TONASKET — Vases of flowers adorned the table in front of the late council member Claire Jeffko's empty seat at last Tuesday's meeting, the first one since Jeffko die unexpectedly at home on August 18.
“Well, we have an empty chair,” said Mayor Dennis Brown. “Claire was a very good friend and I enjoyed her company a lot. As a person of not a lot of words, I wanted to express my sorrow in her passing.”
In city business, Jeff Moran of Varela and Associates appeared before the council to discuss bids the city received for the Parry's Acres Sewer System Rehabilitation Project.
Moran said the biggest piece of information he had to share was before bids were opened they were concerned they were going to come in high, so he spoke with the Department of Ecology (ECY) to see if other funds would be available.
“The bids did come in high, higher than we anticipated,” said Moran. “So, I contacted ECY and they said no, they would not be able to increase the loan enough to consider it. This morning I had an email from Coleman Miller at ECY and they went and talked about it again. He had misinterpreted some of their guidelines, they can increase the loan on the ECY funding and that would allow you to consider an award.”
Moran said the original plan, worked out under former mayor Patrick Plumb called for a 20-year loan to the city from ECY in the amount of $235,266.
According to Miller, the current offer is $410,400, of which $175,143 is a grant. Miller said ECY has the ability to offer up to 110 percent of the entire cost of the engineer’s estimate of $596,723, which would be $656,395. The grant amount cannot change, but Miller pointed out if the city adds the $286,600 Community Development Block Grant allocated for the project, the city would be able to award the contract to the low bidder.
“This will allow the city to award the project without allocating funds from the city reserves,” said Moran.
Council member Jill Ritter motioned the city allow Varela & Associates to move forward and allow the base bid, seconded by Council member Christa Levine. The project will be paid for with an as-yet-undetermined rate increase to Parry's Acres residents.
In reports, Ritter said it is now 60 days into a 90-day permit city residents received to demolish a house on 3rd Street that caught fire two years ago from illegal Fourth of July fireworks set off in town.
“I have seen them remove items from the home but haven't seen them start to remove the structure itself,” said Ritter, asking if there was an updated report from Building Permit Administrator Christian Johnson.
Mayor Brown then asked Ritter if she had noticed North Valley Hospital's dumpsters had been moved off city property. Ritter said yes, but the dumpster on Western Ave was not always returned to the right place.
“They dump it every day, and don't always push it back all the way,” said council member Jensen Sackman, a hospital employee. Ritter suggested having an NVH employee go out and check on it every day.
“Clearly, they recognize the problem, but I don't see any forward movement in a resolution. If I need to go to September's (hospital district) board meeting I will if the council so chooses,” said Ritter before turning attention back to the house on Third Avenue. “All Christian's report says is a permit was given. As his supervisor, I would like you to check on that,” Ritter directed the mayor, who responded he would look into it before the next council meeting.
Council member Maria Moreno said she attended the Garlic Festival for the first time this year.
“It was nice to see a lot of community members out there to support that program. We also had both our (police) officers there to help out, and I got some good feedback about that,” said Moreno. “At our last meeting I notified the public we were doing a night out with the police dept, and that is going to be Sept. 14, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the gazebo in the visitor’s center parking lot.”
The Tonasket Visitors and Business Resource Center is at 215 N. Whitcomb Ave.
Moreno then reported she has been working on the budget and getting comparable numbers on salaries for police staff and city employees from different cities.
Council member Sackman said she had been hearing concerns from residents about excessive speeding in town by police cars without using their lights.
Council member Levine reported attending an economic development meeting, with a county commissioner in attendance along with railroad representatives and customers of the railroad.
“I learned a lot sitting there. Several people there were talking about how they could improve business up there in the north end of the county for the railroad.” Levine said railroad representatives were looking at land in Tonasket or Oroville where rail cars could be stored and looking to fix a couple sections of track to increase the speed, which would increase use.
“Right now, the railroad is just used once a week, which is a huge decline in this area, and it hurts,” said Levine.
She also reported on the public safety meeting, where Tonasket Police Officer John Cruz spoke of meeting with a resource officer at the school and planning future events including Chief for a Day, Shop with a Cop and Autism Awareness Day.
“He also spoke of participating in Easter egg hunts and trick or treat, delivering dinners for Thanksgiving and helping with baskets of stuff at Christmas. He's also talked about working with the school on different things such as a criminal justice program or club,” said Levine, who then reported on attending budget and finance training with Moreno in Leavenworth.
“I learned a lot. Hopefully we will be able to put some of that knowledge to good use here,” said Levine. “I went to the public hearing for the slaughterhouse. It was very well attended. It sounds like they are going to make one little change and then work on getting that zoning changed for a slaughterhouse. People who showed up loved the idea but questioned why they would want to be in city limits and were told because there is already a packing shed there in city limits. The board (Planning Commission) listened and took everything they said into consideration.”
The zoning code will be amended to allow the slaughterhouse in the C-2 or mixed zone. The number of animals to be processed is limited to 16 beef equivalents in a 48-hour period.
In other business, the council heard a request by the police department for council to purchase the PD's tablets that are not appropriate for law enforcement use, to be used by city council members. Council member Ritter said she would inquire with the Public Works Department to see if they can use them. The police department is looking into purchasing refurbished toughbooks or similar laptops, and the council approved the purchase of as many as the police department could afford in their budget. Council also approved the purchase of tasers for the police department.
Chief Odegaard reported he was working with a couple of police officers from Omak, but the going rate was $30 per hour. Odegaard said he is hoping to have a lateral officer hired by the end of the month.
Officer Cruz asked if an interview room could be constructed during renovation of the building. Cruz said he was interviewing a sex crimes victim when several people walked through the building and he had no privacy for the victim.
“It's been clear for a long time the police department needs a lot,” said Ritter. “I'm going to assume we don't have the money to do that when we're removing the asbestos. Maybe if we look at getting some volunteers to help hang dry wall and get some donations, we could do that.”
“We don't want to give you the impression it won't happen,” said Levine. “This community built a pool.”
“I think we need to reach out to the community until we can get a new police building,” said Ritter.
Chief Odegaard said he was willing to donate $1,000 towards the purchase of building supplies to create a private interview room.
Police Clerk Diane Foreman said the ongoing flooding caused the basement floor to buckle, and she has not been able to open the evidence vault door. She asked if that was included in the quote for asbestos removal and told no. Foreman also reported that both she and the state auditor got “really sick from one day of being in the basement due to the mold.”
“There is an exhaust system in there, so we do have ventilation going, but the water is sitting on the floor,” said Odegaard. Ritter asked the mayor to speak with the city superintendent about watering less, to minimize how much water was seeping into the basement.
In other business, the council delayed signing a loan resolution security agreement for police vehicles. The agreement was written up for the purchase of one car and one SUV. The department prefers to purchase two SUVs, so council members chose to wait until the agreement was re-written to reflect the price of two SUVs.
The council voted to award an asbestos removal contract for the police station to IRS Environmental, who bid $20,845 for the project. The only other bid the city received came in at over $37,000 from A1 Asbestos. The police department staff will temporarily move into the Tonasket Visitor and Business Resource Center building next to the police station when the TVBRC is cleared out in mid-September. The asbestos must be removed by a certified company regardless of whether the decision is made to tear down the police station building or renovate it.
The council approved a request for a refund of $155 to a family who rented the Tonasket Community Pool for Aug. 19 but decided the air quality was too poor to have the kids outside, and did not use the pool.
In the public comment section of the meeting, a resident who asked what the issue was with allowing golf carts to be driven through town was told it was against city ordinance to have non-licensed, motorized vehicles on the roads.