WHEREAS, on March 17, 2020 the Benton County Board of County Commissioners declared an emergency response to the developing situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic; and

WHEREAS, on March 23, 2020 the Governor of the State of Washington issued a "stay at home" order for all of Washington State which expires May 31, 2020; and

WHEREAS, on May 4, 2020 the Governor of the State of Washington issued the Safe Start Washington Program which began a Phased approach to reopening Washington State; and 

WHEREAS, as of May 4, 2020 Benton County has been at Phase 1 of the Safe Start Washington Plan; and

WHEREAS, the Benton County Commissioners feel that Benton County is ready to move to Phase 2 of the Safe Start Washington Plan based on available data;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Benton County Commissioners hereby requests that the Benton-Franklin Health District submit an application to the Washington State Board of Health to move Benton County into Phase 2 of the Safe Start Washington Plan.

Dated this 2nd day of June 2020.

Document
Resolution 2020-378



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 29, 2020

 

Benton County Leaders Push to Enter Phase 2
Action by Board of Health and County Commissioners Still Required to Advance Proposal

Kennewick, WA – Today, Benton County Administrators announced their intention to have the Board of County Commissioners consider applying for Benton County to be moved into Phase 2 of Governor Inslee’s Safe Start Washington Phased Reopening Plan

The Commissioners will discuss and give formal direction on this issue at their next regular Board meeting, to be held on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 at 9 AM. As of May 28, 2020, Benton County is not considered eligible to apply for Phase 2 under the State guidelines. The current Safe Start Status is available here.

“I have been in contact with each Board member individually over the past few weeks, and they believe it is essential that Benton County move into Phase 2 so we can start the path to economic recovery for our struggling local businesses and community members. We can no longer sit and wait – it’s time for us to be able to move forward,” said Jerrod MacPherson, County Administrator.

If the Board approves, Benton County leaders will work in conjunction with the Benton-Franklin Health District to ensure that Benton County has all the elements necessary to meet Phase 2 requirements. The variance request plan, must include information regarding the County’s healthcare system readiness, testing capacity and availability, case and contact investigations, and the ability to protect high-risk populations.

“Commissioner Delvin has told me that our residents have paid a high enough price throughout this pandemic. We are responding with everything we have so that we can get our community back on its feet as quickly and safely as possible – getting to Phase 2 is the next step in that process,” said MacPherson.

The decision to apply for a variance will still need to be approved by the Benton-Franklin Health District Board of Health as well as the Benton County Commission. If approved by local agencies, the variance application will then be submitted by the Benton-Franklin Health District to the Washington Secretary of Health for consideration.  Staff will work tirelessly to get all the necessary information and documentation gathered and packaged for submittal as early as possible.

If Benton County is approved to move to Phase 2, avoiding a spike in cases is of paramount importance in order to avoid being pushed back into Phase 1. We will need our community’s help to keep us on the right track to a safe, healthy recovery. COVID-19 will continue to be public health threat in our community for some time, but we believe we are prepared now, more than ever, to manage that threat and get Benton County on the road to recovery.

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Contact: Shyanne Palmus, Communications Coordinator   
Shyanne.Palmus@co.benton.wa.us | 509-222-3760
 
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 13, 2020

Benton County Commissioners Allocate Additional $500,000 for Emergency Housing Program

Kennewick, WA – The Benton County Board of Commissioners, at their regular Board meeting May 12, 2020, approved the immediate allocation of an additional $500,000 of existing Homeless Housing Funds toward the Emergency Housing Program, operated by the Benton County Human Services Department.

Use of Funds
The additional $500,000 allocated to the Emergency Housing Program will be available effective immediately for the following programs:

  1. Rapid rehousing for homeless persons needing assistance to secure permanent housing; and
  2. Eviction prevention which would be used for rental or utility assistance for persons that have faced difficulty due to the COVID-19 pandemic,

These additional funds were already existing within the Benton County budget but were not previously allocated for this purpose and have been immediately allocated to assist individuals and families in the community who are facing hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Program Eligibility
To be eligible for assistance, individuals and/or families must meet program income requirements. Funding will be allocated based on priority to individuals and families identified with the highest need.

Screening for program eligibility is conducted by the Human Services Department and occurs on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays during regular business hours, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. In response to COVID-19, these screenings will take place over the phone by calling (509) 737-3946. 

The Human Services Department is closed to in-person visits from the public until May 31, 2020 or until the end of the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, whichever is later. 

About Benton County
Benton County is located in south-central Washington. The county seat is located in Prosser, and its largest city is Kennewick. Benton County was created on March 8, 1905 and was named after U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton. Benton County operates under the plural executive form of government with three commissioners and seven other elected officials. Benton County has offices located in Prosser and Kennewick. For more information, please visit our website

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Contact: Shyanne Palmus, Communications Coordinator   
Shyanne.Palmus@co.benton.wa.us | 509-222-3760



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 7, 2020

Benton County Statement on COVID-19 Recovery

Kennewick, WA – The Benton County Administration and Commissioners’ Office continues to receive calls, emails, and inquiries from the community regarding how Benton County will be addressing the reopening of our community, in light of Governor Inslee’s “ Safe Start Washington” phased recovery plan.

The health and safety of our community are of paramount importance, and Benton County leadership will continue to encourage our County employees, local business, and community members to observe the recommended health and safety guidelines as set forth by the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the  Washington State Department of Health (DOH), and the  Benton-Franklin Health District (BFHD).

We understand our community’s need to return to business as usual, as well as the need for our local businesses to be able to reopen and the sense of urgency surrounding this issue. County officials continue to be in regular contact with the Governor’s Office, as well as neighboring jurisdictions, to discuss how to safely and responsibly begin to recover, while ensuring that our community stays safe and healthy.

The Benton County Board of Commissioners have sent multiple letters to the Governor, included for reference, urging the responsible and timely reopening of our community, and other communities, throughout the state. 

County officials have received numerous inquiries from the community about the Governor’s authority, and why the County doesn’t push back on some of the restrictions in place. 

The Governor has the authority to declare an emergency statewide or in any portion of the state (RCW 43.06.010(12)) and once a state of emergency is declared, it does not cease until the Governor enters a proclamation declaring its termination (RCW 43.06.210). There are many options for the Governor to deal with an emergency. The two options being utilized regarding the COVID-19 pandemic are:

 

  1. Orders prohibiting activities the Governor reasonably believes should be prohibited to help preserve and maintain life, health, property, or public peace (RCW 43.06.220(1)(h)). The Governor’s authority under this provision has no time limitation other than that it may not extend beyond the termination of the state of emergency. In addition, this authority does not require legislative approval. 
  2. Orders concerning waiver of suspension of statutory obligations or limitations (RCW 43.06.220(2)). These orders do have time limits. Specifically, the waiver(s) may not continue longer than 30 days unless extended by the legislature through concurrent resolution, or (if the legislature is not in session) in writing by the leadership of the State Senate and House of Representatives until the legislature can extend the waiver by concurrent resolution. 

Counties may make and enforce local regulations as long as they do not conflict with state law, including the Governor’s recent proclamations related to COVID-19 (Washington Constitution Article XI, Section 11). If Benton County were to adopt regulations inconsistent with the Governor’s proclamations it may result in confusion for the citizens and lead to unintended impacts when the State enforces its regulations. 

The County is limited to imposing only those regulations which go above and beyond what the State of Washington has imposed. The County cannot institute laws or proclamations that are less restrictive than those in place by the State. To date, we’ve imposed no such additional measures, and are working with fellow jurisdictions and our State representatives to encourage the State to lift some of the regulations that are currently in place.

While Benton County leaders may not agree with every decision made by the Governor in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize and respect the authority that people of Washington have granted to the Governor and the representatives they’ve elected to serve them in the State Legislature. 

In the meantime, County offices and departments continue to serve the community as safely as possible, including processing permits, rescheduling events at the Fairgrounds, and keeping our County parks (like Candy Mountain and Badger Mountain Preserves) open for our residents to use.  The County is also actively seeking grant funds to assist the community, including small businesses, in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We encourage our community to regularly contact their state representatives and the Governor to voice their concerns so that we can all work together to get our community on the path to recovery.

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Contact: Shyanne Palmus, Communications Coordinator   
Shyanne.Palmus@co.benton.wa.us | 509-222-3760
 
 
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 11, 2020

Update: Benton County Office Hours & Services

Kennewick, WA – In an abundance of caution and with concern for maintaining the safety and health of the public and our employees, Benton County offices and departments will continue to operate with modified hours and available in-person services to help slow the spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). 

Most Benton County offices will continue to be closed to in-person visits from the public until May 31, 2020 or the end of the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, whichever is later. Most County services will continue to operate in a limited capacity, at the discretion of the Elected Official or County Administrator. At this time, the Benton-Franklin Health District has recommended that Benton County continue observing limited operations until we enter into Phase 3 of the Governor’s “Safe Start Washington: A Phased Approach to Recovery” Plan. Updates to this information will be provided as they become available.

We are doing everything we can to protect the public and our employees in the midst of this expanding public health crisis. We will continue to provide essential services to residents and are monitoring the situation closely. We encourage all members of our community to follow the guidance of the Benton-Franklin Health District, Washington State Department of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Corrections Department & Benton County Jail 
The Benton County Jail has continued to temporarily suspend video visitation taking place in the Jail Lobby. All inmates within the Benton County Jail are authorized four (4) Skype visits per week, free of charge. A web link for instructions to complete Skype visits are available on the  Corrections Department website and also on the visitation system website. Visitation schedules remain in place without change.  Funds may be added to an inmate’s telephone account for additional calls on the visitation system website. Funds can be added directly to an inmate’s commissary account at  www.accesscorrections.com that will allow purchase of both commissary items and additional telephone calls. Commissary purchases can be made directly for any inmate via “friends and family” at www.washingtonpackages.com or by calling (800) 546-6283. In addition, the Corrections Department is no longer allowing volunteers into the facility, in an effort to reduce potential exposure and keep everyone safe. Questions regarding Corrections Department issues can be directed to (509) 783-1451.

Sheriff’s Office
The Benton County Sheriff’s Office continues to have regular staffing of its law enforcement personnel to ensure the safety of our citizens. To keep the community and staff safe, the Sheriff’s Office will be taking the following measures to limit exposure:
  • Phone Reports – If a call for law enforcement service can be handled via telephone and not in person, Deputies will make attempts to do so to limit in-person contact.
  • Fingerprinting Services – Suspension of fingerprinting services until further notice.
  • Lobby Hours – The Sheriff’s Office lobby in Kennewick continues to remain open for business, and hours of operation have not changed. The Sheriff’s Office in Prosser remains closed. We ask that you limit these contacts to only those that are imperative to public safety.
  • Records Requests – Please submit records requests electronically to BCSORecords@co.benton.wa.us 

Coroner’s Office
The Benton County Coroner’s Office remains closed to in-person visits from the public until May 31, 2020 or the end of the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, whichever is later. Questions regarding the Coroner’s Office can be directed to (509) 736-2720 or William.Leach@co.benton.wa.us

Prosecuting Attorney’s Office
The Prosecuting Attorney’s Office remains closed to in-person visits from the public until May 31, 2020 or the end of the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, whichever is later. Prosecutor staff is continuing to work. There is a rotating schedule to come into the office to cover court hearings and other business. Thanks to Benton County’s excellent IT Department, staff are able to access our database from home so that can review police reports, make charging decisions, process paperwork, and contact crime victims from their home. Staff is available via phone or email to provide services. Questions regarding the Prosecutor’s Office can be directed to (509) 735-3591 or Prosecuting@co.benton.wa.us. Questions regarding child support can be directed to (509) 735-7316.

District Court
The Benton County District Court has issued Amended Administrative Order No. 20-001, in the matter of emergency response to community health. The Benton County District Court front counters in Kennewick and in Prosser will remain closed until May 31, 2020, but the office is open. The public can contact their office via telephone or email during this time. Video and telephonic hearings are being held. Attorneys are encouraged to use video and telephone conference procedures to resolve cases.  The remote hearing procedure and request information can be found here.  Mental Health Court and Veterans Court are up and running using Skype for Business and telephone conferencing. If you have questions for these therapeutic courts, please call (509) 735-8476, extension 3353. Questions regarding the Benton County District Court can be directed to (509) 735-8476 or District.Court@co.benton.wa.us.

Superior Court & Juvenile Court
The Benton-Franklin Counties Superior Court has issued Emergency Order #3 RE: Court Operations, effective April 29, 2020 until further notice. Under this Emergency Order, the Superior Court will conduct no jury trials until July 6, 2020, and changes have been made to adult criminal cases as well as juvenile cases, domestic matters, and other cases. Adult Drug Court will be conducting business telephonically. The Superior Court has developed temporary transitional docket processes for various case types in an attempt to balance the need to return to regular operations while still prioritizing the health and safety of the public and court personnel. Full details of this Emergency Order, as well as temporary docket procedures, are available on the Superior Court website (www.benton-franklinsuperiorcourt.com) Questions regarding the Superior Court can be directed to 509-736-3071.

Clerk’s Office
To adequately provide the necessary services as support to the court system and the public, the Benton County Clerk’s Office has resumed regular business hours at the Justice Center (Kennewick) effective Tuesday, May 5, 2020. The Clerk’s Office at the Prosser Courthouse remains closed to in person contact. The acceptance of passport applications continues to be suspended until further notice, due to the COVID-19 emergency throughout the State. Questions regarding the Clerk’s Office can be directed to (509) 735-8388 or Clerk@co.benton.wa.us

Office of Public Defense
The Office of Public Defense front window remains closed to all in-person visits from the public until May 31, 2020 or the end of the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, whichever is later. All Public Defense attorneys will continue to be available to clients and the public remotely and will continue to provide public defense services to all defendants as needed. Questions regarding the Office of Public Defense can be directed to (509) 222-3700 or OPD@co.benton.wa.us.

Commissioners’ Office & Administration
The Commissioners’ and Administration Offices remain closed to in-person visits from the public until May 31, 2020 or the end of the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, whichever is later, and will be monitoring emails and phone calls during this time. At this time, the Board of Commissioners will continue to hold their regularly scheduled Board meetings, unless otherwise posted. Questions regarding the Commissioners’ Office can be directed to (509) 786-5600 or Commissioners@co.benton.wa.us

Human Services
The Benton County Human Services Department remains closed to in-person visits from the public until May 31, 2020 or the end of the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, whichever is later. Services will be continuing to screen for housing programs each week on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Those needing screening are directed to call (509) 737-3946. People needing to access the Veteran’s Relief Fund should contact Niria Lucatero on Wednesdays at (509) 737-3987. Questions regarding Human Services can be directed to (509) 783-5981.

Treasurer’s Office
The Treasurer’s Office remains closed to in-person visits from the public until May 31, 2020 or the end of the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, whichever is later. For those needing assistance with Real Estate Excise Tax or manufactured home transfers or plats, please contact the Treasurer’s Office at (509) 735-8505 to make an appointment. Questions regarding the Treasurer’s Office can be directed to (509) 735-8505 (Kennewick), (509) 786-2255 (Prosser), or Treasurer@co.benton.wa.us

Assessor’s Office
The Assessor’s Office remains closed to in-person visits from the public until May 31, 2020 or the end of the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, whichever is later. Staffing continues to be limited during this time, but staff are available via phone and email during regular business hours. Questions regarding the Assessor’s Office can be directed to (509) 786-2046 or Assessor@co.benton.wa.us

Auditor’s Office
The Auditor’s Office remains closed to in-person visits from the public for all services except the recording department until May 31, 2020 or the end of the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, whichever is later. Appointments may be made to record documents and/or apply for marriage licenses. Title companies are encouraged to use e-recording. To schedule an appointment with the recording department, contact (509) 736-2727. For questions regarding licensing, please contact one of the licensing sub-agents. Candidate filing week begins today, May 11, 2020 at 8:30 AM and ends Friday, May 15, 2020 at 4:30 PM. Candidates are encouraged to file online at https://voter.votewa.gov/CandidateFiling/CandidateLogin.aspx. If an individual is unable to file for office online, please contact the Auditor’s Office at (509) 736-2727 to make an appointment to file. Candidates can also mail their filing form to the Auditor’s Office at PO Box 1440, Prosser, WA 99350. Questions regarding elections issues can be directed to the Auditor’s Elections Division at (509) 736-3085. Questions regarding the Auditor’s Office can be directed to (509) 736-2727 or Auditor@co.benton.wa.us

Fairgrounds
All events scheduled to take place at the Benton County Fairgrounds have been cancelled until July 1, 2020. All event holders will be fully refunded any fees or invited to reschedule their event at no additional cost within 12 months of their event. The Fairgrounds business office remains closed to in-person visits from the public until May 31, 2020 or the end of the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, whichever is later. Questions regarding the Benton County Fairgrounds be directed to (509) 222-3751 or bc.fairgrounds@co.benton.wa.us

Canine Shelter
The Benton County Canine Shelter Office remains closed to in-person visits from the public until May 31, 2020 or the end of the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, whichever is later. Canine Shelter staff will continue to monitor calls and provide emergency services but will not be allowing visitors or facilitating adoptions during this time. Questions regarding the Canine Shelter can be directed to (509) 460-4923 or Canine.Shelter@co.benton.wa.us.

Public Services (Building, Planning, and Public Works)
Effective Monday, May 4, 2020 the Benton County Public Services Building (located at 102206 E Wiser Parkway, Kennewick), which houses the Tri-Cities offices for the Building, Planning, and Public Works Departments, will have staff on-site for building permit related issues and questions for existing projects. The Prosser Offices for these departments remain closed to in-person visits from the public until May 31, 2020 or the end of the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, whichever is later. These offices will continue to operate at a limited capacity, with staff monitoring emails and phone calls. Road maintenance operations will continue without interruption. Building inspections will continue in a limited capacity, with certain site restrictions. Questions regarding these services can be directed to: 

Parks
Effective Wednesday, May 6, 2020, the Rattlesnake Mountain Shooting Facility is open for service, with social distancing and other safety measures being instituted. All other Benton County Parks will continue to remain open to the public, including Badger Mountain and Candy Mountain Preserves. However, camping at Horn Rapids Park will remain closed until overnight camping is authorized in the Governors “Safe Start Washington” plan. We encourage our park visitors to enjoy other recreation activities as permitted. Questions regarding the Parks Department can be directed to (509) 736-3053 or Parks@co.benton.wa.us

About Benton County
Benton County is located in south-central Washington. The county seat is located in Prosser, and its largest city is Kennewick. Benton County was created on March 8, 1905 and was named after U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton. Benton County operates under the plural executive form of government with three commissioners and seven other elected officials. Benton County has offices located in Prosser, Kennewick, and Richland. For more information, please visit our website

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Contact: Shyanne Palmus, Communications Coordinator   
Shyanne.Palmus@co.benton.wa.us | 509-222-3760


Letter from Benton County Board of Commissioners to Governor Jay Inslee, dated 5/5/2020.
 
A signed, PDF version of this letter is available here:
Letter to Governor Inslee (May 5, 2020)

May 5, 2020 

The Honorable Jay lnslee, Governor 
Office of the Governor 
Post Office Box 40002 
Olympia, Washington 98504-0002 

Dear Governor lnslee, 

We are living in unprecedented times. COVID-19 has wrought sudden and unexpected impacts that are profoundly testing our governments, businesses, and citizens. However, our communities are resilient and are rising to the challenge. 

We appreciate your strong, early responses in light of unknown consequences and dire forecasts. Washington flattened its curve early and effectively, and we saved ourselves from many of the deeper and more ominous situations realized in some other parts of the country. 

As governor of our state, you declared a state of emergency on February 29, 2020 and issued your "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order on March 23, 2020. We are now many weeks into these proclamations and are seeing the unintended effects of such measures. Out here in the shires in the world beyond Olympia, we are seeing businesses closing, and families dealing with the unnavigable combined stresses of income loss, debt, and lack of childcare. In recent days you have talked about a phased approach to opening the state's economy and a return to some sense of normalcy, but these remarks have been vague on both the specifics and the timelines. We are afraid that we are reaching the cliche moment of "the solution being worse than the problem." 

Our citizens look to us to help and advocate for them. As commissioners, we must look the very people in the eye everyday who elected us and tell them that we are trying to change things. Sometimes they blame us, or expect that we can assist them in ways which we are powerless to do. We are starting to see protests in our community, both organized and individual, such as the rally held on our courthouse steps just this past Friday. We need your help in alleviating the mounting pain that your orders are inflicting. 

Governor, COVID-19 is real and it is as serious of an issue as we have faced in a generation. We appreciate your leadership is stabilizing our collective ship, but now we need your leadership at the helm in sailing this ship to calmer seas. We need that to begin now. Your phased approached to reopening Washington's economy and society seems reasonable, but we need timelines, we need regional options, and we need more urgency. 

The proclamations you have issued have deemed a great number of businesses in Benton County as "non­essential11. Many of us are learning now that "essential11 lies in the eyes of the beholder. After hearing from many of our stakeholders, we feel strongly that many important businesses in our community can begin reopening following strict guidelines for use of personal protective equipment, "social distancing11, and improved sanitation practices, among other things. For example, a number of our restaurants have formed a coalition to develop these protocols and assist each other with implementation. People are adaptive and can respond to stress if you let them. Allowing this to happen would put thousands of Washingtonians back to work, greatly improving the long-term outlook for our economy and the overall health of our community. We are at a point where literally weeks and days matter, as that can be the difference between businesses shuttering permanently and citizens being out of jobs. As mentioned, many employers in Benton County are adapting already or are ready to; they just need a green light to reopen. Governor, your phased approach needs specifics and more aggressive timelines, but also needs regional flexibility so that communities like ours with resilient and adaptable people, systems, healthcare infrastructure can get back to work. 

We have been and will continue to work closely with the Benton-Franklin Health District to monitor testing, contact tracing, and hot spots in the community to make sure that we can all respond and adjust accordingly. In the meantime, and with all things being considered, it is our position that nearly everything in the community should be allowed to reopen by the end of May with appropriate controls in place. 

Thank you for the hard work of yourself, your staff, and your team of advisors whom we know are working tirelessly through piles of data and pressure from all directions. We stand ready to assist you in getting all of Washington back on the road to recovery, but that assistance needs to be a two-way street. 

Sincerely,

BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS




 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 1, 2020

Update on Phase 1 Construction Requirements 

Kennewick, WA – On Wednesday, April 29, 2020 the Governor’s Office issued a memo related to the Implementation of Phase 1 Construction Restart, which provided clarifying information and definitions on which construction projects are considered authorized to proceed under the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order.

Under this definition, authorized construction includes:

 

  • Construction previously authorized under Proclamation 20-25 and the Governor’s March 25, 2020 memo on construction
  • Construction not previously authorized under Proclamation 20-25 and the March 25, 2020 memo that was in existence on March 23, 2020. 
  • In existence means construction activity that is: a) needed to fulfill an obligation under a contract effective prior to March 23, 2020, or b) authorized by a government-issued permit obtained prior to March 23, 2020.

Project owners that do not have an issued permit will be required to sign an affidavit certifying that their project is subject to a contract meeting the definition provided by the Governor’s Office and therefore is considered an existing project before any permit will be issued.

Public Services Building Open
The Benton County Public Services Building, (located at 102206 E Wiser Parkway, Kennewick), which houses the Tri-Cities offices for the Building, Planning, and Public Works Departments, will have staff on-site for building permit related issues and questions for existing projects beginning Monday, May 4, 2020 at regular business hours. 

At this time, the Prosser offices for these departments will remain closed until further notice.

Social Distancing & Safety Accommodations
Sneeze guards have been installed at the Public Services Building to protect County staff and our visitors. A hand sanitizer station is also be available for public use in the lobby.

Marks have been placed on the floor to show appropriate social distancing in the lobby and on the sidewalk outside. We ask that those waiting for service not wait between the two entrance doors and instead wait outside if there is not room in the lobby, to ensure proper and safe social distancing. 

No more people will be permitted into the building’s lobby than there are room for – everyone else will be asked to wait outside and will be admitted on a “one out, one in” basis.

Enforcement of COVID-19 Jobsite Requirements
Contractors must please note: Benton County is not the inspector or enforcer of the contractors’ required COVID-19 safety plan, and is not responsible for ensuring that contractors provide appropriate training to staff or follow the State's Phase 1 Construction Restart COVID-19 Jobsite Requirements. These safety practices are required as long as the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” Proclamation 20-25 is in effect.  

However, Benton County Inspection staff may decline to perform an inspection and/or leave the site at any time they feel the site is unsafe. 

About Benton County
Benton County is located in south-central Washington. The county seat is located in Prosser, and its largest city is Kennewick. Benton County was created on March 8, 1905 and was named after U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton. Benton County operates under the plural executive form of government with three commissioners and seven other elected officials. Benton County has offices located in Prosser and Kennewick. For more information, please visit our website. 

# # # #

Contact: Shyanne Palmus, Communications Coordinator   
Shyanne.Palmus@co.benton.wa.us | 509-222-3760



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 24, 2020

Revisions to County Hours in Response to Opening of Construction by Governor 
Kennewick, WA
– With Governor Inslee’s announcement today (April 24, 2020) that some restrictions on construction work for existing projects during the ongoing stay-at-home order will be lifted, certain Benton County offices will be revising their availability and office hours to accommodate an influx of permit applications.

Changes in Office Hours & Availability
The Benton County Public Services Building (located at 102206 E Wiser Parkway, Kennewick), which houses the Tri-Cities offices for the Building, Planning, and Public Works Departments, will have staff on site for building permit related issues and questions for existing projects beginning Monday, April 27, 2020. 

The building itself will remain closed to the public. Staff will be answering questions and scheduling inspections via telephone and email only. The Prosser offices for these departments will remain closed with limited staff availability. All building permit issues must be handled at the Public Services Building location until further notice.

Existing projects are defined as those that had a building or other related construction permit issued before midnight on March 25, 2020 or have had a permit issued since that date under an exception to the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” Proclamation 20-25. No new building permits will be issued except for those activities already provided an exemption under Proclamation 20-25.
 
Enforcement of COVID-19 Jobsite Requirements
Contractors must please note: Benton County is not the inspector or enforcer of the contractors’ required COVID-19 safety plan, and is not responsible for ensuring that contractors provide appropriate training to staff or follow the State's Phase 1 Construction Restart COVID-19 Jobsite Requirements. These safety practices are required as long as the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” Proclamation 20-25 is in effect. 

However, Benton County Inspection staff may decline to perform an inspection and/or leave the site at any time they feel the site is unsafe.

About Benton County
Benton County is located in south-central Washington. The county seat is located in Prosser, and its largest city is Kennewick. Benton County was created on March 8, 1905 and was named after U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton. Benton County operates under the plural executive form of government with three commissioners and seven other elected officials. Benton County has offices located in Prosser and Kennewick. For more information, please visit our website. 

# # # #

Contact: Shyanne Palmus, Communications Coordinator
Shyanne.Palmus@co.benton.wa.us | 509-222-3760

Document: 04/24/2020 Revisions to County Hours in Response to Opening of Construction by Governor (PDF)



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 22, 2020

Response to Recent Decisions on COVID-19 
Kennewick, WA – The Benton County Administration and Commissioners’ Office has received multiple calls, emails, and inquiries from the community regarding how Benton County will be responding to recent decisions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Benton County leadership, along with other City and County leaders have been calling on the Governor’s Office to provide a detailed, specific, and measurable plan to reopen Washington State in a responsible and timely manner, to ensure a safe return to public life.

The health and safety of our community are of paramount importance, and Benton County leadership will continue to encourage our County employees, local business, and community members to observe the recommended health and safety guidelines as set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), and the Benton-Franklin Health District (BFHD) including, but not limited to: staying home when sick, washing hands often, practicing physical distancing, and maintaining other good health habits.

We understand our community’s desire to “return to normal” and the need for our local businesses to be able to reopen. We also appreciate the inequities that exist in allowing certain functions to continue as essential while other similar functions are deemed non-essential and prohibited. 

However, the Benton County Board of Commissioners does not have the legal authority to override the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” proclamation. We are disappointed in the Governor’s recent press conference, and strongly encourage his office to develop a detailed plan to reopen the state that takes into account the local conditions that exist across our state.

County leaders have been and will continue to discuss how to safely and responsibly begin to reopen County facilities and other activities under the purview of the Board of Commissioners, while ensuring that we follow the guidance of local public health officials. 

About Benton County
Benton County is located in south-central Washington. The county seat is located in Prosser, and its largest city is Kennewick. Benton County was created on March 8, 1905 and was named after U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton. Benton County operates under the plural executive form of government with three commissioners and seven other elected officials. Benton County has offices located in Prosser and Kennewick. For more information, please visit our website. 

# # # #

Contact: Shyanne Palmus, Communications Coordinator   
Shyanne.Palmus@co.benton.wa.us | 509-222-3760

 

 
 



UPDATE
April 2, 2020 - 1:00 PM

Limited Public Hours at the Justice Center 
Kennewick, WA – In an abundance of caution and with concern for maintaining the safety and health of the public and our employees, we will be limiting the in-person public visiting hours at the Benton County Justice Center as a precautionary measure to help slow the spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). 

Effective April 2, 2020 through April 12, 2020 or until the end of the Governor’s  “Stay Home – Stay Healthy” order, whichever is later, the Justice Center main doors will only be open to the public when courts are in session: from 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM, Monday through Friday.

Most departments will have staff working remotely or have limited, essential staff working on-site to provide essential services to the public. Questions regarding individual office hours, staff availability, or other issues should be directed to each department or office. Contact information is provided below.

 

Department / Office Phone
Email 
Clerk’s Office 509-735-8388     
Clerk@co.benton.wa.us
Commissioners’ Office + Administration      509-786-5600
Commissioners@co.benton.wa.us
District Court Administration
509-735-8476
District.Court@co.benton.wa.us
Facilities + Parks Departments 509-783-3118  
Human Resources Department
509-737-2777
HR@co.benton.wa.us
Information Technology Department
509-222-2399
IT.Support@co.benton.wa.us
Prosecutor’s Office 509-735-3591
Prosecuting@co.benton.wa.us
Prosecutor’s Office – Child Support
509-735-7316
 
Sheriff’s Office
509-735-6555
 
Sustainable Development Department
509-736-3053
 

# # # #

Contact: Shyanne Palmus, Communications Coordinator
Shyanne.Palmus@co.benton.wa.us | 509-222-3760



UPDATE

March 31, 2020 - 3:00 PM

Amending Emergency Declaration (Resolution 2020-272)
The Board of Commissioners were presented a resolution amending Resolution 2020-258, Declaration of Emergency in Benton County, at their regular Board meeting on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 at 9 AM to extend the dates of the emergency until April 12, 2020 or until the end of the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, whichever is later.

The approved  Resolution 2020-272 also grants authority to each separately and independently elected official, as well as the County Administration for departments under the direction of the Commissioners, to approve telecommuting options and/or paid administrative leave or other available leave for employees deemed non-essential, provided that said employees regularly check their office email and provide a telephone number where they can be reached for work-related issues and are available to physically report to work as necessary. 



UPDATE

March 23, 2020 - 4:00 PM

Auditor's Office
Effective Tuesday, March 24, 2020, the Auditor's Office will be reducing the on-site working hours of recording staff to 9 AM - 1 PM, Monday through Friday and will only be taking appointments for urgent matters on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 AM - 12 PM. Recording staff will continue to be available via email. Vehicle licensing services remain closed and elections staff are all telecommuting. Should you have any questions, please contact their office via email at auditor@co.benton.wa.us.

Clerk's Office
Effective Monday, March 23, 2020 through Friday, April 3, 2020 (unless otherwise extended) the Clerk's Office will be reducing the on-site working hours of their staff and will only be available from 1 PM - 3 PM daily, Monday through Friday. Should you have any questions, please contact their office via email at clerk@co.benton.wa.us.

Treasurer's Office
Effective Tuesday, March 24, 2020, the Treasurer's Office will be reducing the on-site working hours of their staff and will only be available from 9 AM - 1 PM, Monday through Friday and will only be taking appointments for urgent matters on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 AM - 12 PM. Should you have any questions, please contact their office via email at treasurer@co.benton.wa.us.

Horn Rapids RV Camping Closed
Effective Wednesday, March 24, 2020 until further notice, the RV camping area at Horn Rapids Park will be closed in an effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). We encourage our park visitors to enjoy other recreation activities as weather permits, while following the recommended guidelines from the Benton-Franklin Health District, the Washington State Department of Health, the Washington State Governor’s Office, and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. The health and safety of our parks staff and visitors is our number one priority. Should you have any questions, please contact the Parks Department via email at parks@co.benton.wa.us.

 



UPDATE
March 20, 2020 - 9:00 AM

Southeast Communications Center Reminder to the Public: 

Our dispatch team is here to serve our citizens throughout Benton and Franklin Counties. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, they have been inundated with calls and questions regarding the virus. Please note, the local health department will be your primary resource regarding questions you have specific to COVID-19. 

PLEASE DO NOT CALL 911 FOR THE FOLLOWING: 

 

  • Questions about Coronavirus 
  • Questions about where to get tested 
  • If you are experiencing mild symptoms, such as a low fever and cough 

WHO SHOULD YOU CALL? 

Please only Call 911 if you are experiencing serious symptoms, such as a high fever or difficulty breathing, and need EMS response. Regardless of what you are reporting, please advise if you are experiencing any critical symptoms associated with the Coronavirus (Fever, Shortness of Breath, and Cough). 



UPDATE
March 19, 2020 - 4:45 PM

Superior Court & Juvenile Court
The Benton-Franklin Counties Superior Court has issued Emergency Order #2 RE: Court Operations, effective March 20, 2020. Under this Emergency Order, the Superior Court will conduct no jury trials until after May 1, 2020, and changes have been made to adult criminal cases as well as juvenile cases, domestic matters, and other cases. Adult Drug Court will be conducting business telephonically.

For March 20, 2020 through April 3, 2020, the Superior Court will be open on a limited basis from 1 PM - 3 PM, Monday - Friday at the Benton County Justice Center, the Franklin County Courthouse, and the Juvenile Justice Center. Changes to the court schedule have also been made.

 

Full details of this Emergency Order are available on the Superior Court website (below). Questions regarding the Superior Court can be directed to:

Benton-Franklin Counties Superior Court Administration
509-736-3071
www.benton-franklinsuperiorcourt.com 

 



UPDATE
March 19, 2020 - 4:00 PM

It has come to our attention that there is some confusion regarding office hours for our various departments. During this time, if you are unsure if a department or office is open please contact their office directly before planning a visit, as they may not be accepting visitors or may require an appointment. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. Thank you.

 



UPDATE

March 18, 2020 - 1:50 PM

The Benton County Prosecutor’s Office has issued the following statement, as an update to the media release sent yesterday evening (March 17, 2020):

In an abundance of caution and with concern for maintaining the safety and health of the public and our employees, the Benton County Prosecutor’s Office will be limiting operations for a minimum of two weeks as a precautionary measure to help slow the spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). 

Starting Wednesday, March 18, 2020 at 1;00 PM, the Prosecutor’s office will be closed to in-person visits from the public, but staff will remain at work for the remainder of the week. If someone has what they believe to be an emergency need for an in-person visit, please call (509) 735-3591,   or call (509)735-7316 for Child Support matters,  or email prosecuting@co.benton.wa.us to discuss.  

Starting Monday, March 23, 2020, the Prosecutor’s Office will be only be staffed on site by essential employees. Non-essential employees will continue to work from home. 

At this time the Prosecutor’s Office is expected to reopen to the public on Monday, April 6, 2020 at normal business hours unless notification to the contrary is issued.

To get in touch with our office, please contact us at the phone number or email provided below and we will get back to you as soon as we can. Thank you for your understanding as we work to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Benton County Prosecutor’s Office
(509) 735-3591
(509) 735-7316 (for Child Support)

 


 




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 17, 2020

Benton County Declares Emergency in Response to COVID-19, Changes in Office Hours & Services

Kennewick, WA
– In an abundance of caution and with concern for maintaining the safety and health of the public and our employees, we will be limiting operations at County offices and departments for a minimum of two weeks as a precautionary measure to help slow the spread of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus). 

Starting Tuesday, March 17, 2020 at 5 PM most County offices will be closed to in-person visits from the public, but staff will remain at work for the remainder of the week. Starting Monday, March 23, 2020 some County offices will be closed except for essential services. Certain other services may continue in a limited capacity, at the discretion of the Elected Official or County Administrator. All County offices will reopen to the public on Monday, April 6, 2020 at normal business hours unless otherwise extended. 

Updates to this information will be provided as they become available.

We are doing everything we can to protect the public and our employees in the midst of this expanding public health crisis. We will continue to provide essential services to residents but we are monitoring the situation closely and urge the public to follow the guidance of the Benton-Franklin Health District, Washington State Department of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Corrections & Jail 
Effective March 14, 2020 the Benton County Jail is temporarily suspending video visitation taking place in the Jail Lobby. All inmates within the Benton County Jail will be authorized four (4) Skype visits per week, free of charge. A web link for instructions to complete Skype visits are available on the Corrections Department website and also on the visitation system website. The visitation schedules listed on the County website remain in place without change. 

In addition, the Corrections Department is no longer allowing volunteers into the facility, in an effort to reduce potential exposure and keep everyone safe. Questions regarding Corrections Department issues can be directed to (509) 783-1451.

Sheriff’s Office
The Benton County Sheriff’s Office will continue to have regular staffing of its law enforcement personnel to ensure the safety of our citizens. To keep the community and staff safe, the Sheriff’s Office will be taking the following measures to limit exposure:

 

  • Phone Reports – If a call for law enforcement service can be handled via telephone and not in person, Deputies will make attempts to do so to limit in-person contact.
  • Fingerprinting Services – Suspension of fingerprinting services until further notice.
  • Lobby Hours – The Sheriff’s Office lobbies in Kennewick and Prosser will remain open for business and hours of operation will not change. However, we ask that you limit these contacts to only those that are imperative to public safety.
  • Records Requests – Please submit records requests electronically to  BCSORecords@co.benton.wa.us 

Prosecuting Attorney
At this time, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will continue to have regular office hours and staffing. Any changes will be announced as information is available. Please contact the Prosecutor’s Office with any questions via phone at (509) 735-3591 or via email at prosecuting@co.benton.wa.us.

District Court
The Benton County District Court has issued Administrative Order No. 20-001, in the matter of emergency response to community health, effective March 17, 2020 until April 24, 2020 unless otherwise extended.
 
The Benton County District Court front counters in Kennewick and in Prosser will be closed from March 17, 2020 through April 24, 2020. The District Court office is re-directing the public to communicate with their office via internet, email, and telephone as well as having e-filing set up and running.

Mental Health Court and Veterans Court will be conducting business telephonically.

Questions regarding the Benton County District Court can be directed to:

Benton County District Court Administration 
509-735-8476
District.Court@co.benton.wa.us


Superior Court & Juvenile Court
The Benton-Franklin Counties Superior Court has issued Emergency Order #1 RE: Court Operations, effective March 16, 2020 until further notice. Under this Emergency Order, the Superior Court will conduct no jury trials until April 24, 2020, and changes have been made to adult criminal cases as well as juvenile cases, domestic matters, and other cases. Adult Drug Court will be conducting business telephonically.

Full details of this Emergency Order are available on the Superior Court website (below). Questions regarding the Superior Court can be directed to:

Benton-Franklin Counties Superior Court Administration
509-736-3071
www.benton-franklinsuperiorcourt.com 


Clerk’s Office
The Benton County Clerk’s Office will no longer be accepting passport applications, effective Wednesday, March 18, 2020 until further notice, due to the COVID-19 emergency throughout the State. Their office would like to apologize for this inconvenience and ask for your understanding as they work to continue to provide services during this public health crisis.

For additional information or updates regarding Clerk’s Office services, please contact their office at (509) 735-8388 or via email at Clerk@co.benton.wa.us

Office of Public Defense
The Office of Public Defense front window will be closed to all walk-in traffic effective Wednesday, March 18, 2020 until Monday, April 6, 2020. Their office will continue to be available via phone at (509) 222-3700 or via email at opd@co.benton.wa.us. All Public Defense attorneys will continue to be available to clients and the public remotely and will continue to provide public defense services to all defendants as needed.

Commissioners’ Office & Administration
The Commissioners’ and Administration Offices will be closed to in-person visits from the public starting Wednesday, March 18, 2020 until April 6, 2020 and will be monitoring emails and phone calls during this time. At this time, the Board of Commissioners will continue to hold their regularly scheduled Board meetings, unless otherwise posted.

Human Services
The Benton County Human Services Department will be closed to in-person visits from the public starting Wednesday, March 18, 2020 until Monday, April 6, 2020 unless otherwise extended. Their office will continue to be available via phone at (509) 783-5284 and staff will be monitoring emails.

Treasurer’s Office
The Treasurer’s Office will be closed to in-person visits from the public starting Wednesday, March 18, 2020 until Monday, April 6, 2020. Property tax payment drop boxes will remain open until April 30, 2020 at the Kennewick Annex (5600 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick) and the Prosser Courthouse (620 Market Street, Prosser) for residents to pay their property taxes during this closure. Residents can also pay their property taxes via mail or online at bentoncountytax.com.

For those needing assistance with Real Estate Excise Tax or manufactured home transfers or plats, please contact the Treasurer’s Office at (509) 735-8505 to make an appointment. All other inquiries should be directed to treasurer@co.benton.wa.us

Assessor’s Office
The Assessor’s Office will be closed to in-person visits from the public starting Wednesday, March 18, 2020 until Monday, April 6, 2020 unless otherwise extended. Staffing will be limited during this time but will answer phone calls and emails as available. The Assessor’s Office can be reached via phone at (509) 786-2046 or via email at assessor@co.benton.wa.us

Auditor’s Office
The Auditor’s Office will be closed to in-person visits from the public for all services except the recording department starting Wednesday, March 18, 2020 until Monday, April 6, 2020 unless otherwise extended. Appointments may be made to record documents and/or apply for marriage licenses. Title companies are encouraged to use e-recording. To schedule an appointment with the recording department, contact (509) 736-2727.

For questions regarding licensing, please contact one of the licensing sub-agents. All other inquiries should be directed to (509) 736-2727 or auditor@co.benton.wa.us

Fairgrounds
All events scheduled to take place at the Benton County Fairgrounds have been cancelled until May 1, 2020. All event holders will be fully refunded any fees or invited to reschedule their event at no additional cost within 12 months of their event. 

Questions about Fairgrounds event cancellations and rescheduling can be directed to:

Benton County Fairgrounds Event Coordinator 
509-222-3751
bc.fairgrounds@co.benton.wa.us 


Canine Shelter
The Benton County Canine Shelter Office will be closed to in-person visits from the public starting Wednesday, March 18, 2020 until Monday, April 6, 2020 unless otherwise extended. Canine Shelter staff will continue to monitor calls and provide emergency services but will not be allowing visitors or facilitating adoptions during this time. 

Questions regarding the Canine Shelter can be directed to:

Benton County Canine Shelter 
(509) 460-4923
Canine.Shelter@co.benton.wa.us 

Public Services (Building, Planning, Public Works)
Effective Wednesday, March 18, 2020 the Public Services Building and the Prosser Offices for Building, Planning, and Public Works will be closed to in-person visits from the public until April 6, 2020 unless otherwise extended.

During this time period, these offices will be operating at a limited capacity and will be monitoring emails and phone calls as necessary. Road maintenance operations will continue without interruption. Building inspections will continue in a limited capacity, with certain site restrictions. To schedule an inspection, please contact the Building Inspection line at (509) 736-2763.

Parks
The Rattlesnake Mountain Shooting Facility is closed until further notice. All other Benton County Parks will remain open to the public, including Badger Mountain and Candy Mountain Preserves.

About Benton County
Benton County is located in south-central Washington. The county seat is located in Prosser, and its largest city is Kennewick. Benton County was created on March 8, 1905 and was named after U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton. Benton County operates under the plural executive form of government with three commissioners and seven other elected officials. Benton County has offices located in Prosser, Kennewick, and Richland. For more information, please visit our website. 

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Contact: Shyanne Palmus, Communications Coordinator   
Shyanne.Palmus@co.benton.wa.us | 509-222-3760



Memo

Date: March 13, 2020
To: Benton County Residents + News Media
From: Jerrod MacPherson, Benton County Administrator
RE: COVID-19 and Events at County Properties/Buildings

In accordance with Governor Jay Inslee’s Proclamation 20-07, dated March 11, 2020, and in an abundance of caution and in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19 throughout our community, Benton County will no longer be accepting new applications for events to be held at the Benton County Fairgrounds until June 1, 2020. Please note, the Fairgrounds has limited buildings available until after September 2020 and are currently beginning to book dates for 2021 and later.

All events currently scheduled to be held at the Benton County Fairgrounds between today’s date (March 13, 2020) and June 1, 2020 will be allowed to cancel their events for a full refund or reschedule their events at no additional cost, should they wish. If event holders wish to reschedule, a 12-month window will be provided to reschedule events at no cost.

In addition, per State guidelines, Benton County requires all events held at the Benton County Fairgrounds and all other Benton County facilities until June 1, 2020 to limit attendance to 250 persons or less, to help prevent and limit the transmission and spread of illness.

The Benton-Franklin Health District will continue to be the primary source of information for our region on the status of COVID-19 in our community. Please contact the following agencies for additional information:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
1-800-232-4636

Washington State Department of Health (DOH) 
1-800-525-0127

Benton-Franklin Health District (BFHD)
509-460-4358 (English)
509-460-4359 (Spanish)

Walla Walla County Community Health
509-524-2647
 
 
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