Concerns about how to pay for improvements to water system

A wrecked boat lies abandoned at the Chief Tonasket Park boat launch. Littering and illegal dumping have become a problem at the park, prompting city council discussion on how to remedy the situation. Photo by Brent Baker

A wrecked boat lies abandoned at the Chief Tonasket Park boat launch. Littering and illegal dumping have become a problem at the park, prompting city council discussion on how to remedy the situation. Photo by Brent Baker

TONASKET – Revenues aren’t coming into Tonasket’s coffers as quickly as anticipated, but overall revenue should be about the same as last year.

“Things haven’t changed too much since last year at this time. Funds aren’t coming in as well as expected, especially sales. Sales tax revenue is down as are taxes from liquor sales,” said Tonasket City Clerk/Treasurer Alice Attwood, at the city council’s Tuesday, Oct. 11 meeting.

However, PUD taxes were up.

“In 2010 the utility tax totaled $65,731; as of the end of August of this year we’ve already collected $50,608,” Attwood said. “I’m sure they will come in a bit higher than last year because of the rate increases.”

Attwood was trying to give the council an idea of what they will have to work with come 2012 budget time. She told the council that overall revenues should be similar to the previous year.

“Although the rate we are collecting has slowed down, it always seems to happen that way after the October property taxes are out,” she said.

One option the city has to raise revenues for next year is to increase the Ad Velorum Tax by one percent, according to Attwood. This is the maximum increase the government body can make without going to a vote of the people. Most municipalities raise the tax by this maximum each year. However, the Tonasket Council agreed to make that decision at an upcoming meeting and tabled the issue.

Under council and mayor reports, Mayor Patrick Plumb said something was going to need to be done to fix problem areas in the city’s aging water system.

“These are water issues that separate from the Bonaparte area sewer project — we’ve had old iron pipe that has exploded once already.”

Mayor Plumb suggested since the street would have to be dug up for the sewer project the city should make repairs to the waterline in that area at the same time.

“They’re paying 150 percent of the city rate now and I feel since they are annexing in they deserve the same service as those who live in the city get. We can kill two birds with one stone… we need to address these issues because they are paying customers just like the rest of us,” he said.

Because the city can’t prove that failing pipe is causing a “health issue” there are not grants available to make improvements, according to the mayor. The city’s only recourse to make all the repairs required to the water system, not just in the Bonaparte area, would be to take loans which would lead to an increase in the water rates.

“We are going to have to get a loan. I am hoping the community will understand this is not because the council wants to be mean, but there comes a time when you have to pay the piper,” Plumb said. “Even if we had not annexed we’d still be making these repairs.”

The council discussed easing the rates up starting next year, rather than waiting until 2013, so the overall burden could be spread out over more time.

“Looking at the numbers this just seems like a huge increase over what we had been talking about… is this a worst case scenario?” asked Councilman Scott Olson.

Councilwoman Jill Vugtaveen said the increases would really be felt by those on a fixed or low income.

“To be fair we should probably give them as much heads-up as possible,” she said.

The council agreed to have a town hall meeting to discuss the water rate increases with the meeting date to be announced.

Councilwoman Selena Hines reported there were two seniors at Tonasket High School working on a senior project that would give the rodeo grounds a face lift. She also said there was a sculpture of a tree inside the hospital foyer that recognized community donations.

“It looks like it is really popping out of the wall,” she said.

There was also some discussion about people throwing their trash out near the recycle bins and dumping at Chief Tonasket Park. One suggestion was to put a camera near the bins, but no decision was made to do so.

The next Tonasket City Council meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 25 in the city council chambers at City Hall, located at 209 S. Whitcomb Ave.

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 is single with a grown daughter, Segornae Douglas and a young granddaughter, Erin.

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