From Arkansas, he could be in new Lynden job by January, if OK’d by council

LYNDEN ­— Steve Taylor of Arkansas is Mayor Scott Korthuis’s choice to be the city’s next police chief, and the appointment could be confirmed by the City Council on Dec. 16. 

Taylor presented himself well in his visit to Lynden in early November, in interviews with police and city representatives and in follow-up reference checking, Korthuis said after Monday’s council meeting. Unfortunately, that process of evaluating three finalists was overshadowed by the sudden injury and Nov. 6 death of acting police chief Michael Knapp from being struck by a vehicle.

Knapp stepped in last summer upon the retirement of John Billester after 42 years in law enforcement, 28 of those with Lynden.

It’s expected that Taylor, now the assistant chief of Searcy, Arkansas, population 24,000, could start his new Lynden job by mid-January.

Meanwhile, the police department continues to make internal administrative adjustments that Knapp, a law enforcement veteran, had recommended in his five months at the helm, the mayor said. Those include lieutenant and sergeant positions helping the chief of a 17-officer force. Randy Humphreys is now a sergeant.

Also Monday, it was announced that Tom Hatley, now division chief of Spokane County Fire District 8, will become Lynden’s new assistant fire chief. He will start at the turn of the year.

Since Hatley is a training officer already, it’s natural for him to step into that role here as well, said Fire Chief Mark Billmire, and he will also take up the fire marshal duties that veteran Gary Baar was doing until recently. 

Also, the fire department has a new support services manager, Sarah Silvas, replacing Sandra Dallesandro, who retired.

  • It was not those personnel moves, but the issue of “wayfinding” that stirred up city council feelings on Monday. BellinghamWhatcom County Tourism has been working to try to get more unified and catchy roadway and pedestrian signing to direct people to county destinations and attractions, and within and between cities.

But Lynden had given a cold reception to its projected six-figure share of the bill, and even to the idea of spending money on signs when people can readily call up directions and information on their smartphones.

The proposal is “a waste of money ... way behind technology ... horrible,” said councilor Gary Bode in the strongest statement against. He sees “a bureaucratic program” that, once into, it’s impossible to get out of requirements and costs.

The council was considering an agreement to begin the Regional Wayfinding and Gateway Program, but with changes made that put “zero obligation” on Lynden to put up any signs until it is satisfied with what is happening, Korthuis said.

It is better to work with the county as a whole and the state Transportation agency versus not, the mayor said. “There are benefits to having this agreement in place.”

Lynden’s Downtown Business Association is generally in favor, and although the Chamber of Commerce had raised concerns earlier, its executive director Gary Vis came to the microphone to say he is “totally comfortable” with the way the process has been adjusted.

He said travelers in an unfamiliar place do rely upon signs for guidance, as well as their digital devices, as he himself found on a recent trip to a Seattle destination.

The city’s Tax Advisory Committee on the hotel-motel tax collected in Lynden recommends that $22,000 be spent on the wayfinding program. An estimate from Planning Director Heidi Gudde is that over five years Lynden would be asked to pay in about $94,000 into the program.

In the end, the matter was sent back to the Community Development Committee to get more questions answered and try to come with a recommendation for action back to the full council.

  • Remanded back to the Planning Commission was the controversial issue of erecting a five-story 50-unit high-density residential building on Aaron Drive next to existing Parkway Apartments, as sought by Hollander Investments.

The proponents say smaller units for senior housing are needed in Lynden and would be suited for this location.

But it requires a change, in terms of building proximity to Parkview and to Aaron, in the fundamental Planned Residential Development agreement that allowed the Christian Health Care Center and Lynden Manor facilities to be developed 20 years ago.

The council decided to have the Planning Commission — which voted No in October — now look at detailed conditions suggested by the Planning Department. The conditions are meant to address concerns raised “while providing a path forward for additional senior housing” in Lynden, Gudde wrote in her memo to council.

  • Better pedestrian walkway will be built soon along Line Road south of Lynden Middle School. This is a project that was attempted to be done before school started last August.

The council awarded the construction bid of $246,143 to Tiger Construction Ltd. to build about 1,750 feet of block wall, storm drainage, path, pavement, curb and crosswalk.

This will be all city money, Mayor Korthuis said. The city could not wait years for the planned full upgrading of Line, from being just a county road, to do this safety upgrade to serve students.