The Yelm City Council discussed numerous topics at its meeting on Tuesday, June 14, including Pride Month, a day of memorial in honor of those who died at the hands of gun violence, and upcoming …
The Yelm City Council discussed numerous topics at its meeting on Tuesday, June 14, including Pride Month, a day of memorial in honor of those who died at the hands of gun violence, and upcoming projects within the city.
At the meeting, Mayor Joe DePinto officially declared June as LBGTQ Pride Month in the City of Yelm.
“Yelm celebrates the history in diversity of our cities (LGBT) and promote to society that all residents can live free from discrimination. Pride Month is an opportunity to celebrate this harmony in which we co-exist … and (I) encourage everybody to eliminate bridges everywhere they exist,” DePinto said.
Councilmember Line Roy expanded on DePinto’s comments about Pride Month by explaining why it’s important to Yelm.
“Yelm is a vibrant and diverse community and we need all of the people to feel valued, included and seen,” Roy said. “We need every individual to keep our city unique and vibrant, and it’s important to recognize that we are different in our own ways and that should be celebrated.”
The origins of Pride Month in America came in 1999 when President Bill Clinton named June of that year as “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month.” The tradition continued in 2000, and again from 2009 to 2016 when President Barack Obama named June LGBT Pride Month. President Joe Biden named June 2022 as Pride Month nationally, and cities across the country are joining in for the celebration.
During the meeting, Ashley Brooks also took to the podium to ask the city to recognize the first Friday in June as National Gun Violence Awareness Day, which Brooks said is a day to “acknowledge gun violence and to encourage responsible gun ownership to help keep our children safe.”
Since the mass school shooting that killed 22 people and injured 17 others on May 24 at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, there have been over 50 mass shootings in the United States, according to gunviolencearchinve.org.
Brooks said she believes the prevention of mass shootings goes beyond gun control. She stated that 80% of mass shooters profess their intentions of violence before acting on them, but oftentimes, those who are aware of the threat take it lightly or don’t know what to do about it.
“What is causing all these issues? That’s what we need to focus on. We need to be nicer to people,” Brooks said.
She believes an emphasis on mental health is important, especially for those who are struggling.
Brooks asked the Yelm City Council to recognize the first Friday in June as Gun Violence Awareness Day and asked residents to wear orange on that day to honor those who have died as a result of gun violence. The color orange represents and symbolizes the value of human life.
The council did not take action on the measure following Brooks' comments.
Also at the meeting, Skillings Incorporated sought authorization from the council to exceed the amount of $399,820 to rebuild Cochrane Memorial Park in Yelm. Skillings Inc., a veteran owned engineering consulting firm based in Lacey, helped complete phase one of renovations at the 23-year-old park, which has seen a significant growth of vegetation.
Representatives of Skillings Inc. said the park is in dire need of reconstruction. Phase one of the project rebuild was completed in 2021 when one of the wetland cells and a pedestrian bridge was rebuilt.
The company’s longterm goal is to increase the total flow of water through upgrades to help aid the park’s primary function to treat and dispose of water.
The park currently sees a water flow of 50,000 gallons a day, but with upgrades it could near 250,000 gallons. The request was approved by the council.
The Yelm City Council also approved a motion for Resolution No. 625, which will administer grant funds from the Recreation and Conservation Office.
Larry Lavine, a volunteer with the Park Foundation of Thurston County, discussed upcoming renovation plans to the Nisqually Trestle.
The organization applied for a grant of $1.5 million which would be used to transform the rail trestle that spans across the Nisqually River into a pedestrian bridge.
“This project is just absolutely fabulous,” Lavine said. “It’s going to provide healthy, active recreation and mobility access for all ages, abilities and income levels.”
The trail will connect Yelm to Pierce County. It will also be part of a cross-state trail in Washington. Levine and the Park Foundation of Thurston County hopes the trail brings “wallets on wheels” to the community of Yelm.
During the meeting, the council also allocated $8,000 from the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee to three community events. The committee essentially finances public events in the city when vendors apply and meet the proper criteria. They recommended a total of $6,000 for the Nisqually BBQ Rally, $500 for the Nisqually Valley Home and Garden Show, and $1,500 for Jazz in the Park.
Applicants must spend their allocated budget and present receipts to the Lodging Tax Committee in order to be refunded.
DePinto appointed several new members to the City of Yelm Advisory Board and Commissions during the meeting as well. Carlos Perez, Robert Howard and Stephanie Dunn were reappointed to their positions on the planning commission, while Gary Craig was appointed to the arts commission. Kayla Russell was appointed to the parks advisory committee, while Ashley Brooks was appointed to the salary commission. Kathline Oklund and Alek Sorensen were appointed to the tree advisory board, and Austin Gray was appointed to the historic commission.
Interim city administrator Todd Stancil announced Lori Lucas, the current administrative services director, resigned from her position. Her last day will be on Aug. 1.
Lucas worked with the city of Yelm for 15 years. She is leaving her position to move closer to her family, Stancil said.
Stancil then announced several openings for positions within the city, including city administrator, a human resource specialist, and a civil review engineer.
Stancil concluded his time by announcing this would be his last Yelm City Council meeting, as he is retiring from his position.
The closing notes from councilmembers was kicked off by Councilor Terry Kaminski. Kaminski reflected on several local events she attended recently, including the Business Awards Luncheon. She also added that Bounty for Families received a certificate of merit at the Washington Association of School Administrators for their work with Learners without Limits at Yelm High School.
Then councilmember Roy, who is also the executive director of the Yelm Chamber of Commerce, touched on the upcoming events in Yelm. Roy said, “starting next weekend there will be an event every weekend in Yelm until August. You will not be bored.”
Councilmember Holly Smith spoke about the city adding two new police officers. She said it’s their second or third week of training, and noted the process is going well.
Councilmember Joseph Richardson spoke regarding information he learned at the Solid Waste Advisory Committee meeting. He noted the current transfer station will be closing, but the committee is looking for a new location for a transfer center in Yelm.
Councilmembers also noted they anticipate road maintenance issues to be addressed over the next several weeks.
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