Tonasket City Council deals with construction project issues

TONASKET – The Tonasket City Council seemed to feel it was two steps forward, one step back with a number of city construction projects that have been in the works for more than a year.

The hope was that construction would take place this summer and fall on the Bonaparte Creek Sewer Expansion and Whitcomb Avenue street projects, but it appeared that some if not all of those projects would be delayed to next year.

On the positive side, the council awarded a $2.729 million bid to Strider Construction for the sewer and water expansion project. It was the lowest of five bids received, and the city’s engineering firm, Varela and Associates, approved the company’s performance review.

The city also had to approve interim financing of about $232,000 in the project management budget caused by additional expenses incurred by redesigning the Bonaparte Creek crossing as mandated by ECY.

The street projects along Third, Fifth and Sixth avenues, however, will be delayed despite approval by the Transportation Improvement Board of the issues they wished addressed.

Varela recommended that bidding for the project be delayed until spring as it would be unable to be completed before weather interfered.

“I think the delays helped our timing because of the split of the project,” said mayor Patrick Plumb. “Waiting until this fall has helped us work with the contractor immensely. I just had a sneaking suspicion that even though everything looked cool at first, that we’d be short because of some technicality. At least we didn’t find out at the end of the project instead of before it. I’m really pleased with Varela and DOE listening and having a meeting with us. So we’re moving forward.”

Council member Jill Vugteveen said there were some lessons to be learned from the process.

“When you apply for a grant, expect it to cost more than what you applied for because it always seems to cost more than they first expect,” she said. “The reasons are all justifiable. But it’s still frustrating.”

“Shovel ready wasn’t as shovel ready as we thought,”Plumb said.

More sewer stink

Ron Martell, whose disagreement with the city over its mandate that he connect to the city sewer system ended with his closing his business and putting up his building for sale, returned to continue his discussion over his displeasure over the situation.

He had been cut off after using up his three minutes of public comment at the previous meeting and was unhappy with how that had been done, as well as with comments on the mayor’s Facebook page by members of the community, including a Tonasket police officer.

“How do you go out in the community?” he asked. “I have no other problems with anybody. How can you lie to council with the mayor present? What about a credibility issue? Where does this go down the road where people go down the road and start second guessing whether you’re getting pulled over, when the officer lied in these chambers?”

After several minutes of further discussion, Plumb asked Martell what it was he wanted done.

“What I’m asking you is what is the credibility of the officer that lied before you?” Martell asked.

“Ron brought in copies of the Facebook page,” said council member Jill Vugteveen. “In there it went back and forth. I understand it upset you. I didn’t take the comments that were made seriously, though I agree there was probably a degree of inappropriateness in the humor.

“I don’t know that anyone lied in here. I think they felt that you portrayed the comments differently than they were intended when they were posted on the mayor’s Facebook page.”

Further discussion failed to resolve issues about either the comments or the sewer hookup.

In further discussion after Martell’s departure, Tonasket Police Chief Rob Burks said he had discussed the issues both with Martell and his officer.

Vugteveen, in her council report later in the meeting, suggested the council formulate a policy on webpages and social media use.

About Brent Baker

Brent is a reporter for the Gazette-Tribune. Prior to working at the G-T, he was the sports editor for Sunrise Publishing from 2000-2005 in Michigan. He subsequently owned and operated Buckland Media, a high school sports website, in Michigan until 2010. He and his wife Kim, who have an adult son, moved to Tonasket in 2010. Brent started work at the G-T in 2011.

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