Chris Branch tenders resignation to City of Oroville

Planner to take oath as County Commissioner on Dec. 30

OROVILLE — Chris Branch, Oroville’s director of Community Development tendered his resignation at the Tuesday, Dec. 20 city council meeting. The planner ran for and was elected as a county commissioner, a position he will start in January.

Chris Branch

Chris Branch

Branch offered to meet with Mayor Jon Neal’s personnel committee, which is made up of Council Members Ed Naillon and David McElheron, to help the city move ahead with finding a new director to take his place.

“I will come in on Jan. 3 to give them a copy of the job description,” Branch told the Gazette-Tribune.

He also offered to submit a temporary contract for services of eight hours a week, to last no longer than June, to help complete some unfinished items.

“Certain projects need a little help cleaning up,” said Branch. “As an appointed official it would be a conflict to continue working under my current contract… I can’t be seen a serving two masters. But I can offer my experience working on some of the ongoing projects until they find a replacement.”

Branch said that this would also help the city save some money as they look for a new director of Community Development.

“The pay of many of the people in the same line start at what I am finishing at. So they will probably have to find someone without the same experience or network, however, they can still draw on me as far as connections,” he said.

Branch, who will be sworn in as County Commissioner, Position 1, along with fellow newly elected Commissioner Andy Hover (Position 2) on Dec. 30, 2016 will have his first official meeting on that board on Jan. 3, 2017.

“I’ve really appreciated working with the city officials and staff, past and present,” said Branch. “That’s where I’ve learned a lot and gained a lot of my experience.”

Mayor Neal thanked Branch for his years of service to the city.

In other business, Salley Bull, liaison between the city and the Oroville Library Board, gave an update on the library improvements project and progress made so far. She said that Lawrence Construction has submitted a request for three doors for the project at an additional $1,080. She recommend the council consider the addition of these improvements.

Rod Noel, superintendent of Public Works, recommended the council approve the request to install the three doors. Council approved the $1080 for materials and labor to install the doors.

Bull also presented the mayor, council and staff with commemorative library Christmas ornaments as a thank you from the library board.

Daniel Rucker was present to make public comment concerning drug use in the community. Rucker works for Sun Lakes Realty providing security services for the Homestead Apartments on Golden Street. He told the council he had had confrontations at that location. Several other local citizens gave comment, including Tedi Fletcher, who said she often sees drug activity while on her walks in the community. She said the city needs “to get a handle” on the problem. Jeff Bunnell commented that he knows the police are doing as much as they can but suggested a citizens group needs to be established to fight the problem.

Mayor Neal, who is also the chairman of the Oroville CARES Coalition, encouraged those with concerns to attend their meetings which are the third Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. He said he feels Oroville CARES is a step in the right direction. He also suggested that reporting drug activities to the police can help. Officer Josh Deiss further stressed the importance of reporting what they see to authorities.

Police Chief Todd Hill said that drugs are a problem everywhere and feels that the community sees way more of it due to the fact it is small. He also stressed that the police can only act on fact and that the constitution does not allow the police department to take away a citizen’s rights.

Be a good witness, report activities and actually take notes of what you witness, said Hill. He also said he would order extra patrols in the area of the Homestead Apartments.

Branch gave an update on the Eco Fiber Mill Letter of Intent, to construct a mill at the Skyview Industrial Park. Branch said he and the staff had discussed taking the industrial park out of the airport property boundary and will pursue that option with the FAA. This is so construction of a sewer line to the industrial park would not involve the FAA which has plans to shift the location of the runway.

The city will request letters of interest to fill the vacant council position left open when Neysa Roley resigned because she is moving out of the area. Letters of interest should be submitted by Friday, Jan. 13.

The council received a request for comment on a WSLCB Liquor Application from the Hideaway Grill to be located at 2002 Main St. The council approved the application.

Councilman Tony Koepke stated that the snow on the sidewalks was being pushed into the wheel chair ramps and making travel difficult. He requested a reminder be sent out regarding snow removal.

Chief Hill reported that Gary Hirst graduated from the Police Academy on Friday, Dec. 16.

About Gary DeVon

Gary DeVon is the managing editor of the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune and celebrated his 25th year at the newspaper in August 2012. He graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in Communications - Print Journalism, with an emphasis in photojournalism. He is a proud alumnus of Oroville High School. His family first settled in Okanogan County in the late 1800s. His parents are Judy DeVon and the late Larry DeVon and he has two younger brothers - Dante and Michael. Many family members still call Oroville home. He has a grown daughter, Segornae Douglas and a young granddaughter, Erin.