Mayor floats idea to fund sewer expansion

TONASKET – Sewage tends to be a stinky subject, even when it’s being discussed in the City Council chambers.

That didn’t stand in the way of Tonasket Mayor Patrick Plumb, who want to study the possibility of charging others – such as companies that transport portable outhouses — to dump their sewage into Tonasket’s processing facility.

At this point, Tonasket doesn’t have a receiving station at its facility for that to be possible.

Plumb said that a study by Varela and Associates, the engineering firm the city is using for its water/sewer expansion project, determined that Tonasket’s sewage processing plant is operating at about 38-40 percent of its capacity, which is lower than is desirable.

“It’s not healthy (at that level),” Plumb said. “Even annexing and adding to the system is only adding something like five percent to that.”

Plumb said he would like to charge a fee for dumping sewage into the treatment plant, to fund future expansion of the system.

“When we have events here, like things put on by the Comancheros, the (Okanogan Family) Faire, even the orchardists with all the outhouses they’re required to have … they’re taking it down to Brewster and essentially putting it into a holding pond and letting it gas off.

“Businesses and organizations have called us. What Tonasket has is the best sewage processing plant in the county, but no way to accept a dump from a truck. We are the primo processor of poop. Our system is awesome. With all this being said, there is quite a demand.”

With grant money unlikely to fund future expansions of the system, Plumb said the idea is to find a way to use sewage treatment to fund hoped-for expansions itself.

“We could set a fee that would cover our costs,” he said. “Plus make money to continue to think about doing sewer projects, such as moving south of town.”

Kettle Falls is installing a system similar to what Plumb envisions. Councilmembers Scott Olson and Selena Hines volunteered to visit the Kettle Falls facility to see if the council considered Plumb’s idea viable for Tonasket.

“Varela said we could spend $1,200 to draw up plans for something like this,” Plumb said. “So that’s what council needs to get at: to look at our ability for the sewer to make it’s own money for expansion south, by buying poop.”

Also discussed at length was the issue of licensing vendors that wish to sell products at events, such as the upcoming Tonasket Youth Soccer tournament. While a new policy won’t yet be in place for that event, which occurs May 19, city clerk Alice Atwood said she would draw up a proposal based upon the council’s discussion, have it reviewed by city attorney Mick Howe, and present it to the council for consideration at a future meeting. The proposal discussed involved organizations that are putting on these events applying for a permit that would vary in cost depending on the number of events. Any vendors that wish to sell merchandise at those events would need the blessing of the organization that had received the permit.

Arbor Day activities were set for Thursday, May 10, at 11:00 a.m. at Chief Tonasket Park. The time was scheduled in the hope that one or classes from the Tonasket schools could join the celebration, help plant trees, stay for snacks and display Arbor Day-oriented artwork.

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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