Budget season begins for City of Tonasket

TONASKET – Budget season has begun, a usually painful necessity for most municipalities.

City Clerk/Treasurer Alice Attwood said during a public hearing at the Tuesday, Sept. 23, city council meeting that the city’s sales tax income has remained level.

“We’re fortunate that we do have pretty fair, consistent sales tax,” Attwood said.

Property tax numbers won’t be received from the county assessor until October.

She reminded the council of its plan to raise water and sewer rates by three and two percent, respectively, on an annual basis.

“Instead of doing none, none, none, then 15 percent,” said Mayor Patrick Plumb. “That’s going to be typical for our city processes to keep up with our incurred costs.”

Council member Scott Olson said he wanted to look at adjusting other city fees according to the Consumer Price Index, since that was how city employees’ salaries are adjusted.

“I suggest we include that in rates we set by resolution,” Olson said. “So if we charge $25 for someone to check a meter on a weekend – I’m making the number up (for discussion purposes) – we would charge $25.50 next year. Across the board, we have our fees we charge for the staff to do things, those fees need to rise along with what we pay staff to do them.

“If we don’t have interest in it, I don’t want to do it. But it’s a way to fairly increase revenues to balance expenses.”

Plumb said he would include that as part of his budget proposal.

He also asked Attwood to look into whether $500 was a hard limit on fines for violating city ordinances, or if that something the city could change.

“The $500 limit has been in place for as long as I can remember,” Plumb said. “I don’t think it’s the same kind of deterrent that it used to be. We should look at that rate too; people that are not following our ordinances might need to be a little more motivated.”

Flood Plain Regulations

After a separate public hearing, the council approved revised language that brings its flood hazard code in line with state and federal mandates.

“FEMA, through the Departement of Ecology, reviews all flood hazard ordinances throughout the state to ensure consistency with the state regulations,” said _____ Christian Johnson. “The state has imposed itself as the supreme authority on flood management for flood insurance purposes. How the state has chosen to implement that is by having local jurisdictions adopt rules that are consistent, or not less restrictive, than the state’s.”

These affect both city management and insurance issues.

The changes in the current regulation were mostly to provide clarity, but Johnson pointed out one change

“It did provide provisions for non-farm houses in the flood way,” Johnson said. “Before we had no allowance for houses in the flood way that was not a farm house on a farm. Now, there is a process where an owner, for reconstruction, can request of the city, and the city can seek concurrence with Ecology for that.

“There is a difference between farm houses and non-farm houses because they are in different parts of the statues … if they are on active farms.”

“My only concern was the impact on homeowners in the different flood plains,” Olson said. “Does this take away anything they can currently do?”

“Currently with our current regulations, if a home was to be substantially damaged (in a flood plain), they would be prohibited from rebuilding,” Johnson said. “With the inclusion of this language, there is a process where they would have the opportunity to rebuild or replace a substantially damaged house that is already in the flood plain.”

Olson asked if that process would be an expensive or onerous one to a homeowner.

“It requires a lot of planning,” Johnson said, citing examples such as raising the level of the ground floor. “It is a lot more technical than a normal residential construction… There are additional costs and less options (on foundation design). So it’s more expensive.”

The council unanimously approved the modified regulations (council member Jill Vugteveen was absence – excused – from the meeting).

Mayor’s Challenge

To celebrate the renewal of the football rivalry between Tonasket and Oroville high schools on Oct. 10, Plumb read a proclamation that included a challenge to Oroville Mayor Chuck Speith.

“The mayor challenges the Oroville mayor to a friendly wager of two boxes of apples from respective companies that are in their cities to the winning football team’s city,” he read as part of the proclamation. If accepted, the winning mayor would also receive a brass bell donated by the Gazette-Tribune, representing the traditional Oroville-Tonasket “Bell Game,” to be housed in the winning city’s City Hall for the year.

Reports

* Olson discussed a meeting with representatives of the U.S. Armed Forces Legacy park that included he, Plumb, City Planner Kurt Danison and an engineer from Varela and Associates that he said went better than he had anticipated.

The meeting was set up to discuss the upcoming combination project that will build a new sidewalk on Whitcomb Avenue from Sixth Street in town all the way to the park, including a pedestrian bridge across Bonaparte Creek. That will end the necessity of having to cross the creek on the busy US-97 bridge, which only has a narrow shoulder for pedestrians to use.

“I was expecting a committee of seven,” Olson said. “There were easily 20 plus people. It was a very positive reaction from the Legacy group. Their support, the ideas were wonderful.

“Varela did a nice job of laying things out. I look forward to the way it’s moving forward.”

He added that he was also pleased with the willingness of the two affected businesses on that route, Shannon’s and Whistler’s restaurants, to participate.

* Police Chief Rob Burks said that the city of Liberty Lake is going to donate a two used police cars to Tonasket.

“They got the OK to get some new cars,” Burks said. “They’re going to give us two Crown Vics, 2008, 80,000 or less miles, fully decked out except for radio. They even said they would put new tires on them before sending them.

“They felt sorry for us. We’ll find out for sure what’s going on in October after they are able to surplus them. They will be better than two of the cars we have right now.”

Auction Results

Attwood said that the city brought in more than $13,000 at its surplus auction the previous weekend. That included more than $10,500 for items offloaded by Public Works; $3,000 for three old police cars; and $10 City Hall surplus.

The council next meets on Tuesday, Oct. 14, at 7:00 p.m.

 

About Brent Baker

Brent, is a former reporter/photographer for the Gazette-Tribune and sometimes works as a freelance sports reporter for the G-T. 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 worked as a full time reporter/photographer at the G-T from 2011 - 2014).