Chamber learns of $8 million ‘Magnificent’ project

Tonasket City Planner Kurt Danison (left) and city Councilwoman Jill Ritter (right) present information on a U.S. Highway 97 reconstruction project to the chamber of commerce last week.

TONASKET — City Planner Kurt Danison of Highland Associates and city council member Jill Ritter presented information on the U.S. Highway 97 Reconstruction Project, formerly known as the “Magnificent Mile,” to the chamber of commerce Tuesday, Jan. 8.

The name “Magnificent Mile” can no longer be used for the project as it is being used elsewhere.

Danison said the motivating issue for the project is, with repeated resurfacings, Highway 97 “gets higher and higher, and the curbs get lower.”

“Twenty-five years ago, the state’s original plan was to grind it off, but that promise never came through,” said Danison. “They come and seal-coat it, adding more height.”

Danison said the city’s attempts to get the state Department of Transportation to address the problem have not resulted in any action.

“The state DOT has billions of dollars worth of roadways to take care of, and this doesn’t rate very high,” said Danison.

“Back in 2001, the city did work up a re-design development plan including streetscaping, but nothing happened with the plan,” said Danison. “Five years ago, Mayor Patrick Plumb christened it ‘The Magnificent Mile’ to get some financing.”

The original estimate for the project was $5.5 million, and is now estimated at around $8 million to complete.

“It is highly likely that the project will be scaled back and broken into phases,” said Danison.

He said he and the city engineering firm, Varella and Associates, sat down with people from different agencies “to try and figure out how to get it done.”

Progress to date includes a Downtown Plan completed in 2001.

A capital improvements plan for Whitcomb Avenue (Highway 97), funded by a Community Development Planning Only Grant is due in April. An updated Downtown Master Plan, funded by a CERB Grant, is also due in April. The Storm Water Master Plan, funded by an Ecology combined grant/loan is due in June, with plans for Whitcomb Ave-related improvements due in March.

Funding obtained in 2018 includes a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Planning Only Grant, with focus on infrastructure. The $24,000 grant requires $6,220 in matching funds from the city.

A $25,000 CERB planning grant focusing on economic aspects of the project requires $8,350 in city funds.

The ECY Storm Water Master Plan Grant/Loan is $74,000 in grant funds and a $13,000 loan. A portion is dedicated to improvements on Whitcomb Ave with a focus on storm water treatment facilities that serve double duty as aesthetic improvements such as street trees and/or planter swales.

Ritter said while many designs include planter swales, those won’t work in Tonasket, as the center lane is used by the Public Works Department to pile snow in the winter.

Tonasket and Oroville are the only two cities in the state where Highway 97 is the main street through town.

Ritter said any aesthetic designs included would need little or no maintenance.

A planning committee will begin meeting on the third Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. at City Hall, to look at preliminary design concepts. This month’s meeting, however, will be Jan. 24.

“There were some strong opinions on some things, so the city engineer will come back with new ideas,” said Danison. The public is welcome to attend.

“We want to get the community involved in what we want to do,” said Danison.

Danison said plans are to have 50 percent of the design done in February and to have plans wrapped up by June.

Ritter said community input was important, as “businesses will be impacted by this.”

Dale Crandall volunteered to be a representative from the Tonasket Chamber of Commerce.

In other business, the chamber:

• Heard from Marcy Hunt at Green Okanogan Recycling, who said Aaron Kester approached her about having more recycling centers in town. Hunt said they would consider putting bins at the Junction and Beyers, but only “on a test basis to make sure people respect it.”

“We tried one at the school, and it didn’t work out so well,” said Hunt. “We put one in at Veranda Beach (in Oroville), and people respect it, they bring their recycling down to us.”

Hunt said there are already bins in at North Valley Hospital, History Park and Triangle Park.

• Learned Dr. Stinson’s Stephanie Smiles Denistry was chosen as the business of the month for February, and Lee Franks, owned by Dave Kester, was named for March. Hickman’s Body Shop, owned by Deven Sprague, is the January business of the month.

Sprague announced he will be hosting a Soap Box Derby during Founders Day weekend. Sprague received permission from the city to close two streets during the event, which will take place on State Street and Third Avenue.

“Forty memberships have been secured for 2019 so far, and more are needed “to support the chamber and all we do,” said President Marylou Kriner.

The annual chamber banquet is January 26, at The Kuhler. Kriner said auction items including baked goods were needed, as this is the only fundraiser of the year to support chamber events including Winterfest and Founder’s Day.

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